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Taken from the Mobile news
FEMA Denies Dauphin Island Beach Berm
By KATHERINE SAYRE, Staff Reporter
Thursday December 04, 2008

A Dauphin Island berm rebuilding project would have cost an estimated $4 million, FEMA officials said as they deny island's request. Agency says there's not enough beach left on west end to rebuild...

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has decided not to fund rebuilding of a sand berm on the west end of Dauphin Island after it was wiped out by Hurricane Gustav this year, a federal official said Wednesday.

The berm was built along three miles of the west end beach, where houses on stilts line the Gulf of Mexico. It was built in 2007 at a cost of $3.6 million in an attempt to protect the Town of Dauphin Island's infrastructure along Bienville Boulevard. The berm was wiped away by Gustav's storm surge on Sept. 1, followed by more wave damage to the beach from Hurricane Ike on Sept. 13.

Mike Moore, FEMA disaster coordinator for Alabama, said officials considered a request by the Town of Dauphin Island to rebuild the berm, but storms heavily damaged that part of the beach. Officials determined that there wasn't enough beachfront remaining between the waterline and the houses to rebuild.

"The beach on which the berm had been located no longer existed along much of the area," Moore said. "While FEMA will place an emergency protective berm on the beach, we won't replace the beach because it is private."

Much of the west end beach has been owned by the Dauphin Island Property Owners Association since the 1950s. Members of the association voted last year to make the beach public, but two property owners filed a lawsuit to block the move. That case is scheduled to go before a Circuit Court judge this month.

Dauphin Island town officials have until Jan. 10 to appeal the decision on the berm, Moore said, and any appeal would be considered by senior FEMA officials.

A berm rebuilding project would have cost an estimated $4 million, FEMA officials said.

The first berm on the island was built in 2000 at a cost of $1 million. It was destroyed by Tropical Storm Isidore in 2002.

Mayor Jeff Collier said the Town Council will have to decide whether to appeal the decision. Collier said he thinks the town should attempt to have the decision overturned. Collier said the reason for the denial - erosion of the beach - comes as no surprise to Dauphin Island leaders. "That's why we've been raising the red flag for the past few years, knowing this situation was getting worse," Collier said.

In October, island leaders announced plans to pursue restoration of the island's east end where a few hundred feet of beach has disappeared in recent decades. A preliminary report said the project could cost up to $12.8 million.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit by the Property Owners Association blaming west end beach erosion on the U.S. Corps of Engineers' dredging practices in the Mobile Bay ship channel has been pending in federal court since 2000. One outcome of an ongoing settlement in that case could be a beach renourishment project on the west end.

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