Dauphin Island, AL
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Taken from the EDITORIAL PAGE
Put Dauphin Island
in coastal repair plan
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
ISLAND should be included in a massive federal program to repair
hurricane-damaged coastal islands in the Mississippi Sound.
Congress has approved a billion-dollar program for the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers to repair Mississippi's shoreline and its coastal
islands of Horn, Ship and Petit Bois to fight further erosion. Inexplicably,
the program stops at the Mississippi state line.
Ecologically, it doesn't make a lick of sense to limit the program
to political boundaries. Dauphin Island helps protect a portion
of the Mississippi Sound as well as Alabama's coast.
Hurricane Katrina cut through the island's western end in 2005,
letting salt water intrude into and threaten the Alabama portion
of the Mississippi Sound. That endangered the production of oysters,
shrimp and other sea life, and left the Alabama coast with diminished
protection from storms.
Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier wrote in a letter to Gov. Bob
Riley that the residents of the island "are baffled as to why Mobile
County was omitted from that study given the severity of the Hurricane
Katrina impacts in Alabama." We're baffled, too.
Gov. Riley can help by encouraging Alabama's congressional delegation
to push for Alabama's inclusion in the program.
Ironically, the Corps of Engineers' plan suggests dredging sand
from the lower Tombigbee River in Alabama, and transporting it past
Dauphin Island to the Mississippi coastal island of Pet it Bois.
That adds salt to the wound of neglect.
The agency's office in Mobile, which is spearheading the plan, says
adding Dauphin Island would slow down the project. But Dauphin Island
leaders are convinced there's still time because much of the planning
has yet to be completed.
Indeed, it appears the Corps of Engineers should have taken an ecosystem
approach from the beginning, rather than arbitrarily leaving Alabama
out. The ecological damage in Alabama from Katrina seems just as
significant as that which occurred in Mississippi.
The U.S. Geological Survey says the Alabama-Mississippi chain of
barrier islands is eroding from a rising sea level, more intense
and frequent storms, and a lack of sand supply from dredging of
nearby ship channels. The sand from the shipping channels would
naturally replenish the islands as waves wash to the shores if the
dredging weren't done. The Corps of Engineers plans to haul sand
onto the barrier islands to fill slashes cut through by storms and
build up eroded beaches.
Because of the erosion, the barrier islands - including Dauphin
Island - absorb less of the impact when storms crash out of the
Gulf of Mexico and strike the Alabama and Mississippi coasts. The
diminished islands also are less able to protect the natural estuaries
in the Sound.
Now, though, only Gov. Riley and the state's congressional delegation
can pry open the legislation and get Dauphin Island into the program.
They should get started right away.