Dauphin Island, AL
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Dauphin Island property owners
speak out against new berm proposal
By KATHERINE SAYRE, Staff Reporter
Thursday May 14, 2009
DAUPHIN ISLAND - Gulf-front property owners, fearing blocked access
to the west end's main road and damage to the island's economy,
expressed concern Wednesday about a proposal to build a sand berm
along Bienville Boulevard.
"I have to tell you, you're breaking my heart," said Lisa Oriente,
a west end property owner who said she traveled from Canada to attend
Wednesday's public hearing. "This is putting basically a wall between
me and everyone else on the other side. ... To me, it's nonsense."
The Town Council is considering a proposal to build a sand berm
along the south edge of Bienville Boulevard in an effort to prevent
storm-driven waves from damaging the paved road.
If constructed, the berm would also limit access to side streets
and houses on the Gulfside. A gravel service road connecting to
Bienville Boulevard would likely be built south of the berm to provide
an alternate route for south-side property owners, officials have
About 150 people attended the meeting. For at least one hour of
public comments, no one spoke in favor of the proposal.
Hurricane Gustav last year wiped out a $3.6 million berm that was
built on three miles of the west end beach, south of the last line
of houses facing the Gulf of Mexico. The Federal Emergency Management
Agency decided against rebuilding the berm in the same location,
claiming the beach was too eroded to replace it. Sections of the
west end beach, including entire lots, have eroded away in recent
Now, the city is considering asking FEMA to fund a Bienville Boulevard
berm. The council could vote as soon as Tuesday on the issue. FEMA
would make the final decision.
Town officials have said that if something isn't done to protect
the road, which is often damaged during hurricanes, the town might
not receive federal funding to repair it after future disasters.
Some residents whose homes lie south of Bienville Boulevard said
Wednesday that they're concerned about dropping property values,
the potential for more flooding and erosion to their lots, and a
loss of income to the town.
"We've got to stop and think about what we're doing," said Zack
Ashbee, whose family owns a Gulfside house. "Once this ball gets
rolling, it's not going to stop."
Several council members said the town is working toward beach renourishment
as a more long-term solution. One council member called the proposed
berm "a Band-Aid."
"That's really what's needed - to do something that's more long-lasting,"
said Mayor Jeff Collier. "The town is working feverishly on that."
No design or cost estimates have been developed for the proposed
berm. If approved, it would be paid for with 75 percent federal
funds, 10 percent state funds, and 15 percent by the town, Collier
The first berm on the island was built in 2000 with a $1 million
price tag. It washed away two years later during Tropical Storm