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Officials protest island exclusion
Dauphin Island beach project excluded from coastal funding list

Saturday, September 08, 2007
By RUSS HENDERSON, Staff Reporter

A group of local elected officials gathered on Dauphin Island on Friday to protest a state plan that funds fishing pier and boat-slip construction in Baldwin County, yet ignores a Dauphin Island plea for a $3.3 million project that would protect the island's water supply from erosion.

"In my view, there are no communities in Alabama more directly affected by the oil and gas industry than those in south Mobile County," said Rep. Spencer Collier, R-Bayou La Batre. "Dauphin Island's beach project should be included, and I'll do whatever I can to make sure it is."

Last week, state conservation officials announced a draft list of projects they plan to submit for a slice of the $51 million in federal funds that Alabama and its two coastal counties stand to receive through the Coastal Impact Assistance Program.

The program is intended to compensate states for the effects of offshore oil and gas drilling. Though natural gas platforms surround Dauphin Island, visible from almost anywhere, the island's requested funding was absent from the draft list.

On Friday, Collier, Mobile County Commissioner Mike Dean and Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said they will write letters to Gov. Bob Riley requesting that he not approve the plan as written.

The 32-day written comment period on the draft began Aug. 30 and ends Oct. 1.

The proposed project's most important function would be to protect the town's main freshwater aquifer, located beneath the island's nationally popular Audubon Bird Sanctuary, said Joyce Allen, the town of Dauphin Island's projects coordinator. "We're talking about survival, here, not niceties," Allen said.

Among the many projects outlined in the document, a few would impact Dauphin Island. The largest among them is a $550,000 plan to improve the boat facilities at the Alabama Department of Conservation's Marine Resources Division.

The State Lands Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is managing the state's share of the federal money and has been reviewing project applications.

Collier said he thinks there wasn't enough public input. "I know I wasn't consulted, and I represent that entire area down there," he said.

According to the draft plan itself, the first public meeting on spending the state's CIAP money was held March 6 at Five Rivers, Alabama's Delta Resource Center, on the Causeway in Spanish Fort. The meeting was advertised in the Press-Register Feb. 24 and March 4.

The second public meeting was held Aug. 30, the day the draft plan was revealed. That meeting also was advertised on Feb. 24 and March 4.

Officials will present a final draft to the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that will distribute the money.

Comments should be mailed to Will Brantley, State Lands Manager, Alabama State Lands Division, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 64 N. Union St., Montgomery, AL 36130.

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