DAUPHIN ISLAND - Rebuilding the east end of Dauphin Island to repair years of erosion would cost up to $12.8 million, according to a preliminary study released on Thursday.
Dauphin Island leaders gathered near Fort Gaines, the historic Civil War site on the
barrier island, to announce the proposed project that would renourish about 10,200 feet
of east-end beach using an estimated 1.14 million cubic yards of sand, according to the
report by engineering firm WRScompass in Tampa, Fla.
Officials have been concerned about erosion on the east end, the more stable part of
the island with a natural dune system and a forest of pine trees. Evidence of erosion there
lies about 300 feet from the Gulf shore, where parallel lines of rocks - manmade sand traps
known as groins - protrude from the water. The groins were built nearly a century ago,
constructed perpendicular to a shore that no longer exists.
Town officials have argued that Fort Gaines, the local Audubon Bird Sanctuary supporting
migratory birds, the local seafood industry and tourism dollars generated by the island are
at risk if erosion continues to destroy the shoreline. Leaders hired a lobbyist in
Washington, D.C., to secure funds for a beach renourishment project.
"The impact of Dauphin Island as a barrier island ... is more far-reaching," said Dauphin
Island Mayor Jeff Collier. "It's not just our problem."
WRScompass conducted the preliminary beach rebuilding project study free of charge to the
town, but officials said it would cost up to $1.5 million to complete a comprehensive study
with more details about how to more forward with the project.
The rebuilt beach area would extend from Fort Gaines to the Dauphin Island Elementary School,
town officials said. The project could add between 200 feet and 400 feet of beach extending
toward the Gulf, according to the report.
The project would cost between $11.5 million and $12.8 million, according to the report,
although Collier said the price could change depending on where the added sand is dredged
from - and how far the site is located from the island.
Scientists have blamed erosion of the Mississippi-Alabama chain of barrier islands on dredging
of ship channels, sea level rise, and stronger, more intense storms.
"There aren't many communities... that have to worry about their town physically going away,"
Brent Anderson, WRScompass vice president and technical services director, said he couldn't
say exactly how long an engineered beach would last, but it would be constructed "as permanent
as it can be made" with additional maintenance work after strong storms.
Officials said several other coastal cities have rebuilt their beaches, such as Gulf Shores
and Miami Beach.
Scientists have said that the east end is the more stable part of the island when compared
with the west end, a long spit of sand where beach houses on stilts line Bienville Boulevard.
It's on the west end that another engineered project was built on the beach. A three-mile
protective berm built with about $3.6 million in sand was washed away by Hurricane Gustav,
which struck Louisiana on Sept. 1. It was built last year to replace a $1 million berm that
was destroyed by Tropical Storm Isidore in 2002.
Collier said he will be meeting with FEMA officials today to discuss hurricane damage repairs,
including the berm.
Mike Moore, FEMA's disaster coordinator for Alabama, said the agency is in the process of
approving some funds for storm repairs to the island, including about $3.6 million to remove
and recover sand from the public right of way. Gustav covered the west end's roads with several
feet of sand.
Moore said the island could seek federal funds for a replacement sand berm, but there's been
no decision on its design or cost.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)