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Taken from the EDITORIAL PAGE
Islanders getting serious
Monday, December 22, 2008

AFTER YEARS of relying on expensive sand piles for protection, Dauphin Island residents are getting down to the serious business of trying to save the island's vanishing west end. A lawsuit that sought to block public ownership of the west end beach was settled last week, clearing the way for the Town of Dauphin Island to seek state and federal funding for a large-scale beach restoration project.

The Dauphin Island Property Owners Association has owned the beach since 1954. Association members voted last year to open it to the public - the first step in qualifying for state and federal beach renourishment funds. The vote was prompted by massive beach erosion and the encroachment of the Gulf on private development in the area.

Fortunately, the contending parties in the lawsuit worked out an agreement that serves the interests of island residents and the broader public interest in maintaining Dauphin Island as a recreational and ecological asset for Alabama.

Island residents can't halt the natural forces that drive the shifting sands of the barrier island, but they can follow the example of other U.S. coastal communities and invest in beach renourishment projects that mitigate the damage from storms and erosion.

Renourishment surely is a better alternative than building sand berms that collapse when hurricanes and tropical storms make landfall anywhere in the northern Gulf. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has wasted millions of dollars constructing berms that gave west end residents only limited and temporary protection.

It's by no means certain that renourishment will save the island's west end. Engineering studies should provide an answer; the town needs to request them as soon as possible.

Funding still is very much an issue for the town, the state and the federal government. The town probably will have to seek new revenue sources to pay for its share of a beach restoration project.

The good news is that islanders are facing the reality of their situation and preparing for a major effort to restore the west end. They deserve support from the state, if beach renourishment proves feasible in that fragile area.

Fort Gaines Sand Island Light House Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island Dauphin Island History Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium

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