With the integrity of Dauphin Island under threat fromincreasingly intense coastal storms, U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-AL, hassecured $1.5 million to study the feasibility of stabilizing theisland so that it can continue to serve as a hurricane buffer.
"Dauphin Island's role in shielding coastal areas from the bruntof storms is one that we can no longer afford to take for granted,"Congressman Bonner said. "It is coastal Alabama's barrier islandfrom hurricanes, and as such, it has sustained significant damagefrom recent storms, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005."
Those recent storms significantly eroded portions of DauphinIsland's shoreline, eventually leading to a breach on the west endduring Hurricane Katrina. However, other factors have beenidentified as contributing to accelerated shoreline decline, notall of which are natural occurrences. According to a 2007 report byDr. Robert Morton of the U.S. Geologic Survey, transportationchannel dredging practices also contributed to the issue both inAlabama and in other barrier chains along the Gulf Coast.
The important role of barrier islands in defending uplandcommunities and habitats from storm damage often goes unmentioned.For instance, Dauphin Island shields South Mobile County's coastalmarshes and inland areas by reducing storm surge and waveintensity. The west end breach has been sited by local commercialfishing interests as one of the factors that have led to higherwater salinity levels, which has led to an increase in oysterdrills decimating local oyster reefs. Economic activities generatedby commercial and recreational fishing industries depend on ahealthy ecosystem in order to continue to survive. Beyond thiscritical function, the coastal erosion on Dauphin Island imperilsmany important cultural, environmental, and social sites includingHistoric Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and the Audubon BirdSanctuary.
"We cannot control the frequency or intensity of future storms,but we can better utilize natural protections, such as our barrierislands to lessen the severity of local destruction."
"Taking action to stabilize Dauphin Island from further erosionand to restore it as an effective natural barrier from tropicalstorms and hurricanes is a good investment not only for theresidents of Dauphin Island but also for those who populate coastalMobile county," Rep. Bonner said.
The $1.5 million requested by Congressman Bonner for the DauphinIsland stabilization feasibility study was included in theConsolidated Appropriations Act Conference Report (H.R. 3288) andsigned into law last week.
"Through his actions, Congressman Bonner has not only shown thathe represents his constituents, but is a leader on issues importantto Alabama," Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said.
"Without his tireless support and effort, the Town wouldn't havethe resources to determine whether beach nourishment would be aneffective resolution to this increasing problem."
Beach nourishment—used successfully by Orange Beach andGulf Shores to stabilize their coastline—along with improvedsand bypassing have been identified as the best courses of actionin a preliminary study conducted by Dr. Scott Douglass, a professorwho has studied Dauphin Island for over twenty years. In thatinspection, Dr. Douglass identified the island's historic patternsto suggest an engineering focus that works with Mother Nature tothe best benefit of the island and the areas it protects. As aprofessor of coastal engineering, Dr. Douglass has writtenextensively on the subject of shoreline decline authoring the book,Saving America's Beaches: the Causes of and Solutions to BeachErosion.
"The funding obtained through Congressman Bonner's actions willallow us to take an island-wide approach to determine whether ornot beach nourishment is a feasible resolution to the erosionproblem,' Dr. Douglass said. "As importantly, we will have thefirst real estimate of what a nourishment project for DauphinIsland should look like and what costs will be associated withpossible construction."
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