Q&A: Pier Dredging Effect
Pelican Island (aka Sand Island) is currently migrating into
Dauphin Island, which appears to be helping to naturally rebuild the
beaches. Wouldn't dredging sand from under the pier
interfere with this process?
Pelican Island will continue to migrate into Dauphin Island
as it has done before in centuries past, whether or not any sand is
dredged from the area immediately around the fishing pier. A
shallow-dredging project, the likes of which is proposed for the interim
shoreline stabilization solution (and the only kind of dredging which
could be afforded on minimal GoMESA funding), would not affect this process.
The proposal is not to create a 50 foot-deep shipping channel between
Pelican Island and
Dauphin Island, like there is between Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines.
If some of that sand was “helped along” a little faster via shallow
dredging, it would not prevent Pelican Island from continuing to merge
with Dauphin Island.
But the proposal is not to prevent Pelican Island from
merging with Dauphin Island, it is to restore the fishing pier and
facilitate some shoreline stabilization at the same time. If the
Park & Beach Board wishes for the pier to stay free of sand, maintenance
dredging from time to time would have to occur.
The issue is primarily about time. Pelican Island may not
move to Dauphin Island fast enough or far west enough to prevent breaching,
or further loss of homes and roads, in the crisis areas of the West End
before hurricane season 2010. There is an excess of sand around
the pier but a starvation of sand further west (and in some points east
Compensation not in dollars but in sand
Dauphin Island may never fully heal until there can be some compensation for the littoral drift interference
caused by the harbor dredging. Compensation not in dollars but in
sand. The dumping grounds for
channel-dredged sand needs to be moved permanently to an area very close
to the island, as recommended by both by Dr. Douglass and by the Corps
themselves in their 1978 report. Without this, it is entirely
possible that Pelican Island may never fully reconstitute itself after
migrating into Dauphin Island, because most sand attempting to migrate
from Fort Morgan and points east never makes it past the ship channel, a
channel which is being dredged deeper and wider all the time.
Again, the pier sand dredging is simply a recommendation
to do something in the near term until a long term solution can be put
in place. And be aware that no property owner nor public beachgoer
knows for sure what that long term solution will be, and what areas it
will seek to restore.
What are we waiting for?
It is unreasonable to expect people, whose homes are in
danger of falling into the ocean, to wait for an undetermined period of
time while yet another study is completed, and then a decision made as
to what to do, and then large-scale funding sought, and then a long term
solution constructed. If the policy is to not save the West End, or the
land south of Bienville, people should be told that now.
They should not be strung along for several years, continuing to pour
money into shoring up their homes, if ultimately they will be told that
their area will not be included in the restoration project.
But since West Enders have been told by the Town
government that the West End is not going to be abandoned, it is
completely reasonable - and prudent! - to seek interim solutions.
Interim, stop-gap measures will stave off bigger problems and costlier
repairs in the future to homes, roads and other infrastructure while
we await the larger, long-term restoration project. Other coastal
communities do this - see Gulf Coast
The pier dredging would restore $100,000 or more per
year in revenue for the Park & Beach Board and the Town of Dauphin
Island, whether or not that excess sand was used to help out eroded
public beach areas on the south shore. Why not solve two problems
Solution - Proposed Phases & Funding
Save Dauphin Island?
1978 Corps Report on Ship Channel Dredging, see
Erosion - Dredging
Long Term Plan - The Great Unknown