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Q&A: Public Funds for Private Property

Why should money be spent to build back private property?

The Task Force is attempting to find funding to restore not only general land loss, but also THE PUBLIC BEACH on the West End, the south shoreline which is often referred to as the "West Surf Beach."  This is land that belongs to the Town of Dauphin Island.

Property owners are not the only ones in support of restoration.  Those of us who don't own property on the West End, or on the island at all, would like our public beach restored.  Those of us who are environmentalists want to see the fragile environment of the Sound protected.  Residents of the coastal mainland towns don't want to see their hurricane breakwater dissolved.  There is more at stake here than just private property.

Public Funds = Taxpayer Dollars

Public funds, by definition, are monies generated from tax dollars.  Revenue from income, sales and other taxes go into local, state and federal coffers and are then divvied up among various programs.

There are those who say that "public funds should not be spent to restore private property."  There are two answers to that.

  1. The funds the Task Force currently seeks to help stem shoreline losses until a long-term solution can be implemented are NOT public funds.  They are not taxpayer dollars.  The sources sought include GoMESA, CIAP and Corps settlement funds.  More details below.

  2. Public funds are used all the time to restore or protect private property.  See details further down this page.

Programs which are not taxpayer-funded

The GoMESA and CIAP programs are revenue-sharing programs, funded by offshore oil and gas production royalties.  They are not funded by taxpayer dollars.  These programs were specifically created to "mitigate impact" (the precise words from the CIAP and GoMESA mission statements) from offshore drilling.

These programs were not created to fund economic development projects or projects in areas which are not impacted by offshore drilling.  In the past, projects which often do not fit the spirit of the intent of why these programs were created have gobbled up the lion's share of these funds while Dauphin Island - one of the most affected areas - has received very little in comparison.  There is currently a bill in the Alabama State Legislature seeking to recitfy this practice.  More on this on the CIAP page.

The lawsuit brought against the Corps of Engineers by the DIPOA and Jim Hartmann was with regards to shoreline erosion.  The settlement monies are privately held by the DIPOA and Mr. Hartmann, and should be spent for the very thing the lawsuit was about - to help rectify shoreline erosion.

It should also be noted that a taxpayer-funded NOAA grant is currently being used to pay for an East End-specific shoreline restoration study.  There are currently no public or private funds being used at all for a West End-specific shoreline restoration study.

Task Force Goals

The Task Force is not seeking funds to rebuild beach houses that have been lost.  Our primary goal is to safeguard the island from further erosion and to see the public beach restored so that it can be enjoyed by all.  Task Force members and supporters include people who are not island property owners, and they rely on the public beach for access to the Gulf waters.

East End shoreline restoration includes private property too

Below is an excerpt from our West End Focus Q&A page:

It is argued by some that funds to restore the West End will only help private property, and that monies should instead be spent to restore the shoreline of the East End.  Yet restoration of any Gulf-side/south shore beachfront on the East End (other than the public beach of the Audubon Bird Sanctuary) would be to restore - you guessed it - private property. 

If one believes that public funds should be spent to restore public property, then this argument bodes well for restoration of the West End since there is roughly 8 times more public Gulf-front shoreline on the West End than on the East.

This is not to say that we do not want to see any eroded Eastern shoreline restored - of course we do!  We simply want to point out the facts to address the public-versus-private property perceptions which some seem to foster about each end of the island.

How public funds have been used in other places

Note that other localities have used public funds - usually through "disaster area" declarations - to restore both public and private lands ravaged by nature (earthquakes, tornadoes, flood, fire) or by man (levees breaking).

Public funds (in whole or in part, and in massive doses) have been used, or are being used:

  • to rebuild Katrina-damaged levees which protect both public and private property in New Orleans,

  • to restore the barrier islands and coastal areas in Mississippi which help to protect both public and private property on the coastal mainland (roads, homes and the casino industry in Biloxi/Gulfport),

  • to renourish beachfront areas and shoreline in Baldwin County (Alabama), in Florida, in New Jersey and many other areas across the country,

  • to rebuild homes, schools and infrastructure overseas after war,

  • and to help rebuild cities here in the U.S. (as well as other countries around the world) after natural disasters such as earthquake, flood and fire.

If this is "the way of things" with public funding in our country, why should Dauphin Island be excluded or given short shrift?

(See the Downloads page for our proposed interim solution for shoreline stabilization for all public beach areas on the Gulf-front shoreline.)

Related Links

West End Focus

More Q&A

Fun(ding) Facts



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