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Q&A: West End Focus

Why do you seem to be focused only on the West End?

First of all, it is significant to note that, of the 14 miles that constitute the entire length of Dauphin Island, approximately 11 of those miles are THE WEST END.  All those miles on the West End are what protect the Mississippi Sound and the coastal communities north of the island.

No West End - Is this our future?
(click to enlarge)

Dauphin Island with her West End

Dauphin Island without her West End
(Is this our future?)

 

The Task Force has no desire to foster an East End versus West End mentality, nor do we ignore East End issues.  This Task Force is made up of people from both sides of the island, as well as off-islanders.  We wish to see all problem areas on the island repaired.  There is erosion on the East End as well, and it should also be addressed.

But we also wish to set priorities with regard to areas that are most in danger and most in need of an interim solution until a long-term solution can be put in place.  And we seek to dispel any myths and misperceptions people may harbor about one side of the island over another.

The Task Force has placed its current focus on the West End "crisis areas" for a number of reasons, which are outlined below.

East End

The East End is a much wider portion of the island, so there is less threat of full north-south breach there.

The public beach of the East End - the Audubon Bird Sanctuary beach - has only a few thousand feet of shoreline compared to the miles of public beach shoreline on the West End.

Since there are no homes or roads immediately to the north of the Audubon Bird Sanctuary public beach (as is the case on the West End), any erosion occurring there does not encroach upon infrastructure to the north.

Yes, the homes of Audubon Place, a private gated community, are being threatened by eroding beach, but the beach south of that development is private.  No public beach, in or out of the water, exists south of that development at all.

The Public Beach of the East End
(click photo to enlarge)

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.

An East End restoration study is being done right now, and that study is being paid for by a taxpayer-funded NOAA grant.

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.

West End

A stunning amount of footage of West End shoreline has been lost just in the last few years.  January and February 2010 have been especially cruel, with storm after storm bringing seemingly endless rain and powerful wave action to overwash the roads and threaten homes.  Many more people have lost homes, or paid staggering amounts to move them.  The increasing overwash puts the roads out of commission which prohibits people's access, and threatens to breach the island, Katrina Cut style, in vulnerable spots.

The public beach of the West End is roughly 4 miles in length.  The entire length of the inhabited portion of the West End, south of the First Tier Gulf-front houses, is public beach (though much of it is underwater at present).

The Public Beaches of the West End
(click photo to enlarge)

The long West End also protects the mainland towns and the estuarine environments in the Sound.  (See Why Save Dauphin Island)

Restoration of the West End Gulf-side beachfront to its pre-Katrina width would restore mostly public land, not just private property.  (See Photos)

If the erosion is not contained, it may be only a matter of time before the new Gulf of Mexico tideline meets Bienville Blvd, then creeps north of Bienville, and then perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future, all that will be left of the West End are shoals and a sandbar.  The erosion has been accelerating at an alarming and unnatural rate (see Erosion and Dredging).  In the areas west of Raphael Semmes, multiple feet of shore width are being lost each MONTH.

Considering the massive loss of public beach (in addition to the hundreds of homes and miles of infrastructure currently threatened), the West End appears to be the area most in crisis at the present time.

That said, the Task Force wants to emphasize that we wish to see shoreline restoration for the entire island.

Don't Think Small - Look at the Big Picture

We would not have to debate which areas of the island need to be restored first if Dauphin Island received more funding.  If we could get funding the likes of which other locales have received (see Fun(ding) Facts), there would be plenty of money to go around - for East End, West End and everything in between.

The Task Force seeks to rectify that imbalance.  No one wants to see tax dollars "wasted."  But as long as funding programs exist for the very purpose of restoring public lands after disasters, or protecting both public and private property against future disaster, why should Dauphin Island be left out?  Why should some areas get hundreds of millions in funding while we play tug-of-war over "single digits"?

Other coastal communities are united on the issue of pursuing major funding, and the result is that they are raking in the dollars while the communities which are fractured in purpose and without common goals are passed over or given small change by comparison.

Any "us against them" attitude between East and West is misplaced focus.  It forces the fight in the wrong direction.  Other locales profit from our lack of unity and gobble up the lion's share of funding.  We should all pull together to lobby for attention from grant programs and other funding sources in order to help us all.

Until we have unity, and we all work toward pursuing a larger purse, we will champion the focus for our minimal funding to be on specific in-crisis areas to avoid further loss.  There's no sense in buying new deck chairs for a leaky or sinking ship.  New facilities are great - and we want them! - but it will be difficult for them to stay in business if the tourist population of the island is cut by half.

Proposed interim solution not just for West End

Note that the interim shoreline stabilization solution proposed by the Task Force includes all public beach areas of the Gulf-front shoreline, not just those on the West End.  (See our Downloads page.)


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Public Funds for Private Property?

Why Save Dauphin Island

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