VIRGINIA H. SHANAHAN for Mayor

Dauphin Island: Honesty, Integrity, Transparency

Ask Virginia: I am curious about your plans for beach restoration for Dauphin Island.

I am curious about your plans for beach restoration for Dauphin Island. In your post about Mayor Collier’s flawed decision making you state

“While Dauphin Island’s entire Gulf shoreline is experiencing erosion, the West End is unquestionably suffering the most significant erosion and the greatest property losses. However, instead of concentrating the Town’s efforts on the weakened and more vulnerable West End, Mayor Collier is actively pursuing the East End CIAP project. Since Mayor Collier refuses to allow the public to input into the development of the Town’s CIAP proposals, a valid explanation has not been provided to explain why the East End project was selected over the West End.”

You also point out that Mayor Collier disregarded the suggestions of Scott Douglass on the West End ponds.

From your post it seems like your opinion is that the West End restoration is the most urgent. Is this true? Is this your own opinion or based on the opinion of an expert like Scott Douglas?

I was always under the impression that since the physical dynamics of each end of the island are so different, that restoring the East End at this time has a better chance of success and would require less drastic measures.

Also, what is your motivation for beach restoration? Is it based on protecting property? ecological preservation? or both?

Since this is a major hot button issue on Dauphin Island, I would like to hear your opinion on beach restoration for the entire island.

Thanks!

In answering your question, let’s first make sure we are talking about the same areas of Dauphin Island.  When I refer to the eastern end of the island, this includes that portion of the island between Fort Gaines and the Park and Beach Board Fishing Pier.  The western end includes the remaining inhabited portion of the island beginning at the fishing pier and stretching westward to the end of Bienville Blvd and the Town’s West End Beach.

While the island’s entire Gulf shoreline has certainly experienced significant erosion since the 1970s, the evidence I have seen indicates the island’s western end has suffered the most extensive shoreline losses.  For example, the extreme western end of the island south of Bienville Blvd once supported three rows of homes.  Today, the remaining land in that area is sufficient to support only one row of homes, with the remaining lots now being under water.  Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina accelerated the loss of Gulf shoreline and the reduced elevations on the island’s western end as sand was washed over into Mississippi Sound.  In the years following Hurricane Katrina, island elevations had been lowered to such an extent that late winter and spring storms in 2008, 2009, and early 2010 frequently washed over Bienville Blvd and created general flooding.

Two events have occurred to temporarily mask the effects of ongoing erosion of the western shoreline.  The first event was a natural occurrence when Sand Island began to merge with Dauphin Island sometime during the late 2000s.  The sand from Sand Island is gradually being incorporated into western Dauphin Island as Sand Island continues to erode.  The second event occurred due to the actions of man during the 2010 oil spill as sand was artificially placed on the Gulf shoreline to create a berm at the water’s edge.  By contributing sand, both of these events have resulted in the temporary mitigation of the ongoing erosion of Dauphin Island.  As time passes, the effects of these two events will be overcome by the magnitude of the ongoing erosion problem created by the disposal practices of material dredged from the Mobile Harbor Ship Channel.  Those dredging and disposal practices are literally “starving” Dauphin Island of the sand required to maintain the long-term existence of our barrier island as we have known it to be.

I am definitely not opposed to the Town’s East End CIAP project proposal.  In fact, I support that CIAP project because the continued erosion of Sand Island is exposing Dauphin Island’s eastern end to increasing wave action and accelerated shoreline losses as evidenced by the recent impacts attributed to Tropical Storm Debby.  What I am opposed to is the highly secretive nature in which the Town under Mayor Collier’s leadership has historically developed the Town’s CIAP project proposals, only informing our residents after the proposals are submitted and allowing no opportunity for public input.

The federal act that authorized the expenditure of oil and gas royalties under CIAP intended for the royalty monies to be spent on environmental restoration projects.  While the East End CIAP proposal satisfies that requirement, most of the Town’s previous CIAP proposals were directed at projects (i.e. land acquisition, repair of bike trail, upgrade of camp ground, etc.) that did not satisfy the CIAP requirements and therefore were not funded.  This means that the Town, under Mayor Collier’s leadership, has missed many opportunities to pursue worthwhile projects that could have benefited the island because of his refusal to comply with the CIAP guidelines.

I believe restoration of Dauphin Island’s entire Gulf Shoreline is the single most important issue facing our community.  For that reason, I am in total support of the large shoreline restoration project that the Town has designed and is pursuing with funding from either the Natural Resource Damage Assessment or Restore Act sources.

I support the large shoreline restoration project for several reasons.  I believe that the best projects produce both economic and environmental returns.  Tourism is the life blood of our community.  A restored shoreline will help assure stability in the real estate market on Dauphin Island’s western end which provides much of the Town’s revenue through property taxes, rental taxes, and sales taxes generated by both residents and tourists.  Further, a restored shoreline will enhance the environmental attributes of the Gulf beach habitat that is critical to the wildlife communities that share the island with us and which many tourists visit the island to enjoy.  For example, the ecologically important Bird Sanctuary on the island’s East End would be protected by an improved beach.  A restored Gulf shoreline will also enhance the entire island’s ability to withstand and recover from the impacts of the periodic hurricanes and tropical storms that threaten Dauphin Island each year.

In addition to pursuing the proposed large shoreline restoration project, I believe it is critical that our Town’s government display greater leadership and foresight by pursuing political solutions that would change the manner in which the Corps of Engineers presently disposes of dredged material from the Mobile Harbor Ship Channel.  That means the Town’s mayor must actively work with Mobile County and State elected officials to form a coalition of entities to convince the Alabama State Port Authority to work with the Corps to cause a change in disposal practices of the Ship channel.  I believe our Town currently lacks the leadership needed to work toward that needed change and that is one of the commitments I will make if elected.

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2012 by in Uncategorized.