Dauphin Island, AL
Archive of Historical Data, Books, Maps And Other Materials

Taken from the Editorial page
Build Beaches, Not Berms
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DAUPHIN ISLAND wasn't the only piece of the Alabama coast hit by the storm surges of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Even though neither storm made landfall anywhere near Alabama, our beaches have suffered.

In Baldwin County, officials are looking at estimates of more than $13 million to restore the beaches and a berm. About 2 million cubic yards of sand was lost, and the protective berm along West Beach was breached.

The fragility of the beaches was demonstrated by these two storms. Hurricane Ike's effects were worsened because between Gustav and Ike, normal wave action didn't have time to restore the sand that washed off the beach. So while the berm stood up fairly well to Gustav, Ike's storm surge was too much.

Overall, the Gulf Shores berm, built in 2005, appears to have performed better than its Dauphin Island counterpart, which was wiped out. But Baldwin County's experience offers further proof that beach berms - essentially walls built of sand - aren't worth the money taxpayers shell out for them.

Because Alabama's beaches are so crucial to the economy, they can't be left to erode away either. Beach renourishment programs are essential. Despite the damage in Baldwin County, the coastline is still in better shape because of the overall renourishment project, costing $25 million, in 2005.

In contrast, homes on Dauphin Island's west end are in grave danger. A wider beach renourishment program could better protect the island as a whole rather than repeatedly spending millions of dollars building a wall of sand that just won't hold up for long.