Dauphin Island, AL
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Taken from WWLTV.com/A P
'Living Shorelines' Eyed To Stop Coastal Erosion
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Garry Mitchell / Associated Press --
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. -- Crews keep building high sand barriers to protect this fragile strip of land from erosion, and nature's wrath keeps washing them away.

Most recently, on Sept. 1, Hurricane Gustav erased a 10-foot-tall berm, a wall of sand that stretched for more than three miles.

Now marine scientists are turning to nature itself as the solution in an experiment to mend eroded shorelines. By planting tons of oyster shells to form angular breakwaters near Dauphin Island, they hope to show that aquatic life drawn to the shells can create a "living shoreline," preventing coastal erosion better than ugly bulkheads, blunt seawalls or feeble berms that inevitably have to be rebuilt.

"Bulkheads are horrible and people build them out of ignorance," said Just Cebrian, who is directing the project at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Scientists in a growing number of states are pursuing living shorelines where once they might have watched or even helped as walls were built to hold back the sea.

North Carolina has had over 30 demonstration projects, including some using oyster shells. Virginia, Maryland and Delaware have been requiring alternatives to bulkheads and seawalls for some time. Projects also have been completed in Pensacola, Fla., and Biloxi, Miss.

"The issue is certainly gaining traction," said Tracy Skrabal of Wilmington, N.C., regional manager for the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

Taxpayers are funding the Sea Lab's living shoreline project with a $1.5 million fisheries restoration grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

That's less than half the price of the recently demolished berm, built in 2005 with sand pumped from Mississippi Sound. That $3.6 million barrier replaced a $1 million version that was done in by Tropical Storm Isidore in 2002. That first sand wall had been completed in June 2000 as an emergency project initiated after Hurricane Georges in 1998.