Causeway dredge spoil wetland comment period extended

By Guy Busby, guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 1/12/22

SPANISH FORT – Local residents and officials have until Feb. 3 to comment on a proposal to create up to 1,200 acres of wetlands south of the Causeway using material dredged from the Mobile Bay ship channel, according to officials.

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Causeway dredge spoil wetland comment period extended

Posted

SPANISH FORT – Local residents and officials have until Feb. 3 to comment on a proposal to create up to 1,200 acres of wetlands south of the Causeway using material dredged from the Mobile Bay ship channel, according to officials.

The proposal calls the wetlands to be created in an area about 1.5 to 2.5 miles south of the Causeway using the dredged sediments.

Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan said he supported dredging of the Mobile Bay ship channel, but that he had questions about the wetlands project.

“We need to know more about this,” McMillan said after the Jan. 3 City Council work session. “We need to know what’s in that material that they’re talking about putting there.”

“I’m glad the corps did extend it for 30 more days and perhaps there will be more information coming to us about this,” McMillan added.

The original deadline for the comment period was from Dec. 3, 2021, to Jan. 3. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday, Jan. 3 that the period was extended a month. Several government agencies and other groups, including the Spanish Fort City Council and the Alabama State Port Authority requested more time to comment on the proposal.

“This wetland creation project is vitally important not only to the port, but to community partners seeking environmental restoration and recreational enhancement opportunities,” Judith Adams, vice president of internal and external affairs for the port authority, said in a statement. “As such, we are committed to seeing that everyone has opportunity to become engaged,”

McMillan said environmental agencies including the Sierra Club and Mobile Baykeepers have also expressed concerns about the effects of the project on the bay ecosystem.

A statement on the Mobile Baykeepers website said that while wetlands restoration has had a positive effect in other areas, the Causeway project creates a new habitat.

“This project does not involve restoration in the traditional sense but instead is an attempt at beneficial use and cost reduction. What is yet to be determined is whether this use will be beneficial, or if it solely fulfills goals of cost reduction. Similar projects have been successful, but each project is different and there are several questions and concerns we feel the Port Authority must address before this permit moves forward. Questioning the proposed benefit, we have some major concerns and several questions that have not been addressed,” the Baykeepers statement said.

The statement said some of the material dredged will come from the industrial areas along the Mobile waterfront and should be tested for heavy metals and other pollutants. The area where the materials is proposed to be deposited is also a habitat where fish species, such as red drum, tarpon and flounder, reproduce. That habitat will be replaced with a wetlands, the Baykeepers statement said.

The $2.5-million planning project is funded by the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf States Act, known as the RESTORE Act, according to reports.

If the project is approved, the port authority plans to request construction funds for the first 100 acres of wetlands from the RESTORE Council in 2022. The entire project to create 1,100 more acres of wetland is expected to take 10 to 20 years.

Comments can be submitted to the USACE Mobile District Engineer, Regulatory Division, Attn:  Dylan C. Hendrix at P.O. Box 2288, Mobile, AL 36628-0001 or by email at dylan.c.hendrix@usace.army.mil, or 251-694-3772.  Comments should reference Public Notice Number SAM-2021-00246-DCH when being sent.

All comments received by Feb. 3, will be taken into consideration during the permitting process, the statement said.

Additional information can also be found at www.UpperMoBayWetlands.com.