GULF SHORES — While full beach restoration will not start until this fall, Gulf Shores officials said they are working with federal authorities to repair coastal erosion threatening some …
GULF SHORES — While full beach restoration will not start until this fall, Gulf Shores officials said they are working with federal authorities to repair coastal erosion threatening some property in West Beach as soon as possible.
Brandon Franklin, Gulf Shores emergency management coordinator, said some beach areas will need work before the end of the year.
"We've lost a lot of beach after Hurricane Sally and especially during the winter storms," Franklin said at a Feb. 6 city council work session. "It's created a lot of erosion. There're some steep drop-offs on some of the dunes in certain areas. I want to let everyone know that we're definitely on top of it. We're doing all we can."
Franklin said the city may be able to use sand dredged from Little Lagoon Pass to build up some of the eroded beaches.
"There are some things, not the entire beach renourishment project, but we're almost at a point now where Lagoon Pass is going to have to start being dredged so everything to the west of the pass, within a mile and a half, that sand will go in those areas," Franklin said. "So, we can address those problems up to a mile and half, which is all we're allowed to do, we can utilize that sand there."
Mayor Robert Craft said some beaches have eroded, while sand has built up in other areas. He said the sand from the pass should help build up some of the eroded beaches.
"You've got some enhanced areas that have more sand and some areas that have lost sand, but it's not the entire beach, but there are a couple of them in there where ideally we will be able to do something remedial, so they'll have some beach to work with," Craft said.
In a city statement issued Feb. 9, Craft said Gulf Shores officials are doing all they can to protect local coastal property.
"While we didn't cause this problem, we aren't going to sit idly by and watch our beaches wash away. This is not only a possible major economic problem but also a critical public safety issue," Craft said. "Our dune system is our first line of defense during storms and provides immense protection for beachfront properties. If the beaches stay like this and we get another storm like Hurricane Sally, we could have significant damage along our coastline."
The restoration project to pump sand on the beaches of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and the Alabama Gulf State Park was scheduled to start in November, 2022.
The project was postponed after the Federal Emergency Management Agency Environmental Planning and Historical Preservation department required additional reviews before approving the permits needed to start the work, Franklin said.
He said the EHP review was completed Feb. 1 and the city and FEMA should soon be able to move to the next steps.
Several steps are needed before sand can be pumped from offshore to local beaches.
The city must obtain permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The city must also complete a mandated review process with FEMA and receive necessary FEMA approvals.
The project must be advertised, and bids received before a contractor is selected and starts work.
City officials said after the project was postponed in 2022 the delay meant that renourishment would not start until after the 2023 tourist season.
The city statement said that until the coastline is restored, anyone visiting the beaches should take precautions in eroded areas. People should not try to cross areas where beach access is restricted due to severe erosion.
Anyone with any questions about beach renourishment can email firstname.lastname@example.org, the statement said.