GULF SHORES — Starting in November, Alabama Gulf Coast beaches will be built up with enough sand to fill more than 130,000 dump trucks.The beach renourishment project is expected to take until …
GULF SHORES — Starting in November, Alabama Gulf Coast beaches will be built up with enough sand to fill more than 130,000 dump trucks.
The beach renourishment project is expected to take until the spring of 2023, Al Browder, principal engineer for Olsen and Associates, the company directing the project, said at a public meeting at Gulf Shores City Hall Wednesday, June 29.
Dredges will pump about 2 million cubic yards of sand from offshore onto almost 15 miles of beach from near Laguna Key on West Beach in Gulf Shores, east to the Florida state line, Browder said.
"A dump truck, a standard dump truck that you see running around carrying dirt to construction sites, carries 15 cubic yards. Fifteen," he said. "So, in order for us to build our project, if we were going to bring it in by truck, that'd be 133,000 trucks through your community."
The sand will extend the beaches toward the Gulf by an average of about 75 feet, Browder said. He said the amount will depend on the contour of the beach at any particular site and will change over time as sand naturally builds up and erodes.
In the Gulf Coast project, the sand will be dredged from sites about one to two miles offshore and carried to areas off the beach. From those locations, the sand will be pumped on to the beaches, Browder said.
He said the project should cover about 1,000 feet of beach each day. The work should not be in front of any particular property on the beach for much more than a day.
Browder said, however, that weather conditions could affect the schedule.
"As a coastal engineer, we work in the weather and we work in the Gulf, so every time I make a comment about the schedule, I'm like behind my back going, I hope this is really what it's going to be," Browder said holding up crossed fingers for the audience. "It's the weather. It's Mother Nature."
Sand was first pumped on Gulf Shores beaches in 2001 and 2004. After Hurricane Ivan struck the area in September 2004, a more extensive beach nourishment project placed sand on 15 miles of beaches in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in 2005 and 2006.
A project in 2012 and 2013 replaced sand lost to storms and erosion. Since then, hurricanes, such as Nate in 2017 and Sally in 2020, have cut into Baldwin beaches, Browder said.
"So, it's been coming up on 10 years, we've had Nate and Sally, which were major events for the project," Browder said. "We've also had a number of smaller storms impact the beach in that time, but it has been 10 years, so we are gearing up now to do the second renourishment."
During the meeting, one resident said he was concerned that sand pumped onto beaches near Little Lagoon could affect efforts to keep Lagoon Pass cleared. He said dredges operated by the Alabama Department of Transportation pump sand from the pass, but the material still often blocks the channel.
Browder said the renourishment project will not pump sand near the pass.
"One of the problems we have is that we don't want all of our sand to be pumped onto the beach," he said, "and have it run right into Little Lagoon Pass and close Little Lagoon."