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USGS

Commentary: Corps’ Dauphin Island announcement good for all of coastal Alabama

The announcement by U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Alabama) that the Army Corps of Engineers will have the budget to place sand dredged from the Mobile Ship Channel in a newly expanded disposal site may ensure the long-term survival of Dauphin Island itself. The dredged sand can now be placed in shallower water depths closer to the island, where it will migrate to the beaches. This is also great news for the broader ecosystem, including beaches and dunes as well as speckled trout fishing, oysters, shrimp and crab.

For the past 50 years the Corps’ dredge disposal practices have cut off the natural pathway that has fed sand to the island for centuries. We need to dredge the beach-quality sands from the channel for safe navigation and a robust port economy. But we now, finally, may have the budget to put that sand where Mother Nature naturally placed it before the ship channel was built.

Depositing sand in shallower depths will allow wave action to more rapidly drive it onto Dauphin Island’s west end beaches. It is a process called “artificial sand by-passing” because machines replicate the natural sand bypassing mechanisms that allow beach sands to migrate west across Mobile Pass.

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