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FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 2007
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High tide slices into new manmade berm

DAUPHIN ISLAND (AP) — High tide sliced into two sections of the just completed $4 million sand berm, built mostly at taxpayer expense to protect resort homes on Dauphin Island’s west end.

The berm, which is 10-feet tall and 19,000-feet long, was cut through over the weekend at the end of Serigny Court, where the tide flattened about 500 feet of built-up sand, and at the end of Tristan Court, where the gap was about 100 feet.

The berm was completed just two weeks ago.

Arkansas tourist Bill Ryan, at a rental home a short distance from the larger breach, said that when he, his wife and two children arrived Saturday, the yard around the home was still deluged with waters from the Gulf of Mexico.

“We have an appointment to talk to a real estate agent here, but I think after seeing this I’m going to look at buying something on the other side of the bay,” he told the Press-Register in a story Thursday.

The berm, which stretches alongside most of the developed west end, was not hit by a storm. But the barrier island experienced high tides up to 2 feet above average late last week, said National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Beeler of Mobile.

A previous berm was built in 2000 for $1 million after yet another sand wall was knocked out by Hurricane Georges in 1998. Designed like the new one to protect roads and other infrastructure, it was breached about a year after it was completed and then washed away by Tropical Storm Isidore in 2002.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina battered the island and finished off remnants of the protective wall.

Mayor Jeff Collier said that, though sections of the new sand wall were taken from the berm by high tides over the weekend, currents will move that sand along the coast and help restore the island’s beaches.

“At least that sand will be in the system there,” Collier said.

Beach experts, including Scott Douglass at the University of South Alabama, have said that temporary, “Band-Aid” measures such as berms are helpful because they infuse tons of sand into sand-starved tidal systems such as the one on Dauphin Island.

“Other people can think it’s a waste of federal money, but it’s designed as a temporary thing for an important purpose,” said Collier. “This one’s probably not going to last as long as the first one due to the nature of how and when it was constructed.”

Del Streid, FEMA’s public assistance section chief, said Wednesday that he’d been told that the damage had happened after construction, not by tides that eroded sections during construction.

“If the town has more information, I’d invite them to get that information to the state,” Streid said. The state Emergency Management Agency is the go-between for the town and FEMA, he said. “We’ll review any new information.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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