FEMA declaration includes Dauphin Island hurricane damage

(IMAGE: CITY OF DAUPHIN ISLAND) FEMA declaration includes Dauphin Island hurricane damage

Dauphin Island’s recovery from Hurricane Nate can “get started in earnest” now that five counties in Alabama are eligible for FEMA assistance, Mayor Jeff Collier said.

Thursday’s disaster declaration by the Federal Emergency Management Agency could save Dauphin Island as much as 85 percent of its $5.5 million damage estimate, much of which will be spent to put mountains of beach sand back where it belongs.

“We did initial repairs right after the hurricane hit,” Collier said. “We helped clear the causeway on the north side of the bridge, and we got the west end of Bienville Boulevard cleared of sand as quickly as we could so people could get to their houses and property. After the initial push to restore services and access, though, FEMA’s protocol is that you have to wait for a disaster declaration.”

Hurricane Nate struck the central Gulf Coast as a Category 1 storm on the weekend of Oct. 7-8. On Dauphin Island, in addition to flooding and sand buildup on Bienville Boulevard, the town suffered damage to docks and piers on Aloe Bay and Billy Goat Hole, destruction of public facilities at West End Beach, erosion at its newly nourished East End Beach and damage to more than 30 side streets on the west end of Bienville Boulevard.

The mayor predicted contractors will take two to three months to remove an estimated 400,000 cubic yards of sand that’s currently piled along the shoulders of about three miles of west Bienville Boulevard.

“Contractors will have to sift it first and then put it back on the beach,” Collier said. “We also suffered shoreline erosion on East End Beach, and that will be repaired. The goal is to get us back to pre-storm conditions.”

Despite the pockets of damage, Dauphin Island is “up and running and open for business,” he said, including tourist attractions, retail shops, restaurants, charter fishing and equipment rentals.

Police will continue to maintain a checkpoint on the western end of Bienville Boulevard, limiting access to homeowners and their visitors plus contractors, insurance agents and others who have a need to be there.

“That’s primarily for safety,” Collier said. “We want to keep people safe and traffic under control as our contractors are doing repairs.”

The mayor said the FEMA declaration is the second piece of good economic news Dauphin Island has received in recent days. Earlier in the week, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced $33.5 million in grants for five coastal restoration and conservation projects in Alabama, including nearly $6 million for two projects on Dauphin Island.

NFWF will spend about $4.5 million on Dauphin Island bird habitat acquisition and enhancement and about $1.4 million on near-shore and onshore restoration options for a future project to enhance and protect Little Dauphin Island.

“Eco-tourism is Dauphin Island’s bread-and-butter,” Collier said. “Although the town is not the grantee in either of the NFWF projects, they will yield benefits for us economically as well as environmentally.”

The NFWF grants are being funded by lawsuits related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that affected beaches and wetlands in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Texas.

“We commend Gov. Kay Ivey for her vision in working with NFWF and FEMA to put these monies into the areas that were affected by the oil spill and the hurricane,” Collier said.

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