Fairhope battles beach erosion

Fairhope continues to address problems caused by severe flooding weeks ago. Damage at the sewage plant is on track to be repaired and now the city is turning its attention towards a section of eroded public beach. It’s a fix that will take nearly 6,000 tons of sand to complete.

Fairhope residents and visitors alike enjoy scenic strolls along the bayfront. It’s a bayfront that’s quickly disappearing along one section of Scenic Highway 98. The public beach between the Pier Street boat launch and Pecan Street is a sheer drop-off from the grass along the sidewalk to a narrow strip of sand several feet below.

“We’ve had significant erosion, you know over these last…all these winter storms. Any time we have that north, northwest winds that hits us, that is causing more and more erosion,” said Fairhope Public Works Director, Jennifer Fidler.

The last time the beach had to be rebuilt was after Hurricane Katrina eight years ago.

Then, the entire sidewalk also had to be replaced. Now there are already a couple of trees that are close to falling in and the city plans to bring in sand to fix the problem…a lot of sand.

“Fifty eight hundred tons…it’s kind of hard to imagine, but we’re figuring abour 200 to 250 truck loads of sand,” Fidler said.

The fix will extend the beach by 40 to 50 feet out into the water and build it up several feet. Fidler says the sand will be spread by a backoe and bulldozer and built into a terraced form. Over time, she says that sand will disperse for several blocks to the south replenishing eroded areas.

“We have a good bit of sandy beach between Pier Street boat ramp and the American Legion for people to enjoy so this will just renourish those areas and continue to have a larger beach through there,” Fidler explained.

Folks out enjoying the bayfront park Friday, June 13, 2014 all said they’re glad to hear the improvements are coming.

“It’s like everybody, you know this is what they do in the afterrnoon and in the morning.

It’s a very social interaction for the community,” said Fairhope resident, Beth Autrey as she walked her dog, Gipper along the sidewalk.

“I think it’s a good idea because it’s for all the people and so has everyone a nicer place,” Gereman tourist, Frauque Krull said as she enjoyed the view of the Mobile skyline across the bay.

To address the ongoing erosion problem, the city’s considering a couple of things. First, putting sand back on the beach every couple of years. Secondly and more long term, building some oyster reefs or other similar structures just off the shore to prevent the wave action from eroding the beach as quickly.

The overall cost of the project is estimated to be around $66,000. If the city council approves a bid for the project at their next meeting on June 23, city officials hope to have the work completed by the 4th of July holiday.

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