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June 10, 2010


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Your argument against a berm as an erosion control method doesn't really apply to this situation, a berm constructed to prevent oil from coming ashore. They are two different needs, completely.

As you pointed out, the western part of the Island experiences overwash conditions during even minor, non-tropical storm events (this is when the Gulf of Mexico flows across the Island, and into the "Sound").

It is far cheaper to pile up a wall of sand on the shoreline to catch the oil than it is to try to clean up an Island that is coated with oil from an overwash, not to mention the damage to the 10,000 acres of coastal marsh and estuaries to the north of the Island, damage that can't really be "cleaned".

But back to your information about the "Katrina Berm" that went up in Feb/March 2007 . . . are you aware that the original berm plans called for a long "bench", with a sloping, drop-off into the water? Well, at the last minute, FEMA changed the berm planform, eliminating (I'm guessing here) at least a third of the berm's cubic yardage, and left it with a flawed design that neither had a sloping, energy-absorbing drop-off, nor the 100-foot plus "bench", and was instead just a pile of sand.

Dauphin Island has some severe issues to deal with after 30 years of neglect. If you don't like the berm, what do you think we should do about our multiple problems- oil and man-made erosion?

David - many thanks for your thoughtful response. I will admit right now that I can't answer your last question in any way that would be definitive or satisfactory - but then I'm not sure who can, and that is the cause of so much inefficiency and understandable frustration. As an article on the BBC remarked when all this started: "Oil extraction technology has improved a great deal over recent years, driven in part by the need to get it from these more difficult places. There have also been big improvements in operational procedures and standards, not least regarding the health and safety of oil workers. But technology and operational procedures to minimise the risk of environmental damage, and to cope with and clean up after environmental catastrophes, do not appear to have kept pace with extraction technology."

Yes, the two different purposes of berms reflect two different needs - but natural processes of erosion and sediment budgets, the effects on water circulation along a complex coast such as the Gulf, and the kinds of environmental concerns that have been raised, apply to any kind of berm to a greater or lesser extent. Yes, I was aware that the "Katrina berm" was poorly designed, but what designs have proved effective and long-lasting? At the end of the day any berm is simply a more or less sophisticated pile of sand, not a replica of a natural island.

Barrier islands migrate naturally, often quite rapidly. By "man-made erosion", I assume you mean the massive re-engineering of the coast through dredging and construction - this, as Katrina revealed, is a regional-scale problem: the sediment budgets of the entire coast have been changed.

I wish that I had a solution for the oil - its removal before it ever reaches the coast. It seems extraordinary that in this day and age, the technological capacity and the planning simply weren't in place. But it also seems to me that the focus, at least in the media and local government, has been entirely on berms as a solution, apparently at the expense of other approaches. I've posted about possibilities of bioremediation - again not perfect, but nothing is. There are all kinds of possibilities out there (in addition to Kevin Costner's) for effective skimming. In fact, as a number of news items describe (linked below), there are all kinds of ideas - the majority inpractical, but, amongst the others some real possibilities. I guess that part of my frustration originating perhaps from only being able to read Government Agency and media reports, is that urgent tests of such ideas are not apparent. I'm a scientist - I'd just like to see more science. But I do also appreciate that my perspective is not from the front-line of this catastrophe.

Thanks again, and here are some links (not in any way an exhaustive list, and I'm not quailifed to evaluate them) that at least refer to other possible approaches:





And now to go to the plubic beach they make us pay to walk on the sand that alabama tax payers are still paying for
in the 1980s after tax money paid for the brige to the inland they wonted us to pay a toll
I have made it clear I will not spend any money on the inland till they stop trying to make us pay for what tax money has already been spent for

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