GULF SHORES — The City of Gulf Shores is looking into ways to restore its beaches after Hurricane Nate caused significant erosion in 2017, followed by Hurricane Sally in 2020 and multiple winter storms in 2022.

According to city engineer Mark Acreman, the city has identified two “hot spots” that need to be addressed soon. One is around 2,000 linear square feet in the area of Little Lagoon Pass, and the other is approximately 2,300 feet of shoreline centered in the area of West 9th Street.

During the regular city council work session Monday, Mayor Robert Craft said the issues are impacting property owners and public safety. A full restoration project is underway with FEMA, but Craft said something needs to be done sooner.

“This is with the understanding that our full-blown beach renourishment will probably not occur until after the season,” said Craft. “And so, this is an, ‘Is there an interim thing,’ we’re trying to find out if there’s something interim we can do because we’ve got properties down there that have very little beach, and we have challenges getting our fire safety folk back and forth and our law enforcement folk back and forth, crossing all of these eroded areas, as well as a place for our visitors to be able to go out and enjoy the beach. So, anything we can do to get in front of this and to say this season instead of having to wait until the fall for the big one to come through.”

FEMA has not given final approval for the large restoration project, and even after approval is given, it could take up to 60 days for the city to make any movement on the project. Another issue that would impact the start of the large restoration project, Acreman said, is the lack of available crews to get the work done. Craft said the process should have been underway by now.

“It’s really disappointing because this should have happened this past fall,” Craft added. “Or November, December last winter, November, December or January, but I guess it was FEMA or someone decided they needed more information, and so they stopped the process until we could do other research for them. And that put us here because we desperately need the sand. Our beaches are in bad shape.”

The city is working with ALDOT on an intermediate solution to dredge spoils to the most severely eroded spots for the Little Lagoon Pass location. Acreman said that work should begin next week. For the West 9th Street location, Acreman said he hopes an intermediate plan will be put in place soon by the city and FEMA.

“I don’t have a dredge source of sand readily available like we do west of the pass with ALDOT’s project,” Acreman added. “So, this one here we’ve got to be a little more focused on, and we really need to have our coastal engineer, Dr. Al Browder [with Olsen Associates], evaluate this location and if there is something that can be done, hopefully, make some recommendations, and there’s a possibility we might even get some additional funding for that as an emergency protective measure.”

Olsen Associates, a beach restoration company out of Jacksonville, Florida, would perform beach profiles and a coastal engineering assessment of the hot spot for around $11,600. Those funds would come from a $3,224,460 pot already set aside for beach restoration, due to Hurricane Sally, in the city’s budget. If the city approves the funds to be used for the project, Acreman said a recommendation to fix the issue would be back within 30 to 60 days. However, he said there is a possibility there won’t be an interim solution available, but he is hoping for the best.

“We’re starting to see some natural recovery,” Acreman explained. “We’re starting to see the pattern shift. I went out this morning and looked at the multiple hot spots, and we’re starting to see some of that beach start to slowly come back a little bit. So, the ability of us to be able to implement an intermediate solution is better when we’ve got mother nature working with us.”

The council will also consider a $54,700 pre-construction beach survey and analysis by Olsen Associates as part of a yearly project that looks at the whole coastline to identify spots of concern. Those funds will also come from the money already set aside for beach restoration.

The Gulf Shores City Council will vote on the measures at its regular meeting next Monday at 4 p.m.

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