Alabama beach erosion threatens safety, economy as FEMA permitting delay continues


GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) — A ten-foot wall of sand. It’s what’s left of this section of dunes on West Beach in Gulf Shores. This last line of defense from the Gulf of Mexico is disappearing fast.

“This year when we got here was kind of a total shock.” For forty years, Tom Foss has been coming to Gulf Shores but he has never seen the beaches like this.

“When we first got here in the beginning of January you could still come down, hit the sand and get out but, the last two weeks this is what we’ve got now,” said Foss.

Fresh mounds of sand and sea oats fell from the dunes overnight during a storm that saw nine-foot waves crashing onshore. Some visitors who arrived in late December or early January estimate as much as six feet of sand has been lost in just the last month.

“I don’t know that we would survive a hurricane,” said Randall Baker, who owns a condo nearby. “It would probably wipe every bit of this out. There is nothing here to protect us.”

A renourishment project that would build the beach up was scheduled to start last November but has been delayed as the city waits for permits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We’re not throwing our hands up at this,” said Gulf Shores city spokesman Grant Brown. “This is not because of a lack of planning from Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and the state park. It’s really a FEMA issue that has created this delay and it’s now posing a significant threat to property.”

Not to mention the economy. Baker said they are already in the process of alerting potential tourists that the beach they expect to see may not be here.

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s going to kill rentals,” said Baker. “It really will and I don’t think it’s just us. I think all the way down this beach it’s going to kill it.”

After 40 years even Tom Foss may not be back.

“We love it here,” said Foss. “We don’t want to change but you can hardly get down here to fish anymore.”

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