In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina segmented Dauphin Island into Dauphin Island East and Dauphin Island West. Prior to this event, the island was a 23-km-long microtidal composite barrier island located in the northern Gulf of Mexico approximately 8.0 km offshore from southwestern Alabama (U.S.A.). The eastern portion of Dauphin Island was morphologically a barrier island, and it experienced gulf-facing beach erosion at several isolated hot spots. The western portion of Dauphin Island was an elongated barrier spit with little topographic relief, and it experienced gulf-facing beach erosion and occasional washover due to elevated tides and storm waves. The protection and preservation of the residential property on the barrier-spit portion of the island has been a priority for the incorporated Town of Dauphin Island since the late 1970s. On two separate occasions the Town of Dauphin Island combined funds with those provided by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency and contracted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a shore-parallel sand dune. The first dune was built following Hurricane Georges and the second after Hurricane Katrina. Both of these structures were completely eroded away within a short span of time, the post–Hurricane Georges dune in 27 months and the post–Hurricane Katrina dune in 15 months. Despite the high cost, limited effectiveness, and short service life of constructed sand dunes, the remaining options are either unacceptable (e.g., beach armoring, land use reclassification, or abandonment) or too costly (e.g., engineered beach). Constructed shore-parallel sand dunes will likely remain integral to the protection and preservation of the residentially developed, barrier-spit portion of Dauphin Island East due to its low relief and the high probability of washover events from elevated tides and storm waves.
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Vol. 2010 • No. 264