Once again, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby stepped up to get funding to dredge Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, just ahead of the coming fishing season.
“At least the second time,” city Coastal Resources Director Phillip West said of Shelby’s efforts. “He’s definitely our friend in that regard. And the Corps [Army Corps of Engineers]. We all owe him a big thank you for getting this done. The pass is definitely in dire need of dredging. Especially when the big boats start rolling out for the late spring tournaments. This ought to put us in pretty good shape.”
The dredging is ongoing and will take at least another two to three weeks to complete. When all is said and done, more than 300,000 cubic yards of beach-quality sand will be taken from the pass.
An extra bonus for Orange Beach during this latest pass-clearing session is it gets to keep the sand. Recently the City Council voted to spend more than $650,000 to renourish beaches east of Perdido Pass that sustained some damage during 2018 storms.
In past dredging operations, the Corps didn’t make the sand available to the city.
“This is a first,” Mayor Tony Kennon said. “The Corps is going to allow us to take the material that they dredge the pass with and place it where we think it needs placed. If FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] comes on board and helps us [the costs] could be cut in half, but we can’t count on it.”
West said the current project is one of the largest in recent memory, topping totals removed in dredgings from 2010 and 2015, both paid for with money found by Shelby.
“I know they didn’t do a full dredge the last time,” West said. “ … A full dredge is when they are really cleaning out the pass. Somewhere on the order of a couple of hundred thousand yards of material were moved instead of, like, 30. This one’s like, 300,000, and it would be one of the bigger Perdido Pass projects in recent history.”
Orange Beach City Councilman Jeff Boyd, also an avid fisherman, said he’s heard recent stories of bigger boats scraping bottom in the pass, so the dredging is definitely needed, in his view.
“To have them come back and do this is a big deal,” Boyd said. “We’ve had some big boats bottoming out in the pass recently where turbulence has caused some things to build back up. It’s very well needed.”
The city is hoping FEMA funds will be secured to help pay for some of the restoration of the beaches that suffered residual damage from hurricanes Gordon, Nate and Michael.
“There was some emergency money appropriated for it but we don’t know if FEMA’s going to kick in or not, even though the beaches down there were a declared disaster and you’d think they should,” West said. “We’ll deal with that later. We’re happy to get that material for sure.”
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