A $3 million Restore Act grant is being used to study how sediment dredged from the proposed Mobile Harbor Federal Navigation Project can be used to help develop other marine habitats.
Targeted in the study would be the Denton Oyster Reef, a feasibility study on the restoration of Grand Bay, Mississippi, barrier islands and studying sediment movement in the Lower Perdido Bay/Pass area from the U.S. Route 98 bridge in Lillian to the Gulf.
According to the grant, this would entail “complete planning, design, engineering and feasibility assessments for three project areas where future placement of dredge sediments would achieve habitat restoration. Designing habitat restoration projects that are ready to utilize such materials saves money, creates habitat and is a Gulf-wide objective of the Gulf Regional Sediment Management Master Plan.”
Orange Beach is poised to sign with the state to receive $475,000 of the grant in an agreement to manage the Lower Perdido project.
“The state reached out to us because we have done almost like a phase one for the Lower Perdido,” Coastal Resources Director Phillip West said. “Because we had coordinated that, they asked us if we could take all the Lower Perdido studies, manage those and direct the contractors and consultants and handle the deliverables. We would be a sub-grant recipient and we would answer to the state and the state, of course, answers to the federal council.”
West said the city will eventually hire a third party to conduct the studies, which are expected to take about three years.
“We’ll put out requests for qualifications once we finalize this agreement with the state,” West said. “Once they give us the green light to do an announcement and begin the actual work, then we’ll proceed hopefully with the whole process. You put the request for qualifications out for 30 days. You have the committee score those respondents, select one, negotiate and award the contract. I’m thinking maybe three months.”
The Perdido part of the project will concentrate on how the sediment moves throughout the bay as well as the vital Perdido Pass that supports the large Orange Beach charter fishing fleet.
“Determining all the forces that go toward moving sediment, displacing sediment, causing erosion, causing hotspots, even accretion if that’s the case, or shoaling,” West said. “Then we’ll determine what is the total sediment budget, what are some of the dredging intervals and how do we best use that sediment in the most beneficial manner to not only mitigate erosion but develop habitat over the long-term. When you’re looking at forces that have always been there in the watershed … But also, we are considering sea level rise with everything we do along the shorelines now.”
West said it’s likely to include how the U.S. 98 bridge affects the flow of sediment in that part of the watershed as well as general data about the entire study area.
“We’ll have a report for the sediment management study, we’ll have a report for the hydrological study and we’ll have a report for the natural resource inventory,” West said.
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