Saturday, June 14, 2014

No Federal Money Coming for Bluff Repairs

Fairhope, Alabama


N. Bayview bluff
According to the mayor, there will be no help from the federal government for repairs to the bluff; it doesn't qualify because they see it as a "maintenance" issue.

Temporary berms were added along the bluff's edges by city workers and improvements made to storm drains on Bayview Ave. (repairs to streets themselves are expected to be reimbursed).


Several gullies suffered significant erosion as well, on both public and private property.  So far, FEMA and the NRCS have agreed to help repair/upgrade only the portion of the Big Mouth gully adjacent to the city's sewer plant; no information is readily available about repairs on private property, although other media reports over $3 million has already been disbursed.

Volanta gully (private property)

A 2002 study sponsored by the city,  Single Tax Corp., and the Mobile Bay Estuary Program recommended possible solutions (click), but they would  be very expensive.

Addressing the problem "uphill" was preferred (more retention); but direct methods ie. terracing of steep banks were also mentioned.

(Using plants other than non-native kudzu for erosion-control is also discussed.)

Study summary:

"If the scenic gullies that distinguish Fairhope and carry stormwater runoff from its streets and properties are to be preserved the City and its residents will have to manage and protect them. While invasive plants currently protect gully walls from the same forces that created them, they also outcompete native plants that provide vital ecological services to native wildlife. 

Replacing  invasivevegetation with native plants is a good course of action, but it will require thoughtful planning and gradual implementation. Residents should prevent not only large, physical debris from entering the gullies but also less obvious “non-point source pollutants” like fertilizer, pesticide, sediments, oil, grease, toxic chemicals, and pet waste, which are carried along with stormwater runoff. Our coastal waters are the economic and ecological engines that drive much of the State’s economy, and groundwater is the source of drinking water for Baldwin County residents. Taking care of our gullies is taking care of our water, both on the surface and in the ground.

The problem of erosion will have to so be addressed “uphill”, at the source of runoff. The City and its residents should work to reduce the amount of impervious surfaces, like pavement, that prevents our abundant rainwater from infiltrating into the ground. Effective individual stormwater management practices like rain gardens, infiltration swales, and pervious paving must be accepted and increasingly used, not only to preserve the gullies but to maintain the quality of coastal waters."
Terrace in Stack Gully

(NOTE: FEMA and other grants helped finance the terracing of a portion of Stack Gully east of the pier after hurricane Danny in 1997;  erosion threatened two Fairhope Ave. houses and a condominium complex near the edge. See the brochure for details.)


In 2011, the city applied for $4.5 million of anticipated environmental-damage fine money (under the Federal Restore Act) -- for funds to improve stormwater runoff quality into the bay from the bluff and duck pond areas; but the amount of the fine is still being litigated in Federal court..

The project would re-locate the beach road, construct new wetlands, and includes new "routing and control of stormwater from Bayview Park."


"The City of Fairhope owns a public beach and park along the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. This park includes water front property, a bluff, and park property that is elevated approximately 100 feet above the Bay. All stormwater in the approximately 58 acre watershed drains to Mobile Bay. This drainage area receives stormwater from the existing duck pond, N. Bayview Park where many animals are walked, and an existing residential neighborhood. All of these factors work together to impair water quality at the park swimming beach."

City Council President Burrell said recently he thought stormwater-erosion issues were the "number-one problem facing the city" at this time.

Beach park cliff
New Bayview drain
N. Bayview berm

Upper Big Mouth gully
Stack gully

More Volanta gully

Big Mouth

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