In Alabama, the Laws of Physics Cease to Exist

Sep. 4, 2017


It is common knowledge, even among children playing with sand and water, that interrupting the natural flow of water causes a loss of water and sand on the down side of the blockage.

Among reputable scientists, physicists and engineers, it is common knowledge that dredging of channels and waterways along a coastline contributes to erosion on downdrift shorelines. Underwater sand, moving along a coastline, falls into the channel created by the dredging, and moves outward to deeper waters, thereby starving the downdrift shorelines of sediment necessary for their survival against the sea.

This is basic physics.

This is why every state on the U.S. Gulf Coast (and many others around the country, and even the world) – WITH ONE EXCEPTION – have laws on the books which require erosion mitigation for shorelines which are downdrift of dredging practices.

It does not matter whether the downdrift shorelines are public or private beaches. Dredging contributes to erosion on those beaches – through no fault of the owner of those beaches – whether the owner is a federal/national entity, a state, a county, a city, or an individual. The erosion must be mitigated regardless. The dredging is an unnatural force, a man-made blockage, which causes the erosion. Therefore, responsible government entities have enacted laws to require mitigation (in the form of sand deposited directly on or close to the affected beaches) for the shoreline loss.

Placing compensatory sand on or near eroded beaches downdrift of dredging is REQUIRED BY LAW in, as mentioned, all Gulf Coast States and other locales in the U.S. and worldwide.


Apparently in Alabama, the Laws of Physics cease to exist.

Every time citizen groups have begged the powers-that-be to help the erosion problem on Dauphin Island, those pleas fall on deaf ears. Some representatives of those powers-that-be have stated that the dredging of the ship channel in Mobile Bay and the Mobile Outer Bar Harbor plays little to no role in the southern shoreline erosion on the island which has been going on for decades, ever since the channel started being dredged almost 100 years ago.

It is outrageous that these persons continue to deny the laws of physics.

Especially when one of their own – a distinguished and respected coastal engineer with the Corps – did a study in 1978 which confirmed that dredging of the Mobile Bay area ship channel DOES contribute to the erosion on Dauphin Island.

Comments from representatives of the Corps in the last few years have included such outlandish statements as “that report was not based on science.” Yet they have never explained how that report was not scientific, nor how other reports (conducted years later which support their outrageous claims of the dredging having no effect) somehow are more scientific and believable.

Other reports since 1978 have corroborated the conclusion of the 1978 report, which of course, reflect the view of hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of coastal engineers in other states and countries, hence the mitigation laws on the books virtually everywhere, EXCEPT in Alabama.

Our State Government is also of no help. Twice now, citizen groups have convinced Representatives of the Alabama State House to bring forth legislation requiring THE SAME MITIGATION as are on the books in the other Gulf Coast states. And every time, the legislation has never even been brought up for a vote.

What is going on in Montgomery, and in the Corps, and in the Port Authority? Why do some of these people (a) deny the laws of physics and (b) refuse to help Dauphin Island?

The Army Corps of Engineers is planning to widen and deepen the ship channel in Mobile Bay and the Mobile Outer Bar Harbor. But they have NO PLAN for mitigating the erosion and sediment starvation that will occur when the larger channel exists, nor for compensating Dauphin Island for the erosion that has already been happening for decades there, ever since the channel was first created.

The Corps is conducting a study on the impacts of their widening and deepening plan – only because citizen groups demanded they do so. But the Corps is not including any historical data in the study. They are not including any study of the erosion which has occurred in the past, only what they think will occur in the future, due to the new, larger ship channel. It is unclear how they presume to determine this speculation of the future without studying the history of erosion on the island since the dredging began.

More on this to come.