We recently learned about another long-term casualty of the oil spill: Dauphin Island, Alabama, a beautiful stretch of barrier island at the mouth of Mobile Bay. In this case most of the damage was done not by the oil spill itself, but by a panicky and ill-conceived response effort during the spill ("we had to destroy this village, in order to save it"). Large quantities of sand were excavated from a series of pits on the Mississippi Sound side of the island to build a berm along the Gulf side, a move designed to keep oil from washing up over the beach in case of a storm:
|Sand berm being piled up along Gulf side of Dauphin Island during 2010 BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Photo courtesy The Washington Post.|
|Same area in January 2012. Sand-excavation pits are now ponds filed with water; some have eroded to the point that they are open to the Sound. One coastal engineering scientist thinks the eroding sand-excavation ponds are now a weak spot in Dauphin Island that could become the next breach when a major storm hits.|
What's more, the sand berm was apparently piled on top of water and sewer lines servicing the island, causing potential problems and additional expense for future maintenance work. In this case, it looks like the actions taken to minimize damage from the oil spill might actually cause worse impacts down the road. Will we be making the same dubious decisions when the next major oil spill comes around?
View a slideshow of our time-series images of Dauphin Island, or check them out one at a time in our Flickr image gallery.