The Cities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, along with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, maintain over 17 miles of sandy shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico in Baldwin County, AL. Within that stretch of the beaches, the group administers a 15.3-mile engineered beach management program, predicted on beach restoration and periodic beach renourishment. The full project was first constructed in 2005-2006 and was designed to expand upon a) the initial beach restoration project built in 2001 along 3.1 miles of East Beach at Gulf Shores, and b) the emergency beach fill project constructed in 2003 along 3.3 miles of West Beach Gulf Shores. After 2006, the engineered beach segments were impacted by numerous storm events, most notably from the back-to-back Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in September 2008, tropical Storm Ida in November 2009, and Hurricane Isaac in August 2012, just prior to construction. Additionally, the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill of nearly 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf resulted in the contamination of the Baldwin County shoreline. The entire project received a 2.2 million cubic yard engineered beach renourishment in 2012-2013. Since that project, notable impacts from Hurricane Nate in 2017 and Hurricane Sally in 2020, as well as other storm impacts and background erosion, have necessitated the 2023-2024 engineered beach renourishment project currently underway. The current project is funded by the Federal Emergency Management (FEMA), the Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA), and the three-party project Owner group. Olsen Associates, Inc., is and has been the coastal engineering consultant and Engineer of Record for the Owner group for each of the beach nourishment projects.
Figure 1: Map of the historical project segments
Figure 2: 2000-2001 before- and after- beach nourishment conditions at the old Holiday Inn in Gulf Shores, just west of the Sea’n’Suds.
Figure 3: Beach nourishment operations in 2012 along the 900 block of West Beach Boulevard in Gulf Shores. The hopper dredge Bayport can be seen offshore at the pumpout location. The current 2023-2024 project is starting in this location.
Figure 4: 2003 pre-project and 2011 condition photos along West Beach Gulf Shores west of Lagoon Pass.
Figure 5: Initial 2005 restoration at Gulf State Park along the old lodge property.
Figure 6: Initial restoration along the Orange Beach – Romar Beach shoreline in 2005, following the severe impacts of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
Figure 7: Aerial photograph depicting ongoing beach nourishment operations along the Perdido Key shoreline in March 2013.