Little Bay Peninsula Restoration Project
Protecting Alabama’s Natural Resources
Inducted in 2015
The largest restoration of its kind ever undertaken in coastal Alabama, the Little Bay Peninsula Restoration Project restored coastal marshes and created fish and shellfish habitats along publicly owned shorelines damaged during Hurricane Katrina.
Waves and storm surge from Katrina in 2005 breached Dauphin Island, a barrier island off the Alabama Gulf Coast, and crossed the Mississippi Sound as far as Little Bay, severely eroding Little Bay Peninsula just west of Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The peninsula serves as a shoreline barrier, protecting the ecosystem north of the Mississippi Sound.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, or ADCNR, used a Post-Hurricane Katrina Finfish and Shellfish Nursery Habitat Restoration Program to identify and implement coastal restoration techniques for a long-term solution. The infrastructure engineering firm Volkert out of Mobile, Alabama, was assigned the project in 2008.
The Little Bay Peninsula Restoration Project closed the breach in the peninsula, restoring about 30 acres of salt marshes. The project helps the peninsula continue to guard more than 5,000 acres in a conservation area managed by ADCNR as part of the Alabama Forever Wild Program.
Professionals from several disciplines used state-of-the-art technology, site-specific adaptation and ingenuity to design and implement shoreline restoration. With expertise and research facilities provided by the University of South Alabama, a wave-attenuation unit was designed to serve as a breakwater. The combination of wave-basin experimentation and computer modeling used to design the device is not typical in coastal restoration of this scale. Current engineering practices will be redefined by this project for similar undertakings, and future projects will benefit from these techniques.
By design, the units built to decrease the energy of the waves were trapezoidal concrete structures, each weighing 8 tons. Two, 1-mile-long parallel lines of the units — 546 in all — form a permeable, segmented breakwater as the primary barrier to calm the waves and protect the restored Little Bay Peninsula. During storm surge, the wave-attenuation units were designed to remain stable and provide sufficient wave-calming effects, facilitate water exchange and afford habitat and shelter for species of shellfish and fin fish.
With the protective units in place, the open gap in the peninsula was closed with oyster bags to provide a containment area to receive dredged sediment from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers underwater disposal area. Then, more than 90,000 indigenous plants were brought in from a nearby marsh.
The project represents a $4 million investment toward environmental sustainability and will continue to have a positive impact on the coastal ecosystem. The project also improved the economic stability for the people of coastal Alabama who rely heavily on the seafood industry.
Since its completion, the project has garnered national recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency, American Council of Engineering Companies, Association of Conservation Engineers and the Mobile Area Council of Engineers.