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Dune proposal brings some hope to Bolivar

December 24, 2018

Bolivar residents looking for good news about the proposed flood-wall barrier on the peninsula got some last week from state Land Commissioner George P. Bush. He suggested that the Army Corps of Engineers locate the levee system on the beach or build it as a “sand dune-based system.”

This is the kind of realism that state and federal officials must adopt for this proposal, in whatever final form it takes. Bolivar residents are understandably upset about talk of a Berlin Wall-style barrier running the length of the peninsula, possibly even cutting through some lots. The president of the Bolivar Chamber of Commerce says the idea is upsetting current property owners and potential buyers and “already destroying our peninsula.”

That concern is not surprising, because the barrier could create more problems than it solves. Homes and businesses on the north side of the barrier could, at a minimum, have a disrupted view of the Gulf, which is important to a coastal enclave. Structures on the south side of the barrier could be more susceptible to flooding and storm surge.

Bush’s proposal for a dune-based system makes the most sense so far. Sand dunes are natural and aesthetically pleasing. If a dune is reduced or even destroyed by a hurricane, it can easily be rebuilt by sand dredged from offshore. The process isn’t unduly expensive. Yet dunes can absorb the energy of a storm and spare buildings farther inland from a surge of water and wind.

Bush also wants the Corps of Engineers to extend its 75-day comment period on the various Ike Dike proposals by 30 days instead of ending it Jan. 9. A second round of public meetings would help state and federal officials get a better idea of what is acceptable to the people who would be affected most by these plans.

This entire concept is still in the planning stage, and there is frankly no guarantee that anything will ever be built. The economic and environmental hurdles are considerable. But if it ever becomes a reality, it must be in the best form possible, something that property owners welcome and that blends in well with the peninsula and beach. Those goals are achievable, and they must remain at the forefront of all plans.

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