Like all barrier islands, Dauphin Island is ever changing, constantly battered by waves and storms. The forces of erosion, flooding and storm surge have significantly altered Dauphin Island over the years. The beaches on the western end of Dauphin Island are receding and recent storms have also devastated some of the rental properties on the island. Since Dauphin Island is reliant on tourist revenue, the loss of beach and rental properties can have a profound impact on the island.
In 2012, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program (MASGLP), which is a part of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium’s Outreach Program, partnered with the Town of Dauphin Island and the Dauphin Island Park and Beach Board to undertake a multi-year climate resilience study for Dauphin Island. The project aimed to improve the capacity of Dauphin Island to adapt to changes in climate. To reach these objectives, the project was structured in two phases: an information gathering stage that aimed to assess the island’s vulnerabilities and risks and an analysis stage to develop recommended policy responses for the identified vulnerabilities and risks.
The MASGLP began with background research on the climate-related threats facing Dauphin Island. The MASGLP accomplished this through two primary activities: (1) drafting a scoping document and (2) hosting a Vulnerability-Consequence Adaptation Planning Scenarios (VCAPS) workshop. The scoping document, titled Climate Impacts for the Southeastern U.S. and Dauphin Island, AL and released in May 2013, discusses the current effects and future impacts of climate change on the island.
During the second phase of its climate resilience study, the MASGLP analyzed the various types of planning actions that the town could take to increase the island’s climate resilience, and whether these options are feasible on Dauphin Island. The MASGLP completed this analysis by reviewing Dauphin Island’s current ordinances, as well as the various state and federal laws that will affect its land use decisions. The MASGLP also looked to other towns that are facing similar issues to see if any provide models the town could adapt.
The MASGLP just released a report summarizing our findings from this phase of the study, written by myself and Stephen Deal, titled Increasing Climate Resilience on Dauphin Island Through Land Use Planning. The document provides an overview and history of barrier island development and discusses local land use authorities available to the Town to address emerging climate stressors. A summary appears on page 39 of the document.
*Cathy Janasie serves as research counsel for the National Sea Grant Law Center at The University of Mississippi School of Law.