Now that a multiyear effort to restore, enhance and protect the shoreline habitats of the “Seafood Capital” of Alabama is complete, state and local leaders are turning their attention to an economic development project in Bayou La Batre they believe will transform the community for generations to come.
Details of the Bayou La Batre City Docks Redevelopment Project were announced April 22 during a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Lightning Point restoration project, a collaborative effort coordinated by The Nature Conservancy in Alabama (TNCA) to construct a new barrier to restore and preserve Bayou La Batre‘s Lightning Point, one of Alabama’s most iconic and important coastal habitats. Michael Lipford, Southern U.S. division director for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), said the Lightning Point restoration project was one of the most complex and at-scale coastal restoration projects TNC has produced.
“It is amazing what the habitat has provided for both nature and people, and how quickly it has done that,” Lipford said. “Even during the course of construction, this place weathered five hurricanes in 2020. That’s an exciting thing.”
Contractors installed two jetties at the mouth of the channel and 1 mile of overlapping, segmented breakwaters along both sides of the navigation channel. The breakwaters provide a buffer from waves and boat wakes while the jetties help maintain access for all types of vessels, including commercial shrimp boats and recreational boats. New public amenities, including walkways, trails, a community pavilion, picnic tables and a fishing platform with Americans with Disabilities Act access were also added.
“By protecting and restoring our coastal waterways we are ensuring our future generations grow up surrounded by the same beauty that we are blessed with today,” said Gov. Kay Ivey during the ribbon cutting ceremony. “We are showing the rest of the country what it means to protect the land that God has blessed us with.”
TNCA broke ground on the restoration project in April 2019 after securing support from public agencies and private organizations, including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and Alabama Power. As the project got underway, additional support was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, Restore America’s Estuaries-CITGO, the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, the city of Bayou La Batre, Mobile County, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, Partners for Environmental Progress, University of Alabama at Birmingham, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Embrace the Gulf 2020, Alabama Coastal Foundation, Alma Bryant High School and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Construction was handled by engineers and contractors at Moffatt & Nichol, CrowderGulf, J&W Marine Enterprises, Magnolia Dredge & Dock, Wildlife Solutions, Hydroterra and Procision Restoration.
“This project is a testament to the strength of our people and our public and private partnerships,” Ivey said. “Alabama is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and it’s our responsibility to keep Alabama ‘the Beautiful’.”
Bayou La Batre City Docks Project
Now that the Lightning Point Redevelopment Project is complete, state and local leaders are focusing their attention on the Bayou La Batre City Docks Project, a $21.5 million effort designed to grow the region’s economy. ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship said the project will attract locals and tourists to Lightning Point.
“This is a very transformational project,” Blankenship said. “It’s really going to be great.”
The economic development project will create three districts: a Market District, Marina District and a Lightning Point District.
The Market District is where direct seafood sales will occur, allowing the public to buy boat-to-table seafood directly from shrimpers. The Market District will also feature an oyster restoration area, giving people a glimpse into the oyster life cycle, and an open pavilion to host markets, festivals, weddings and community events.
Adjacent to the Market District will be the Marina District, which will offer boaters short-term and long-term access to the back barrier islands, barrier islands and offshore fishing adventures. It will feature a 50-slip marina that can hold boats ranging in size from 20 to 50-plus feet, a four-lane public boat launch and a bait store. An elevated multipurpose building will serve as a master harbor office and will have a public restroom.
The Lightning Point District will provide amenities to boaters and “eco-tourists” such as paddlers, birders, hikers, beachgoers and shoreline anglers. About 75 boat-trailer parking spots will be available near the boat launch as well as a parking lot for single-car parking. A kayak launch will allow paddlers better access to the new tidal creeks of Lightning Point and kayak fishing along Little Bay. The sandy spit at the terminal end of the parking lot currently used as a fishing spot will be improved to give people with disabilities easier access.
“That’s just transformational for a community of this size,” Blankenship said. “I am looking forward to having many more groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings on these projects as we move forward.”
The Bayou La Batre City Docks Project is being paid for in part with federal funding from the U.S. Department of the Treasury under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE ACT). Project organizers sid construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2023. To learn more about the project, visit BayouLaBatreCityDocks.com.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)