State of the Beach/State Reports/AL/Beach Description
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The coastal zone extends from the continuous 10-foot contour to the limit of the state’s territorial waters three miles offshore. This area is composed of the coastal areas of Mobile and Baldwin counties, including the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island and the Gulf Shores/Fort Morgan Peninsula. At 10 miles wide and 40 miles long, the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is the largest wetland in Alabama and the second largest river delta in the nation. The delta was formed by soil deposition from the Coosa, Tallapoosa, Black Warrior, Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers. The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta includes 250,000 acres of marsh, cypress tupelo swamp and bottomland hardwoods. The delta filters approximately 20 percent of the country’s fresh water. Mobile Bay, the fourth largest estuary in the nation, encompasses 413 square miles. It is approximately 31 miles long and has a maximum width of 24 miles. Mobile Bay is a shallow estuary that provides a transition between the fresh water wetlands of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and the marine environment of the Gulf of Mexico. One of Mobile Bay’s primary functions is as a nursery ground for many commercially and recreationally valuable species. Alabama’s main barrier island is Dauphin Island, which is 17 miles long and less than one mile wide. Alabama’s barrier island habitats include sandy beaches, dune systems and maritime forests.
- Fact 1: Miles of Coast: 607
- Fact 2: 46 miles of open ocean coastline
- Fact 3: Coastal Population (2000): 540,258
- Fact 4: 12% of the state's population lives within the three coastal counties
Contact Info for Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency
Attn: Coastal Program
4171 Commanders Drive
Mobile, Alabama 36615-1421
Telephone Number : (251) 432-6533
Fax Number: (251) 432-6598
Coastal Zone Management Program
The Alabama Coastal Area Management Program, approved by NOAA in 1979, is administered by two state agencies: The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is responsible for planning, fiscal management, public education and research management; and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management carries out permitting, regulatory, and enforcement functions. The primary authority for the Coastal Program is the Alabama Coastal Area Act of 1976 (Act 534). The Alabama coastal zone extends inland to the continuous 10-foot contour in Mobile and Baldwin Counties.
Alabama’s coastal counties are experiencing high growth and development rates, and the Coastal Program works closely with local governments to address the impacts of growth in the coastal zone through watershed planning, water quality monitoring, technical training, and initiatives such as the Alabama-Mississippi Clean Marina Program. The Coastal Program also prioritizes projects to mitigate coastal hazards and increase public access to coastal resources. In addition, the Coastal Program supports numerous public outreach projects such the annual Alabama Coastal Cleanup and the Sea Turtle Volunteer Program at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.
NOAA's latest evaluation of Alabama's Coastal Management Program can be found here.
- Bernd-Cohen, T. and M. Gordon. "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217. 1999.
- Bernd-Cohen and Gordon. Ibid.
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