STORY AND PHOTOS: Perdido Pass fishing wall reopened in Orange Beach

BY JOHN MULLEN johnm@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 7/30/16

ORANGE BEACH, AL – When the fishermen return to an improved – and recently opened – Perdido Pass fishing wall, a goal Phillip West has had for a few years will be partially …

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STORY AND PHOTOS: Perdido Pass fishing wall reopened in Orange Beach

Posted

ORANGE BEACH, AL – When the fishermen return to an improved – and recently opened – Perdido Pass fishing wall, a goal Phillip West has had for a few years will be partially fulfilled.

“I’ll be one of them,” West said. “And the fishing’s good. I’ve seen king caught here, tons of bluefish, redfish, flounder. When the big white shrimp come out you can spot them with a light.”

During the shrimp runs people shine lights to illuminate the crustacean’s eyes and use nets at the end of a long pole and fill up coolers with the fresh catch.

And while the fix may be in, West says this is only phase one of what he hopes to be a total restoration of the wall. The crumbling structure was blocked from public access in 2012 when it was deemed unsafe.

The basic flaws in the wall are still there, West said, and a total reconstruction will have to take place at some point.

“When you look from under the water there’s gaping holes in the sheet pile itself,” West said. “And then a lot of those expansion joints have grown.”

But Orange Beach officials asked for and received permission from the state to do enough work on the area so lines could be cast and sightseers could watch boats going to and from the Gulf of Mexico.

“This is basically an access, beautification project,” West said.

The project cost about $275,000 and is partly an experiment to see if this can be a long-time solution.

“We didn’t get very fancy with it,” West said. “We put in a really good layer of fabric and geogrid which is very tough material that’s got the ability to bridge. So if a void does occur that bridging ability may still hold up all this.

“The first storm or the first big deluge we get, hopefully we won’t see this cavern effect or a washout.”

The improved area goes east from the Gulf restaurant to just short of the bridge. The old access area wrapped under the bridge and came out on the north side. That section will remain inaccessible.

Initially tests were done to see if it was possible to go as much as six feet deep behind the wall and fill in and strengthen behind it.

“It would just breathe with water,” West said. “When boats would go by it would just fill up and go back. So you got the impression that that approach would have been a whole lot more precarious and have the potential to adversely affect the wall rather than just going to the waterline and backfill it with clean, white beach sand.”

There are boardwalks in front of the wall now where West expects to see fishermen lining up soon. Palm trees are going up along with other landscaping. The 43 parking spots it will create is a little less than what was previous available there, but West says the aesthetics of the landscape islands makes up for it.

The project still lacks sod and light poles and but those specialty items have been ordered.

“It’s a very salt-tolerant grass,” West said. “It’s not a very local thing. We get it down in Florida. I remember trying to get it for another project and it’s not just something you call up and they ship a truck up to you unless you hit it perfectly. I think it’s getting a little more popular to use in some of these environments.

“The lights are back ordered. We specified a different color than what they had in stock so they’ve got to get those fabricated.”

West said he’d love to see the state commit to a full rehabilitation of the structure in such a unique setting.

“It needs to get more respect and attention from the powers that be at the state level,” he said. “It’s such an iconic place. It’s the only place like it in Alabama and there’s so much going on. Even the bridge provides some dynamic to all the energy at this spot.”