Road Trip notes: Dauphin Island

The Dauphin lsland trip was uneventful, but great background for later. The island is south of Mobile, past Bellingrath Gardens. It is wider than Santa Rosa Island and has grass and trees, which reminded me more of Sanibel Island than Pensacola Beach.

The island is where Mobile Bay feeds into the Gulf of Mexico. The Mobile Bay is part of 43,630 sq. mi. watershed that reaches into Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama.

On the east end is where the ferry from Gulf Shores/Orange Beach docks. The Sealab and Fort Gaines are nearby. In the distance you can see six oil rigs. At Pelican Point, under the shadow of Ft. Gaines, were half a dozen fishermen on the rocks. One shared she had caught a nice size flounder, but little else. The public beach was lined with bales of hay. A few families with their children set up tents between the water and the hay line and played in the murky gulf waters.

On the western tip of the island are a few condos and dozens of brightly-painted houses on stilts that have been rebuilt since hurricanes Ivan, Dennis and Katrina. There were huge mounds of sand that had been dredged from the Intercoastal Waterway side of the island and dumped on the gulf side, probably part of a beach renourishment plan. The public beach on the west end was closed and taken over by the Alabama National Guard, who were driving around the beach looking official but doing little that I could see.

The commercial core is small and located in the center of the island. The oldest businesse on the island is the Ship & Shore Shop that is combination Pensacola Hardware and Barnes Grocery. Nearby on Desoto Street are the dock for the charter boats and Street’s Island Grill with the Pelican Pub above.

The Pelican Pub overlooked the heavily secure staging area for BP. Strange was the heavy security around the BP staging area. Nobody cared on this little island, but they had six security guards who rotated covering the fenced-in area.

Had a beer and steamed shrimp at the Pelican Pub. I tried to order the fried oyster po-boy, but was told that they didn’t have any oysters. The Pub gave me a perfect view inside the staging area. There was nothing to guard…a few construction trailers, no boom, a few campo-painted golf carts, a few men walking around with either “Security” or “Safety” on their dark navy blue t-shirts.

At the pub I overheard three out-of-town contractors talking about their per diems to drink, play golf and be on call. They had friends stationed from Louisiana to Panama City ready to work. I tried to talk with them, but didn’t get anywhere.

When I left the Pub, I saw two ES&H pick-ups drive up to the staging area. The Houma-based company specializes in helping industries prevent and clean up oil and other hydrocarbon spills, according to its website.

Driving back, I drove through Bayou LaBatre and saw much of the shrimping fleet docked. What I’ve learned is that the BP “Vessels of Opportunity program” has many of the ships on call 24/7 and prevents from fishing in the meantime.

When I hit Mobile, the traffic was backed up at the tunnel. I took the Broad St. exit and stopped at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club for a Harp’s on draft. The Mobile Press Register had an article on more than 200 prisoners being used for oil clean-up effort by a newly-formed SG&S Oil Recovery Product, LLC.

The prisoners were trained by the federal government/BP on Dauphin Island—75 from May 13-17 and another 73 this past week. An additional 59 are making boom at the Corrections work-release center in Loxley, Ala.

Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier told the Press Register that he was upset BP and the feds hadn’t told him that the prisoners were trained and used in the clean-up. WEAR TV did a story on the SG&S owner Jay Graddick, who incorporated his company on May 14 and got the BP business almost immediately, but failed to mention the prisoners being hired,

So did Fox 10: