Monday, August 9, 2010

Not all support a $40 million Texas beach restoration that will fail quickly

Harvey Rice in the Houston Chronicle: A massive $40 million beach and dune restoration project, the largest and most expensive ever attempted in Texas, is scheduled to get under way in Galveston in about two months. About 2 million cubic yards of sand will be dredged from deposits at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel and hauled by barge past the end of the sea wall, then piped onto 6 miles of beach.

If all goes according to plan, the sand will build beaches 60-90 feet wide and new sand dunes that should help protect houses in 12 subdivisions from the ravages of storms. The owners of primarily upscale and rental homes along the 6-mile stretch welcome the project, especially those that were left partially on the beach after Hurricane Ike. But critics say it's a titanic waste of money that gives a temporary boost to beachfront property owners on a sinking island with some of the highest rates of erosion on the Texas coast.

…"The reason we are getting so much money is because of Ike," said Jerry Mohn, who heads the West Galveston Island Property Owners Association. The total budget for the project is $46 million, but it's uncertain how much the project will cost. General Land Office spokesman Jim Suydam says that real cost won't be known until bids are received from prospective contractors.

All those millions would be better used elsewhere, says Frederick McCutchon, a member of the Nueces County Beach Management Advisory Committee. McCutchon, recipient of two beach management awards, sent a letter to the General Land Office last week decrying the expenditure on sand that will be eroded away.

A geohazard map commissioned by the city of Galveston says that with few exceptions the island's beaches are eroding at between 3 and 5 feet per year and that the island is sinking as sea levels rise. Dellapenna said the island sea level is rising three times faster than the global average even without considering the sea level rise predicted by climate change theory.

"Since 2007, I have been working actively to discourage our Congress from spending futile tens of millions of dollars per year on futile efforts to hold back erosion through 'renourishment' ... in coastal states where short-sighted development has occurred," McCutchon wrote….

Aerial view of damage caused by Hurricane Ike. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

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