Galveston's $40 million beach project canceled
Nov. 15, 2010, 2:01PM
GALVESTON — State officials canceled a $40 million Galveston beach replacement project that was scheduled to begin today because of a recent Texas Supreme Court ruling that weakens the Texas Open Beaches Act.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson canceled the project because the court's ruling in a lawsuit questioning the application of the Texas Open Beaches Act "has muddied the legal waters enough to delay the beach project indefinitely," according to a statement released by the General Land Office.
"Our hands are tied now," Patterson said. "With this much money on the bubble, the delay caused by these legal questions makes it too costly to continue this project."
The 6-mile project, from the west end of the Galveston sea wall to 13-mile Road, was intended as a defense against high erosion rates threatening the city's tax base and infrastructure.
The project would have been paid for by the General Land Office's Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act Program with local, state and federal money.
Jim Suydam, Land Office spokesman, said the Supreme Court ruling means that there is no public beach easement on the west end of Galveston Island. Without the easement, the constitutional prohibition against spending public money to improve private property makes the project impossible, Suydam said.
The ruling was a result of a lawsuit brought by the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of San Diego, Calif., resident Carol Severance, who owns several income properties on Galveston Island. The court ruled that the Open Beaches Act does not apply when erosion is caused by a storm.
One of Severance's houses ended up on the public beach as a result of storm erosion. The court said Severance could be forced to remove her house from the beach under the Open Beaches Act if it was as a consequence of natural erosion, but not storm-caused erosion.