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New beach boundaries

We have a new vegetation line, which determines where the public beach ends and private property begins, courtesy of Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

The line will determine whether beachfront property owners whose buildings were destroyed by Ike on Sept. 13 will be able to rebuild or possibly lose their houses to the public beach.

Patterson published new maps at TexasBeachAccess.org showing the new vegetation line.

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Ike chewed away the shoreline, reducing his 198-foot lot to 8 feet. But beaches tend to rebuild themselves and, after checking the Texas General Land Office Web site, McConnell found that he now has 195 feet of property.

“As promised, I gave the natural line of vegetation a year to recover,” Patterson said. “In those areas where it has recovered it will be the boundary of the public beach.

“In areas where it hasn’t, I’ve drawn the line at mean low tide plus 200 feet,” he said.

The mean low tide line is the average of all daily low tide lines over 19 years.

Patterson said beachfront property owners who find that their buildings are on the public beach as a result of the new vegetation line will be left alone unless they block beach access or pose a health or safety risk.

He said it is too early to know how many structures that are now on the beach would have to be removed or how many properties would be barred from rebuilding. Patterson said it was likely that some houses on Galveston Island would have to be removed. It is less likely that houses on the Bolivar Peninsula will have to be moved because so few structures near the beach remain standing, he said.

In case you were wondering, State Rep. Wayne Christian and his beach house wound up on the right side of the line, meaning that he could have saved himself some trouble. Some guys have all the luck. A press release from Commissioner Patterson about this is beneath the fold.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, the state’s top steward of public access to Texas beaches, today released detailed new maps showing the post-Ike boundaries of the public beach in Galveston and Brazoria counties with the debut of a new Web site, TexasBeachAcccess.org.

Patterson said Monday the Texas General Land Office is transitioning away from the temporary 4.5-foot elevation line used to determine the boundary of the public beach after Hurricane Ike. The new maps on TexasBeachAccess.org show the post-Ike boundary of the coast, as determined by the Texas Open Beaches Act.

“As promised, I gave the natural line of vegetation a year to recover,” Patterson said. “In those areas where it has recovered it will be the boundary of the public beach. In areas where it hasn’t, I’ve drawn the line at mean low tide plus 200 feet.”

The mean low tide line is the average of all the daily low tide lines over a 19-year period. The 200 foot mean low tide line (MLT+200ft) is a line 200 feet landward of the average low tide line.

Patterson said despite the new line, he is not preparing a list of properties for enforcement actions under the Texas Open Beaches Act.

“The key is public access,” Patterson said. “If a structure is on the public beach but doesn’t block public access and is not a health and safety risk for beachgoers, then it’s likely no action will be taken.”

As Texas Land Commissioner, Patterson is trusted not only with the stewardship of Texas beaches, but also with ensuring the right of every Texan to enjoy those beaches.

“The Texas Open Beaches Act is the law of the land and until the Legislature or voters say otherwise, it is my job to uphold it,” Patterson said. In November, Texans will be asked at the polls if they want to enshrine the Texas Open Beaches Act in the state Constitution.

Hurricane Ike wiped out the dunes and the natural vegetation that grows on them along miles of the beach in Galveston and Brazoria counties. According to the Texas Open Beaches Act – which guarantees the public’s right to enjoy Texas beaches – this natural line of vegetation determines the landward boundary of the public beach.

With so much of the natural boundary destroyed, Ike created unprecedented challenges for the Texas General Land Office and local governments regarding permitting decisions and determining the extent of the public beach easement.

To speed along reconstruction, Patterson established a line at 4.5-feet above sea level as a temporary permitting line for local governments and the Texas General Land Office to use in the interim for emergency permitting and rebuilding. Additionally, this 4.5-foot line was used as a guide for debris clean up for the beach system.

“With the cleanup over and recovery progressing, the 4.5-foot line has served its purpose,” Patterson said.

Patterson said TexasBeachAccess.org will serve as an important tool for both beachgoers and Texans who own coastal property when it comes to understanding their rights and responsibilities under the Texas Open Beaches Act.

TexasBeachAccess.org is easy to use, allowing users to click on a map of the Texas coast to see detailed local beach and dune protection plans. At TexasBeachAccess.org, Texans can find the closest access point to their favorite beaches and property owners can pull up detailed maps showing the line that defines the public beach. TexasBeachAccess.org also has a section devoted to helping Texans understand their rights under the Texas Open Beaches Act, which has ensured the public’s right to enjoy Texas beaches for 50 years.

“TexasBeachAccess.org will give Texans the facts they need about this vital and unique Texas right,” Patterson said.

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3 Comments

  1. Joe White says:

    My cousins’ place in Gilchrist was wiped out, and most of the property is in front of the line, but they are not designated as a buyout property. So, are their taxes to be prorated to compensate for their lack of exclusive use? if erosion reverses and the 200′ line moves, do they regain access?

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  3. sonya says:

    General Land Commissioner Patterson is not telling the public the truth!!! He tends to mislead many as to the facts regarding the Open Beaches Act and places immense fear into the publics mind. The Beaches of Texas are open yet, they are also restricted under circumstances protecting the people. INCLUDING STATE OWNED and City Beaches being restricted. Yes, even they lock the gates which restricts access in addition to, lifeguards aren’t on towers year round. It’s very difficult to have access to State owned and City beaches. Also, Patterson misleads you to the thought of developers and lawyers ruining the beaches due to buildings and new structures. The truth is difficult for Patterson to share. The State desires to acquire all beaches for their own selfish gain and by asking you to approve their proposition it gives them MORE power and control to bully/steal from property owners, to obtain property themselves for monetary gain. Once the State obtains these Gulf Coast properties it’s the state who leases the property to concessionaires, individuals, other businesses and/or development companies which in return give them more income cheating the property owner. So when Patterson indicates buildings contribute to erosion why does he execute leases for such developments yet, property owners cannot? In Texas, this is called stealing!!!! Do you know what they do with this income? Not what you think! So please, don’t fall for these lies again. His comment the Open Beaches Act serving the State well; it’s a complete contradiction and fallacy as there have been so many lawsuits specifically directed towards the mistakes and errors the State General Land Office made in repeatedly amending an ACT designed 50 years ago specifically for the publics right of access NOT for what the General Land Office is abusing the ACT for I.E. draining tax payers for bonds, stealing land, producing erroneous data and facts, obtaining money from the Federal Government and many other funds dispersed for uses other than what they are intended. Please, look at Patterson’s motives for Proposition #9, I assure you that it’s not what he’s advertising rather, it’s cover my behind proposition at the tax payers expense. The public has the right to the beaches which most beach property owners agree with and NO ONE has or is keeping them out of the beach just out of their homes. Not all beaches are the same and the Land Office desires to pass a proposition that affects ALL beaches whether they’re eroded or not. A blanket policy is exactly what got them in the mess they’re in. When Patterson uses scare tactics indicating the public is ignorant it’s WRONG and it’s a disgrace to Texans intelligence! Don’t give them anymore reasons to abuse power or steal Texans hard earned dollars!