Beach erosion still problem in Texas

Effects of Hurricane Ike still causing erosion in Texas, especially near Galveston

June 18, 2013

" Erosion is simply a problem that is not going away any time soon"

—Tim Dellapenna

The five –year anniversary of Hurricane Ike is still several months away, but the effects of what the historic storm did to the Texas coastline have been unrelenting, especially with beach erosion in and around the Galveston area where parts of the island lost more than 100 feet of shoreline, says Tim Dellapenna, a Texas A&M at Galveston professor.

Dellapenna, associate professor of marine sciences who has studied Texas beaches for years, says Ike did overnight what nature normally takes about 65 years to do.

Texas has some of the highest coastal erosion rates in the country. Research shows that 64 percent of the Texas coast is eroding at an average rate of about 6 feet per year with some locations losing more that 30 feet per year. As a whole the Texas coast is eroding at an average rate of 2.3 feet per year.

In the U.S., people like to live near the water: according to the Environmental Protection Agency, of the 25 most densely populated U.S. counties, 23 of them are near a coast. In the United States, coastal erosion is responsible for approximately $500 million per year in coastal property loss, including damage to structures and loss of land.

Texas has about 367 miles of coastline, and much of it suffers from beach erosion, with the Galveston area being ground zero, Dellapenna says.

A 1900 hurricane still ranks as the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, killing at least 6,000 people. It led to the creation of the Galveston Seawall, a 17 foot high, 10 mile long wall of stone that has protected much of the island from storms and was added off and on until as late as 1960.

“The long-range projections for beach erosion in Texas are very troubling,” Dellapenna adds. “They show that parts of Galveston could be underwater in the next 20 years. Erosion is simply a problem that is not going away any time soon.”

When the Texas coast erodes, property values decrease, homes are lost, tourism suffers, and local economies feel the impact. In addition, without healthy beaches, dunes and wetlands to protect the coast, the impact of major storms like Hurricane Ike is far more severe.

The primary means to combat erosion is through increased funding of a wide range of anti-erosion tools including beach nourishment, wetland restoration and hard protective structures such a the Galveston Seawall.

The Texas General Land Office is leading the fight against coastal erosion. By maximizing federal, state and local resources the Land Office works with all coastal stakeholders to fight erosion.

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