If Texas ever builds a wall along the Gulf Coast to protect itself from hurricanes, Galveston County will be one of the new structure’s immediate neighbors.

Local support for a coastal spine has been largely harmonious, with leaders agreeing that the proposed 30-mile long wall is the right way to go.

However, two members of the Galveston County Commissioners Court on Tuesday loudly objected to a new proposal on the management of the proposed spine would be handled.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Clark asked commissioners to support a resolution objecting to three bills introduced by state Sen. Larry Taylor and Rep. Wayne Faircloth last week. The bills, if passed, would put the Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority in charge of overseeing maintenance and operations of a spine.

Clark said he was concerned that decisions about a project that would inevitably include Galveston County were being made without Galveston County voices.

“The project has regional significance,” Clark said. “It’s Galveston County that’s going to have to house the infrastructure.”

For the county not to have any say in that infrastructure was concerning, Clark said.

Under Taylor and Faircloth’s proposal, the wall would be overseen by the authority’s nine-member board. Galveston County is allowed to appoint one person to that board.

County Judge Mark Henry, who is the chairman of the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District, said he was surprised that he and other local leaders were not consulted about the proposal before it was filed.

“No one talked to us about this before it was filed,” Henry said. “It’s extremely worrying. We’ve been saying all along that we need to be on the same front and that’s not what is happening.”

Clark and Henry both said they don’t necessarily object to the ideas behind the bills, but weren’t completely comfortable with the idea of an appointed board, made up of nonelected officials, which they said are less accountable and transparent with the public.

Clark said there was some immediacy to get the county’s concerns noted by the legislature. Clark pointed to one bill, Senate Bill 1489, related to the renaming of the Galveston Coast Waste Disposal Authority. That bill changes the authority’s name to the Gulf Coast Authority.

It was approved by the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs on Tuesday.

“When you have elected officials that are administrating that sort of thing, you have more accountability,” Clark said.

When you have appointed officials, the legislature is starting to build “empires,” he said.

The two bills that would actually give power to the authority, House Bill 4308 and Senate Bill 2265, have been referred to committees, but are not yet scheduled for public hearings in Austin.

Commissioners did not vote on Clark’s proposed resolution on Tuesday. A special meeting could be called as soon as next week to discuss an official objection to the bill.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

(2) comments

Steve Fouga

To me, the whole idea of the "coastal spine" is concerning. It's a poorly thought-out idea, far more expensive than cheaper projects that might be more effective. I wonder how this concept suddenly became favored.

Susan Fennewald

The coastal spine is a TERRIBLE idea - that will probably never be built. This has been pushed by the west end beachfront folks (Jerry Mohn) so hard for the last 8 years that he gradually got people to support it. It is NOT universally supported. It will be a huge financial boondoggle and an environmental nightmare (or maybe a financial nightmare too). the reason they haven't pursued it in a more normal fashion is because no cost-benefit analysis by the Corps would ever approve it. It will have to be shoved down the Corps' throat by a bunch of politicians who can't do math.

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