Just more than a week before the unofficial start of the summer season, Galveston has put a bow on its newest beach project.
Local and state officials Thursday officially marked completion of a $19.5 million expansion project along seawall beaches.
“This is a monumental day for us,” said Galveston Park Board of Trustees Chairwoman Joyce Calver McLean.
The 1.2 million cubic yards of sand for the project was dredged from the Houston Ship Channel and was spread over 51 blocks of beach from 10th Street to 61st Street, between January and April. For months, sand was pumped onto the beach via a pipeline, and spread to expand the beach by as much as 150 feet.
The new beach protects the seawall and points behind it from erosion, and offers more space for the 6 million or more visitors who come to the island annually, park board officials said.
“Oftentimes, we think of these beaches as our beaches, but in reality we are stewards of the state’s beaches,” McLean said. “We have a responsibility and an important charge not only for the residents of our little sand bar, but for the citizens of Texas.”
Most of the project was paid for by federal hurricane recovery money once slotted to be used on West End beaches. The Texas General Land Office gave $2.8 million to help pay for the project. The city of Galveston contributed $1.3 million through its Industrial Development Corp., and the park board is using $1.2 million of its own funds.
“Our research shows that for every dollar you put into a project you get roughly four back,” said Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who was on hand to celebrate the occasion. “It’s very unique in terms of coastal infrastructure.”
Thursday’s ceremony marks the end of almost two years of beach building projects in Galveston.
The projects began in late 2015, with the “megadune” project in front of the Dellanera RV Park near 7 Mile Road on the island’s West End. In 2016, the city christened “Babe’s Beach,” a new stretch of sand along the seawall west of 61st Street.
Together, the projects are the largest beach building effort in Texas history, costing a total of $44 million.
The projects also create a “sand engine.” Officials expect that sand eroded from the newly expanded beaches by waves and tides will be deposited at points on the island’s extremes.
The park board aims to continue building beaches in the future, both by maintaining the new beaches that have been created and expanding farther west along the entire length of the seawall, McLean said.
Park board officials in March traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Galveston’s inclusion into a new program that would guarantee dredge materials to be used for future beach construction.
If Galveston is included in that program, it could receive 1 million cubic feet of sand every two years, McLean said.