Babe's Beach dedicated for former Texas Senator A.R. "Babe" Schwartz

Visitors walk along Babe’s Beach on May 26, 2016. The stretch of beach west of 61st Street, was named in honor of former Texas Sen. A.R. “Babe” Schwartz.

JENNIFER REYNOLDS/ The Daily News file

GALVESTON

Galveston is a step closer to funding four coastal projects intended to build a beach along a popular stretch of shoreline, mitigate erosion and look at long-term ways to pay for coastal projects.

Galveston’s Industrial Development Corp. on Tuesday approved nearly $1.7 million for four coastal projects, including for rebuilding Babe’s Beach and beaches west of 61st Street along Seawall, testing a pilot program to capture sand for beach building and to build an artificial reef to combat erosion.

The corporation gets its money from some sales tax revenues.

The biggest chunk of spending — $1.5 million — will go toward financing a $23.9 million project to place sand from Babe’s Beach, from 61st Street westward, said Reuben Trevino, director of operations at the Park Board of Trustees.

The remaining money would come from a $14.9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and $7.5 million from the Texas General Land Office and grants resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, according to the park board. The corps oversees the dredging of the sand from the Houston Ship Channel to create the beach.

The beach, which was named after former state Sen. A.R. “Babe” Schwartz, was built in 2015 when local, state and federal entities paid $23 million to lay down 15 blocks of sand. The next dredging and sand placing would happen in 2019, to replenish the beach that has washed away, Trevino said.

Beach-building projects are meant to widen beaches and provide more area for sand to absorb the force of waves, which reduces erosion.

The Industrial Development Corp. board — a panel made up of local, elected leaders and tourism and business representatives — voted unanimously to approve about $175,000 in funding for other projects that might eventually reduce the need for beach building.

“We’re fleshing out the options to help the problem of erosion along the beaches,” said Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough, who is a member of the corporation board. “There are all different components, it’s not just beach replenishment in the traditional sense.”

The corporation allocated $75,000 toward an ongoing pilot program testing technology to catch sand before it pushes away from the beach, Trevino said.

The technology is used on rivers upstream to capture sediment and sand before it fills in downstream and creates problems in channels, Trevino said. But a consultant working for Galveston and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been testing the product in Galveston to see whether it would work for a coastal environment, Trevino said.

It’s the first time the design has been used on a coastal beach, he said. The viability will depend on whether it works to capture the sand and whether the cost of using the equipment is less than the cost of dredging and shipping in sand for beaches, Trevino said.

“We hope within the next year we’ll have a firmer idea or whether this is a viable option or not,” Trevino said. “We’re talking about a year-round program, so it’s only worthwhile if that cost is less than the dredging costs.”

The end of the seawall on the beach side has had some of the worst erosion on the island, Trevino said. The army corps has been studying ways to mitigate erosion through different designs, including an artificial reef, Trevino said.

The project is still in the feasibility stage, but the Industrial Development Corp. earmarked $75,000 to be paired with other grants from state and federal sources looking at mitigation projects like the artificial reefs, he said.

The board also approved $25,000 to conduct a study looking at different long-term funding sources for coastal projects, Trevino said.

“If we’re going to keep building our beaches, and we don’t have a sustainable funding source, we need to take a step back and look at the whole picture,” Trevino said.

Marissa Barnett: 409-683-5257; marissa.barnett@galvnews.com

(2) comments

Steve Fouga

I'm all for building and rebuilding our beaches. What I don't understand is why Babe's Beach is being renourished when it is still quite viable, rather than creating a new beach starting at 81st Street. Why not wait a few more years to renourish Babe's, and in the meantime have the benefit of 2 new beaches?

I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this. Does anyone know the answer? 🤔

Byron Barksdale

I asked an employee at the Park Board this question three years ago and was told an oral agreement was made between the Park Board and the Gulf Coast fishing pier to NOT have beach within 1/4 mile either side of the pier because there would not be enough parking for pier visitors and fishing clients due to beach goers using all the parking spaces on either side of the pier. If true, the oral agreement appears unfair to many and favors a very few. An GDN investigative reporter might seek out the true reasons why there is no talk of a new beach West of 81rst. Lack of funding is not correct. An easy solution is to provide public parking for both the pier and the beach around 90th Street. There is vacant land across Seawall Blvd. from the pier. Putting a new beach West of 81rst Street increases property values (higher taxes to Galveston County), protects the Seawall, increases occupancy of motels West of 81rst Street, adds more beautiful beach, etc. The additional taxes would eventually pay for public parking and a nominal fee could also be charged for the public parking. Someone needs to ask some hard questions to the park board.

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