The two sand replenishment projects completed over the past three years have restored most of our seawall beaches. Sadly, our new beaches will slowly erode away.

Sand replenishment projects will have to be repeated periodically to keep our new beaches intact. This is about our only option.

Sea level rise and past land subsidence (Galveston Island and local coastal mainland subsidence had effectively been stopped since the 1990s by limiting the pumping and use of underground water sources) have contributed to the disappearing beach problem in Galveston. However, the following answers the question: Can “nature” ever be expected to maintain our beaches?

Some simple facts:

• On a natural barrier island, beaches move, osculating seaward and landward over time.

• A natural Galveston beach would continually receive sand from rivers east of Galveston — Trinity, San Jacinto, Neches, Sabine and Mississippi. This sand would flow unimpeded into the Gulf through undredged river deltas and would then be carried by our natural northeast to southwest shore current and deposited along Galveston beaches.

• A natural Galveston beach stores a large amount of the sand it receives in a healthy dune system behind the high tide line.

• Large storm surges periodically take sand from the beach system by destroying the beach dunes. During a large surge, the dune sand is either pushed onto the land or lost to the open ocean. The beach and dunes after a surge naturally try to retreat landward then slowly build seaward, aided by river sand, etc.

Conclusion: Natural healthy Galveston beaches must be free to move around with respect to the Gulf and must have a continual source of new sand.

I had the opportunity to visit a near-natural barrier island at Cape Lookout, N.C. This area gives one a vision of Galveston minus most of the human construction.

Over the past 150 years we have turned Galveston into an “Unnatural Barrier Island.” We have built dams on all Texas Rivers east of Galveston. We dredged the ship channel, which required long seaward jetties. Also, we built a thriving city on the island, which eventually required a seawall.

The dams trap river sand, thus much of the sand which once fed our beaches never gets to the Gulf. The ship channel jetties interfere with the natural northeast to southwest movement of river sand along the Texas Gulf Coast. Lastly, the seawall does not allow the dune line and beach to move over time.

River dams, channel jetties and seawalls all have good justifications for their existence. However, these justifications are to help people, not barrier island beaches. We all know there is no way we are going to remove any of these and we can do very little about sea level changes. Therefore, large periodic sand replenishment projects are our only option if we want sandy beaches along our seawall.

Joe Concienne lives in Texas City.

(13) comments

Gary Miller

Last month,October, NOAA reported sea level has fallen every year since 1997. Very small decline of fractions of an inch yearly. Water expands and contracts with temp. Lower ocean temp may be the cause of most of the sea level change. Along Galveston coast one inch equals 7 feet of horizontal expansion.

Steve Fouga

"Yes, sea level is rising at an increasing rate."

"Global sea level has been rising over the past century, and the rate has increased in recent decades."

These sentences were taken from a NOAA website.

Somebody on this forum, possibly Gary, recently quoted an October NOAA report that contradicted all other NOAA sites, but I was unable to find it then, and unable now. Weird.

Carlos Ponce

Steve Fouga goes to the beach and reports sea level is rising, then falling, rising then falling, rising then falling.....[wink]

Jim Forsythe

"Steve Fouga goes to the beach and reports sea level is rising, then falling, rising then falling, rising then falling....".
and that's how mean sea-level is determined. 

Carlos Ponce

But is Galveston Island under water as predicted by climate change proponents?

Jim Forsythe

The predictions you give, are from what Scientific Research Group ?
The proponents would be who?
Why would you be spreading, what you think is false?

Carlos Ponce

Check the sources cited by Algore's "An Inconvenient Truth".

Jim Forsythe

I did not find "Galveston being under water", in the link you provided  Maybe I missed it, or maybe it not listed.

Carlos Ponce

Look at the links to sea levels along the coast. Last I heard, Galveston was an coastal barrier island. Has this changed?[whistling]

Jim Forsythe

Did not find "levels along the coast" but did find the link to Water Links , which has 22 links, none saying "levels along the coast" .
You do know that different coast lines, have different sea levels.

Mark Aaron

Carlos: [But is Galveston Island under water as predicted by climate change proponents? ]

You made this same improbable claim to me also Carlos. I think the time has come for you to back up your claim or apologize for misleading us.

Mike Box

Thanks Joe. Good summary. We can all argue, using data either real or imagined, about the causes at a particular location, but barrier islands move while we like our buildings to stay in one place, and therefore we will always be in the business of attempting to modify nature. I think there's an argument that the Corps of Engineers should be maintaining our beaches since they built the jetties that disrupted the sand flow as well as the ones on the Mississippi that divert sand into deep water.

Steve Fouga

Come on, Carlos.

Sea level is a measurable thing, and people measure it every day, in several ways, all over the world, and have for a long, long time. That's how we know it's rising. Sure, it varies continuously, and it's different everywhere, but its average is rising. Two of the most important reasons are that sea water is expanding as its temperature increases and that land ice is melting and flowing into the ocean.

These are facts, Carlos.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.