West End homeowner associations might regain the ability to use heavy equipment for seaweed cleanup under an agreement with the Park Board of Trustees, which is slated to vote Tuesday.
At issue is whether the park board will once again allow contractors employed by the associations to work under its federal permit.
The debate about who has authority to remove seaweed from beaches has stretched back several years, but increased seaweed on beaches this summer is prompting homeowners associations to push for more cleaning.
West End residents hope the trustees will approve the agreement, said Bob Dolgin, president of the Sandhill Shores Property Owners Association.
“The park board is not going to clean our beaches,” Dolgin said. “The alternative is to have third-party operations.”
The park board isn’t required by the state to clean seaweed because it’s considered beneficial to a beach’s ecology.
The park board is allowed to use heavy machinery to remove seaweed when it builds up to a certain level under a Army Corps of Engineers permit that took significant time and resources to obtain.
Last summer, the park board stopped allowing third parties to operate under its permit after concerns that one vendor’s cleaning methods were damaging beaches.
The park board’s beach maintenance committee unanimously approved the proposal agreement last week, park board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun said.
Under the proposal, home owners associations will be able to use heavy machinery under the park board’s permit when seaweed reaches a certain surface area of height on the beach, she said.
As part of the proposal, the park board would hire an additional staff member for $58,500 per year to assess beach conditions and determine when it’s appropriate to clean beaches, de Schaun said.
Half of this position would be funded through permit fees and the employee would also act as an environmental educator for residents, she said.
“People want the beaches clean,” de Schaun said.
West End owners invest tons of money into their properties, said Peggy Zahler, vice president of the West Galveston Island Property Owners Association.
“Any time you tell property owners that have invested a lot of money that they cannot do something to help them enjoy their property, I don’t think it’s going to be well accepted,” Zahler said.
Property owners ought to have the option to clean their beaches, if they’re abiding by the rules of the permit, Zahler said.
Park board trusteed are scheduled to vote during their regular meeting Tuesday.