Less than a month after Hurricane Laura damaged island dunes, residents and the city already are facing more beach clean-up from the high tides and strong waves caused by Tropical Storm Beta.
The constant pummeling to the dunes is frustrating to many city officials and residents who have been working this year to repair dunes and improve public-access problems already at issue before this year’s hurricane season.
Tropical Storm Beta is expected to bring high tides of 3 feet above average normal high tide and as much as 6 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
That means a beating for the dunes, said Jerry Mohn, president of the West Galveston Island Property Owners Association.
“We’re losing a lot of dunes,” Mohn said.
The trouble is that Hurricane Laura already damaged many of the dunes on the West End. The storm made landfall near Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Aug. 27. Although the storm didn’t hit Galveston directly, the strong waves and high tides wiped out many dunes and eroded areas of the beach. Residents woke up after Hurricane Laura to sand washed onto the roads.
And Tropical Storm Beta is causing more damage, Mohn said.
“It’s inundated the streets with dune grass and sand,” Mohn said.
The island’s dune system is meant to act as a natural barrier, taking the full brunt of storms and protecting the land behind it.
Because of this compounding damage, restoring the dunes will be more difficult and costly, Mayor pro tem Craig Brown said. Brown is acting as mayor.
The city needs to have a serious talk about dune restoration with the Texas General Land Office, which oversees state beaches, Brown said.
FRUSTRATION ALL AROUND
After Hurricane Laura, several residents became frustrated with confusion about whether the property owners associations or the city was responsible for restoration.
Because some dunes in Galveston are on private property, it can also be the property owner’s responsibility to make repairs, land office spokeswoman Karina Erickson said.
To rebuild dunes, the land office typically recommends bringing in beach-quality sand, a specific type of sand, or building sand fences to help trap windblown sand, Erickson said.
But state funds can’t be used on private property or for property owners associations, Erickson said.
Some money is available to associations to rebuild dune walkovers that are specifically noted in the city’s beach access plan, she said.
The West End association already had found some sand to repair the damage Hurricane Laura wreaked, so it will move forward with that, Mohn said.
The city has been working to bring its beach access plan back into compliance with state requirements by adding parking, building more pedestrian access and placing signs. Bringing the plan into compliance was a condition of increasing parking fees on the seawall by $1.
But it’s also a prerequisite to making any other changes to access or fees along island beaches, Mohn said. Mohn was part of a committee that last year made a plan for such changes.
“It’s frustrating because the one that we finished in 2019 is still sitting on the shelf,” Mohn said.
It’s frustrating for the city, too, Brown said.
“We need to put it as a priority item so that we can move forward and get these beach access points back up and running,” Brown said.