GALVESTON — By the time it’s over, 2015 may end up being remembered as the Summer of Sand in Galveston.
That’s because, starting next month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to the start pumping 725,000 cubic yards of sand on to the island’s beaches in front of the seawall between 61st Street and 89th street. When completed the project is expected to result in a new 100-foot-wide beach in an area where that is today mostly riprap in front of the seawall structure.
The Park Board of Trustees officially announced the project Thursday — during a ceremony to celebrate a different beach reconstruction project completed last month between the west end of the seawall to front of the Dellanera R/V Park — and said that a third beach reconstruction project, for areas east of 61st street as still being planned.
“The continuation of trying to increase the beaches is a method of increasing of the economic base, the economic foundation of the city of Galveston,” said Melvin Williams, the chairman of the Park Board of Trustees.
The sand for the project will be dredged from the Houston and Galveston ship channels and brought to the site of the new beach by barge. The sand will be blown onto the beach and then spread using heavy machinery,
It’s anticipated that the project will be completed by November.
The project is expected to cost $9 million. Of that, $3.5 million is coming from the Park Board of Trustees, $3.5 million is coming from the city of Galveston through its Industrial Development Corporation and $2 million is coming from the Texas General Land Office.
Second sand project
The seawall project is the second major beach reconstruction project to be conducted in Galveston in the past six months.
In November, the Park Board began its project on the west end of Seawall Boulevard. The project — conducted in partnership with the city, the land office and a group of private homeowners — placed 120,000 cubic yards of sand and constructed a new dune between the end of the seawall and the R/V Park.
The project has been lauded as a success.
The association credited the Dellanera project as “the little project that could” and specifically referenced an aborted $42 million beach restoration project that was scheduled to happen on the West End, but was canceled after the Texas Supreme Court handed down its Severance vs Patterson opinion in 2010. The opinion threw into question which parts of Texas beaches are public and which are private.
In subsequent years, the land office, the park board and some private homeowners continued to negotiate until an agreement was reached for the smaller project.
The preservation association called the project a “precedent-setting accomplishment” and the “road map” that future Galveston and Texas beach restoration projects will be measured against.
“This project really is about when you get lemons make lemonade,” said Lee Weisher, the chair of the association’s Best Restored Beach Committee. “We chose this project for overcoming complicated issues to protect an evacuation route and provide recreation area.”
Officials say that the new beach helps protect state Highway 3005, the only evacuation route from the West End, from beach erosion.
The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association annually recognizes restored beaches — coastal areas that have had sand placed on them in order to reverse or offset the effects of erosion.
Along with Galveston, beaches in Florida, South Carolina and Florida were honored as being the best-restored beaches.
On Thursday, park board executive director Kelly de Schaun said that the Park Board intended to keep pursuing sand projects, including another $19 million beach reconstruction project between 16th and 61st street.
Into the future
While 2015’s sand successes are a win for the island, officials acknowledge that they intend for it to be the beginning of years of investment into the areas.
In an interview this week, de Schaun said that she was working with the city to secure funding to continue placing sand on the Dellanera beach for each of the next five years.
That’s because the beach is one of the most rapidly eroding parts of the island. Natural forces scrape sand from that area and deposit it on West End beaches.
de Schaun said the Park Board hoped to turn the Dellanera Beach into a “sand motor,” constantly feeding it in order to, at least indirectly, benefit the West End.
Similarly, the Park Board hopes to keep repeating the project in front of the seawall on a regular 18 month to 24 month schedule, thanks for a new ongoing agreement struck with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Using a sand management plan that was created by the Army Corps and published last December, there is a plan on where and how to conduct sand reconstruction projects in Galveston for the next 50 years, de Schaun said.
“It’s going to be a highly volatile area,” de Schaun said of seawall area where the sand will go. “If we’re able to hit it more frequently then the amount of material in that area will grow and it will be less vulnerable.”