Gulf Coast

As Storm Season nears end, Texans look to future of storm, erosion protection

As Texans along the Gulf Coast count down to the end of what has been a relatively quiet hurricane and tropical storm season in 2015, leaders remain diligent about addressing one of the biggest issues caused by these storms: coastal erosion.

Besides the actual loss of land suffered by the Lone Star State, coastal erosion can have other harmful effects, including the loss of natural resources, threats to coastal developments and the possibility of damage to public infrastructure and refineries.

Texas has one of the highest rates of coastal erosion in the country, losing, on average, 235 acres of gulf shoreline each year. Approximately 234 miles, or 64 percent of Texas’ 367-mile coast is critically eroding, with the highest rate of erosion recoded on Matagorda Island at 46.2 feet per year. On average, the Texas Coast is eroding 4 feet per year.

In various reports over the past decade, the Texas General Land Office has said that the greatest cause of periodic coastal erosion is the effect of storms and hurricanes. With storm season officially ending on November 30, only one named storm—Tropical Storm Bill—has reached the Texas Coast. Bill made landfall on June 16 on Matagorda Island, and produced heavy rains from the central Texas Coast northward across eastern Texas, western Louisiana and southeastern Oklahoma. Many locations reported more than 10 inches of rainfall, and Ganado, Texas saw nearly 14 inches.

To stem the tide, the Texas Legislature in 1999 enacted the Coastal Erosion Planning & Response Act (CEPRA), with the goal of studying and reducing the effects of coastal erosion, and tasked the Texas General Land Office with the management of the program. Through collaboration and a matching funds partnership with local, state and federal governments, as well as private non-profit organizations, the GLO has developed numerous beach nourishment, shoreline stabilization and habitat restoration projects. Because of these efforts, the most recent CEPRA report to the 84th legislature found that Texas received $3.40 in economic and financial benefit for every dollar of state funding invested in these projects.

The most recent development in these partnerships came in late August of this year when the GLO, under the direction of Land Commissioner George P. Bush, came to an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Feasibility Study. According to the GLO, the study will investigate the feasibility of projects for flood reduction, hurricane and storm damage mitigation and ecosystem restoration along the entire Texas coast. The goal of the agreement is to formulate a plan to better protect the 7.1 million Texans along the Gulf Coast, and expedite recovery after a tropical storm or hurricane.

Commissioner Bush also noted the importance of protecting Texas’ energy production along the coast, as Texas hosts more than one-quarter of the nation’s total refining capacity.

“The Texas Coast powers the nation,” Bush said in a statement. “Its vulnerability should be considered a national security issue. By working together as a region—combining and coordinating local, state and federal resources—we will directly address ongoing threats to the Texas coast for future generations.”

For more information on the Texas Coast, visit Texas A&M’s Institute for Sustainable Coastal Communities “Coastal Communities Planning Atlas”, the most comprehensive online, interactive database ever compiled about the Texas Coast by clicking here.