Texas Open Beaches Act Defended by Courts


State: TX
Country: USA
Theme: Beach Access
Completion Date: September 01 2007
Status: Victory

The Surfrider Foundation Chapters in Texas have won an important legal battle to keep their beaches open for all Texans. On September 12, 2007, Texas State District Judge Patrick Sebesta ruled that the Texas Open Beaches Act is constitutional and that 16 houses on the public beach in Surfside, Texas must be removed. Sebesta's judgment is the second judicial ruling in recent months that the Texas Open Beaches Act is constitutional. Under the Texas Open Beaches Act, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson can ask the courts to authorize the removal of structures on the public beach to ensure proper public access. In 2006, Commissioner Patterson notified a number of property owners that he might pursue the removal of any houses on the public beach and offered financial assistance to move the houses. Several of the property owners then sued Patterson to block the removal of their houses, resulting in Judge Sebesta’s ruling. Most of the property owners have accepted the state’s offer for financial assistance to remove or demolish their houses. A very small handful of holdouts are likely to appeal the recent ruling, however. The Texas Attorney General’s Office – which has represented the state and Commissioner Patterson during the legal proceedings -- said that beach photos provided by the Texas Chapter during a legal deposition in Austin two years ago, along with the Chapter’s fortuitous "adoption" of the mile of beach in question in 1998, were key events in the judicial process.