The newest of the Surfrider Foundation's Texas Chapter Network, the South Texas Chapter, has scored a victory in the fight against the littering of our ocean with plastics, coastal armoring and enforcing the Texas Open Beaches Act.
Since the 2005 tropical season events of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf of Mexico, the La Quinta Hotel on South Padre Island, Texas has been doing everything it could think of to keep the Gulf back. The La Quinta was, depending on who you ask, knowingly or unknowingly built past the critical dune line and in an erosional hot spot. Even though the 2005 hurricanes made landfall far north of South Padre, the barrier island experienced strong storm surges which resulted in the acceleration of erosion of the beach in front of the La Quinta.
The owner's response was to illegally start stacking thousands of polypropylene sandbags in front if his retaining wall, cover them with sand, plant some vegetation and call it a sand dune. This was done without the required beach construction permits that the Texas General Land Office and Town's Beach and Dune Task Force required to do so. Not to mention that the placement of plastics onto the beach is considered an illegal landfill by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Complaints were made with initially very little response or action by the GLO or the Town. However after the surge by Hurricane Ike caused the dune to wash out and spill the whole, partial and sun-rotted plastic sandbags into the public beach easement and Gulf of Mexico complaints increased and the GLO and TCEQ took notice.
Below is the letter addressing South Padre Island's Coastal Resources Manager, who has helped us with this issue, from the Texas General Land Office notifying La Quinta of its violations of the Texas Open Beaches Act, Dune Protection Act and South Padre Island's Beach and Dune Protection Plan and warning the Town to enforce its approved beach and dune plan by having the La Quinta remove all of the polypropylene sandbags or risk losing Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act Funding.
Via Electronic Mail
The General Land Office (GLO) received several complaints concerning the placement of sand bags on and adjacent to the public beach at 7000 Padre Blvd seaward of the La Quinta Hotel in the Town of South Padre Island (Town). The location of the sand bags are less than 1,000 feet landward of the mean high tide line and seaward of the Town's dune protection line adopted by the Town of South Padre Island Dune Protection and Beach Access Plan October 5, 1994 (1994 Plan). The placement of the sand bags, within the beachfront construction/dune protection area requires a Beachfront Construction Certificate and Dune Protection Permit. The GLO has no record of reviewing an application for a Beachfront Construction Certificate and Dune Protection Permit for the placement of the sand bags. If the Town issued a building permit for the construction of the sand bags without GLO review of a Beachfront Construction Certificate and a Dune Protection Permit (if required), it has violated the terms of the 1994 Plan certified as consistent with state law at 3 1 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) 5 15.30.
The placement of the sand bags on the public beach easement and construction of a shore protection project without a certificate or permit are direct violations of the Open Beaches Act ,Dune Protection Act, Beach/Dune Rules and the 1994 Plan. The Town of South Padre Island must enforce the provisions within the 1994 Plan or the GLO may make a determination of non-compliance with the local plan. If the Town does not address the issue of non-compliance, the GLO may determine that the town is not adequately administering its local plan, which could jeopardize the Town's ability to receive state funds from the Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act (CEPRA). Our CEPRA project manager is currently looking at options to assist in the placement of sand in this area. The placement of beach quality sand is an acceptable erosion response project. Other options include the placement of a natural dune or a Town sponsored shore protection project in accordance with the Beach/Dune and Coastal Coordination Council Rules.
Director, Coastal Stewardship
Coastal Resources Division