Friday, September 19, 2008

Many Ike Victims to Lose Land to the State of Texas

The State of Texas may prohibit many people whose homes were destroyed from rebuilding under the Texas Open Beaches Act – a law that’s been in effect since 1959. Many homeowners may lose their property and not be compensated.

Texas beaches are eroding more rapidly than any other coastal area in the US. All Texas beaches are public lands which are open to the public. The strip of beach between the dune or line of vegetation (average high-tide line) and the average low-tide line is public property. Homes that are built along public beaches must retain their dunes and be behind the vegetation line. If a home loses its line of vegetation (the dune) then that property is subject to condemnation as public land.

State Land Commmissioner Jerry Patterson has asked local governments to adopt regulations limiting development along beaches. Proposed rules state that new buildings must be set back 60 times the erosion rate. Erosion rates are measured from the beach's line of vegetation. Texas’ average annual erosion rates range from 5-6 feet/yr., so new construction would have to be set back at least 300 feet from the line of vegetation. That’s the length of a football field!

A Position Paper from the Texas Chapter of Surfrider Foundation summarizes the Texas Open Beaches Act. “It is declared and affirmed to be the public policy of this state that the public, individually and collectively, shall have the free and unrestricted right of ingress and egress to and from the state-owned beaches bordering on the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico...extending from the mean low tide to the line of vegetation bordering on the Gulf of Mexico. . . The attorney general shall develop and publicize an enforcement policy to prevent and remove any encroachments and interferences on the public beach."

According to Patterson, it will take a year before the state can determine whether homeowners can continue living on their land. "You want to have at least a complete all four seasons and find out what Mother Nature is actually going to do until she finishes what she's going to do."

Those whose homes were destroyed can collect insurance. But it is unclear whether those whose undamaged homes are condemned under the Texas law will get any compensation, from the state or anyone else. Land Office spokesman Jim Suydam said the agency used to offer people up to $50,000 to move, but he didn't know if that fund still exists.


  1. No , 300 feet is not the length of Three Football field, it is the length of a football field. Thought you'd want to know that and make the correction.

    People who have built on Galveston Island did so at their own risk. They were aware of the law,regardless of what some claim. It is part of the deed, restrictive covenants and is carefully explained at closing. Those who lost their homes in the storm will of course receive the insurance settlement and those who did not receive loss will have to wait to see what the State of Texas is going to do and that may take a year (a season) according to those who deal with such and from those who I know who own property on the strip.
    While it is a hard thing to have the State take the property it was not without foreknowledge. Some folks just never wanted to believe that it would happen to them. Some of those folks re-built after the storm last year and the one some years earlier and they certainly knew the risk. I sorry for those folks in a lot of ways but they were warned and failed to heed such. They have no one to blame but themselves.

  2. Thanks for the follow up Ticker, I almost had a coronary after reading this....

  3. Thanks Ticker. It's been corrected.

  4. so much going on all around us my friend....God bless all the ones victimized by Mother nature..sigh :)

  5. I don't know why this is a surprise to some folks. This is nothing new. It's the same thing that people in Louisiana faced after Hurricane Katrina/Rita.

  6. While it is wonderful that some can live on these lovely beaches, in the end, everyone pays when the inevitable happens. Insurance rates go up to everyone, monies are spent for intermediate care and feeding of people. Their loss also somewhat becomes ours.

    It just starts a ball rolling that never seems to stop.


  7. It costs money to replace the beaches and upkeep of the beaches, yet property owners complain about the costs. This is a smart law that was enacted in the days before environmentalism.

  8. I don't have a problem with this... unless those people are willing to suffer a complete loss without insurance, and most definitely without a taxpayer bailout.

    Frankly, as a taxpaying American, I am tired of being the insurer of last resort for every STUPID or CORRUPT thing that any idiot wants to ram down our throats.

    And I don't have a lot of patience with those people who refused to evacuate, either. When people are warned and choose to engage in such reckless and irresponsibile choices, they should do so at their OWN risk.

  9. Faultline I wasn't trying to be a smart@*%%. But after running the length of one of those field for a long time on a daily basis both in football and as a track man I kinda know what 300ft and 100yds looks like, feels like and at times tasted like. LOL.

    Former classmate of mine had just bought property, not on Galveston Island but in one of the "better" developments just inland and it looks like their loss is going to be horrific. Fortunately they were still in California when the storm hit.