GALVESTON – Beachgoers arriving at the Galveston seawall this weekend will find a far more spacious beach to relax on following the pumping of more than 1 million cubic yards of sand along 3.5 miles of badly eroded beach.
The $19.5 million effort to pump sand taken from a sand bar in the Houston Ship Channel ended March 27 as the last batch of sand slurry plopped onto the new beach near 61st Street, said Reuben Trevino, operations manager for the Galveston Park Board.
"Come on down and enjoy the beach," said Kelly de Schaun, executive director of the park board.
Beachgoers will see the formerly narrow strip of beach extended to about 300 feet from the seawall. The beach is designed to gradually erode and form a slope until it stabilizes at about 150 feet, Trevino said. He said the process should take about two weeks.
The project got underway more than two months ago after numerous delays but was completed well ahead of the May 13 deadline set by the park board. The contractor would have faced penalties of $1,500 for each day it went past the deadline.
The contractor began by extending more than 4 miles of pipe from a sand deposit known as Big Reef, putting much of it offshore to avoid beach that fronted private property east of the seawall.
East Beach and Stewart Beach, on the eastern end of the island, are in an area where sand is collecting, keeping the beaches healthy. However, the beaches roughly west of 12th Street are eroding all the way to the western end of the island.
The contractor, New Jersey-based Weeks Marine Inc., began pumping sand onto eroding beaches at about 12th Street and gradually extended the pipeline as new beach was created.
The pipeline eventually extended more than 7 miles from the sand bar in the Houston Ship Channel to the project's end point at 61st Street. The pipe is now being taken apart.
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The new beach will help act as a barrier from storm surges and boost the Galveston economy by keeping the beach a prime tourist attraction, de Schaun said.
The park board plans to use sand from Army Corps of Engineers dredging operations to maintain its beaches. The new sections of beach would probably need maintenance in about five years.
The board hopes to get money set aside by BP for coastal restoration following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that can be used for beach replenishment projects in 2018 and 2020, de Schaun said.
The two new projects would add to Babe's Beach west of 61st Street, built in 2015 in an area where erosion had wiped away all traces of beach more than 65 years earlier. The projects would shore up the existing Babe's Beach and extend it westward toward the end of the seawall.
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The replenishment of the beach in front of the seawall is the third since 1995. The last beach renourishment was in 2009, when sand was hauled by truck to restore stretches chewed away by Hurricane Ike in September 2008.
The bulk of financing for the project has come from $15.5 million that originally was intended to help finance a $40 million beach restoration project for sections west of the seawall, the largest replenishment effort ever planned on the Texas Gulf Coast.
The project was scuttled after a Texas Supreme Court ruling in 2012 left in doubt whether the Texas Open Beaches Act applied to the west end of Galveston Island and raised the possibility that the beaches there were held by beachfront property owners. Then-Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson yanked the project, arguing that tax dollars could not be used to enhance private property.
The Land Office provided $2.7 million for the recently completed project and the Park Board and city of Galveston contributed $1.2 million.