Coastal Erosion Response Plan in the works

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

Input from the public is being sought as Cameron County prepares to create an erosion response plan (ERP) in accordance with a mandate from the Texas General Land Office (GLO), said County Parks Director Joe E. Vega Wednesday.

The GLO is requiring all gulf counties in the state to create the plans, which will address issues such as maintaining beach access, the types of development which will be allowed in the future, protecting the State’s dune systems and combating the erosion of such, as well as other variables, according to a statement released by the ERP’s organizers.

“(Our) first priority is to reach out to the public,” Vega said. “The ERP will have a significant impact on future development,” he said, adding it’s especially important for property owners to provide their input. “We don’t have one in place,” he said.

One of the goals of the plan will be to “make sure that we have a dune protection plan that would also allow economic development,” Vega said.

Currently, the Island’s beaches are eroding at an average rate of about 12 feet per year, Vega said, referring to statistics released by the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology (UTBEG).

According to a beach and dune analysis released by UTBEG in 2014, “Rates of long-term Gulf shoreline change for South Padre Island, calculated from multiple shoreline positions between 1937 and 2013, averaged 2.2 (meters per year) of retreat,” or just over seven feet per year. However, some areas of the beach are seeing retreat at a higher rate.

Areas such as the beaches at Isla Blanca Park, have actually seen growth in recent years — by as much as 7.2 meters per year — according to the analysis. The study also shows positive impacts of dune restoration projects.

Creation of the ERP has been contracted out to Peter A. Ravella and Applied Coastal Research and Engineering. “By March 31, 2016, we’ll be submitting a final draft,” Vega said.

A public forum will be held inside the Commissioners Meeting Room at the Cameron County Courthouse from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 28. It will be the first of several public commenting opportunities, Vega said. “I think this is important … to the members of the public,” he said.

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