Beachy Keen

Galveston to build new beaches to replace the old ones.

What do you do when your beach runs out of sand? Add more sand. That’s what Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Sen. Mike Jackson, R-LaPorte, told the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association as they announced a $13.5 million project to rebuild the beaches at Galveston yesterday.

The plan calls for one million cubic feet of sand, paid for by state and local funds, to be put down on the beach, building it up and out to 200 feet from the land edge. The technique is called beach nourishment, and is pretty simple: Put more sand down. Galveston’s beaches, pivotal to its tourist trade, are eroding due to gulf coast tides. Sudden, catastrophic events like Hurricane Rita are more dramatic but often less cumulatively damaging than the long, slow grind of coastal currents, which have made much of the area unreachable to for visitors. There are similar plans for South Padre Island, Surfside, and Sylvan Beach, costing an additional $11 million combined. Ironically, to boost the tourist belt, they’re taking the sand from just off the Galveston coast at Apffel Park.

But there should probably be a note of warning: in his statement, Patterson said that "we can win the fight against coastal erosion," which brings to mind the story of the ancient British king Canute. He believed he was so powerful that he could order the tide to stop. So he stood in the sea, yelled at the brine, and got very damp toes. The tides and currents that cause erosion don’t disappear, they just travel. It will take time to see whether the reconstruction of the Galveston beaches could send the tides or the fresh sand down the coast to make it someone else’s problem.

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