Monday, July 02, 2007

The Formation and Future of the Upper Texas Coast

Letter-to-the-editor from Professor John Anderson (RICE U.), author of the very latest May 2007 book by Texas A & M Press:
(Click on images to enlarge)

"I was one of the three authors of the Geohazards Map that has raised so much attention in recent months. I am bit miffed by the apparent misunderstanding of the map by Galveston City officials. It is really not that complicated. It is based on island elevation, existing habitats and future habitats. The first two are fairly simple, the elevation of the island controls storm impact, the distribution of modern habitats and the rate at which these habitats will change as sea level rises and the land surface subsides. The third ingredient sounds complicated, but it is based on careful monitoring of the rate of Gulf shoreline and bay shoreline migration over the past several decades. If anything these rates will increase in the next several decades, so beaches, dunes and wetlands will need to have room to migrate landward.

The Geohazards map is color coded, with red designating areas that are of imminent geohazard potential and orange designating areas with high geohazard potential. Existing wetlands fall within the red zone and areas that will become wetlands in the next few decades occur within the orange zone. The proposed Marguette Development has significant overlap with both red and orange areas. It is estimated that 75 acres of wetlands will be lost.

During the June 19 meeting of the Galveston Planning Commission, Commissioner Listowski stated that he was not concerned about the wetlands because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will serve as the watchdog agency to assure that the wetlands are protected. Mr. Listowski clearly misunderstands the Corps responsibility and their track record. He needs to drive the far west end of the island to observe how the Corps failed to consider wetlands migration in at the Cintex Development. So, if the Corps of Engineers is not watching out for the wetlands, who is guarding them? When the Geohazards map was submitted to City Council two years ago it was our hope that the City would assume responsibility for safeguarding the island environment. They are the ones who issue the permits for development on the island.

I am not apposed to development on the Island and fully appreciate the city’s desire to raise new tax dollars. But, the attitude of the commission seems to be that wetlands have no economic value, and they clearly are not concerned about the next generation of citizens who will have to clean up after our mistakes. City officials now have the information needed to assess the impact new development will have on the island and its fringing waters over the life span of the project, not just on the day of ground breaking. It is no longer acceptable to simply ignore these impacts are try to assure us that someone else is guarding the hen house. If city officials have problems with the current Geohazards map, we need to work on these problems in order to come up with a map that can be used to preserve the island environment for all of its inhabitants, including those who will inherit it."

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