State of the Beach/State Reports/TX

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Pluses in Texas' Coastal Management Program include erosion information and beach fill information and policies. Coastal access information is also plentiful and there is better than one access site per mile of coastline. The state website is excellent. Minuses include lack of compliance with Texas' Open Beaches Act in Galveston and a recent pro-private property rights judgment from the Texas Supreme Court which weakens the Open Beaches Act. Efforts to weaken the General Land Office's "no hard structures" policy should be resisted.

Texas Ratings


(+) All but one coastal community has a state approved Erosion Response Plan (ERP), each including information on building setback lines and post-storm recovery plans.

(+) The 2017 Texas Coastal Resiliency Master Plan targets the majority of funding to living shorelines, including plans for multiple oyster reef creation and restoration sites, restoration of wetlands, conservation of coastal uplands, creation and restoration of rookery islands, and restoration of beaches and dunes.

(+) The City of South Padre Island has a new Beach Access Guide and a brochure on Beach Maintenance Procedures that appropriately recognizes the ecological and erosion protection functions of natural beaches.

(+) Proposition 9, supported by 77% of the voters in November 2009, elevates the level of protection of the right to beach access to the Texas Constitution.

(+) A new resource unveiled in 2009 is, a website that allows you to:

(+) The updated Texas Beach Watch website provides easy access to beach water quality information through both a list of monitored beaches and a clickable, zoom-in map.

(+) The Gulf of Mexico Alliance is a partnership of the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, with the goal of significantly increasing regional collaboration to enhance the ecological and economic health of the Gulf of Mexico. The five U.S. Gulf States have identified six priority issues that are regionally significant and can be effectively addressed through increased collaboration at local, state, and federal levels: Water Quality, Habitat Conservation and Restoration, Ecosystem Integration and Assessment, Nutrients & Nutrient Impacts, Coastal Community Resilience, and Environmental Education.

(+) Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson continues to be an ardent defender of the Texas Open Beaches Act.

(+) The Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act (CEPRA) requires erosion control projects that give preference to “soft” methods to manage erosion in lieu of hard structures and does not authorize the construction or funding of hard structures on or landward of a public beach.

(+) Only about 80 miles of the undeveloped Texas coast is developable. The balance is held in natural seashores, national wildlife refuges, and national, state, county and municipal parks.

(+) State rules require at least one public access site for every ½-mile of shoreline for pedestrian beaches closed to vehicular traffic.

(+) In 2003, the 78th Texas Legislature clarified the Texas Open Beaches Act (Texas Natural Resources Code §61.018) to where the Land Commissioner has the authority to bring forth enforcement actions, by request that the state Attorney General, any county attorney, district attorney, or criminal district attorney, shall file in a suit to obtain either a temporary or permanent court order or injunction, either prohibitory or mandatory, to remove or prevent any improvement, maintenance, obstruction, barrier, or other encroachment on a public beach, or to prohibit any unlawful restraint on the public's right of access to and use of a public beach or other activity that violates the Open Beaches Act. In addition, the Legislature gave the Land Commissioner, the Attorney General, or a county, district, or criminal district attorney the authority to recover penalties and the costs of removing any improvement, obstruction, barrier, or other encroachment if it is removed by public authorities pursuant to an order of the court. The Legislature also gave the Land Commissioner the authority to directly issue removal orders under §61.0183, and to assess daily civil penalties for violations, such penalties to be cumulative for each day a violation occurs or continues is a separate violation. Finally, the Land Commissioner was also given the authority to request that the state’s Attorney General or any county attorney bring suit for a declaratory judgment to try any issue affecting the public's right of access to or use of the public beach.

(0) Sixty-three percent of Texas’ Gulf shoreline has a historical erosion rate of more than 2 feet per year, although some locations along the upper Texas coast (Jefferson, Galveston and Brazoria counties) experience erosion at a rate of more than ten feet per year. On average, 235 acres of land per year along the Texas Gulf coast and along the state’s bays, estuaries and navigation channels are lost due to erosion.

(0) Nine counties monitor water quality at multiple locations at Texas’ most heavily used Gulf Coast beaches under the Beach Watch Program.

(0) Fifty-eight coastal erosion projects are currently being managed under the state’s Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act (CEPRA) program, and the state will spend $17.2 million in state-appropriated funds over the course of the fiscal year 2008-2009 funding biennium on coastal erosion.

(0) The coastal region is Texas' second-most popular tourist attraction, generating $7 billion a year.

(-) There are no explicit minimum requirements on coastal development setback lines for each ERP to build from, resulting in a wide range of setbacks, some of which are rather insignificant and provide minimal buffer between coastal developments and the shoreline. {Minus}} The local Army Corps of Engineers district allows wetland mitigation banks (establishments that preemptively protect or restore wetlands to make up for loss of wetlands elsewhere) to contain onsite active oil and gas wells. The presence of onsite oil and gas wells reduces the likelihood of perpetual protection of these fragile ecosystems.

(-) According to a spokesman with the Texas Department of Health Services, there were 102 cases of vibriosis reported in Texas in 2016. Of those, 35 involved cases with the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus, which can cause necrotizing fasciitis — a "flesh-eating" infection that spreads quickly. More.

(-) A beach dredge-and-fill project at Isla Blanca County Park conducted in March 2011 resulted in about 2/10ths of a mile of beach filled with clay balls and clay heavy silt and mud. See the photos.

(-) The Texas Open Beaches Act, which protects public beach access in Texas received quite a blow in November 2010 with the issuance of a conservative and pro-private property rights judgment from the Texas Supreme Court. A detailed analysis and links to the opinion and dissent can be found here. A Houston Chronicle article on this decision can be found here. As a direct result of this ruling, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson canceled a scheduled $40 million beach fill project in Galveston because state law prohibits the spending of public money to benefit private property. Another opinion piece from a Surfrider member in Texas. The Texas Open Beaches Act was dealt a further blow in March 2012 when the Texas Supreme Court essentially reaffirmed their earlier ruling. Read what one of our Texas activists had to say about this. Read more Surfrider perspective.

(-) A series of seasonal tidal events punctuated by Hurricane Ida eroded away the last remnants of Surfside Beach while exposing long-buried debris and making the beachbreak an extremely dangerous area. The Village of Surfside and the Texas General Land Office initiated a Shoreline Stabilization Project. The state of the beach in Surfside could hardly be any worse -- there is no beach. The future of surfing in Surfside is bleak at best.

(-) Unlike neighboring Louisiana, Texas has not restricted the use of oil drilling revenues to wetlands and coastal preservation, so the funds may be used for "onshore infrastructure projects."

(-) None of the counties participating in the Beach Watch Program issue closures and the state does not have the authority to do so. Beach closures can only be initiated at the local level.

(-) Although Galveston has finally submitted a Beach Access Plan, there continue to be many Open Beaches Act violations, causing some people think the beaches are private.


  • Texas Bag Ban Preemption Legislation Defeated Texas now has over 12 local municipalities that have enacted bag ban ordinances to help rid towns of single-use plastic bag litter. However, some state legislators have targeted this municipal right and try to take away local home rule used to protect their communities and environment. In 2017, Senate Bill 103 was introduced to prevent municipalities from passing local ordinances "relating to the provision of bags to customers of a business at the point of sale". With a concerted effort to provide statewide advocacy to stop this bad preemption bill, alongside Texas Campaign for the Environment and others, the Surfrider Texas Chapters were successful in preventing the exclusive state control of this local issue.
  • Sea Breeze Estates Illegal Retaining Wall, Dune Destruction Surfrider Foundation Texas chapters fought for the removal of the illegal retaining wall. Not only was it illegal, but it was a direct threat to the public beach and public access while being a liability to the public taxpayer who could lose access opportunities to their beach. The illegal retaining wall was removed in August 2016. Read more.
  • Port Aransas ‘Skip The Plastic’ Bag Campaign In a bold move to help clean up their community, Port Aransas’ City Council voted 5-1 in favor of a plastic bag ban ordinance. A voluntary ban will begin on January 1, 2015, followed by a mandatory ban starting on January 1, 2016. Port Aransas joins 10 other Texas cities, 2 states and over 20 countries that have decided to regulate plastic shopping bags because of the infrastructure, fiscal and environmental problems that they cause. More info. Surfrider's Texas Coastal Bend Chapter was a key partner in the coalition that made this happen.
  • Justice Served For Illegal Retaining Wall, Dune Destruction The Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter helped to win a victory for Texas Open Beaches Laws and the Public Taxpayer on October 11, 2013. A Jury in Travis County, Texas ruled in favor of the State's case against Sea Breeze Estates in Cameron County and their illegal retaining wall. The South Texas Chapter was directly involved in the raising of the alarm and the providing of evidence that led to the ruling. In the end, the Jury hit the developer with $10,000 in beach related fines for dune destruction along with another $419,000 in other violation fines, ordered the reimbursement of $200,000 in legal expenses back to the state and the removal of the retaining wall along with mitigation of the destruction of the dunes in the area. The South Texas Chapter partnered up with the Texas General Land Office and Texas Attorney General's Office to provide "on the ground" photographic, meeting, and conduct evidence to achieve the outcome of the removal of the wall.
  • Bad Bag Bill DEFEATED! - Rep. Drew Springer (Muenster) filed HB 2416 "The Shopping Bag Freedom Act" to give retailers and consumers the freedom to give and receive plastic and paper bags across the state and stop the overreach of big government", according to a press release. In reality, it was an effort by big government (the State of Texas) to limit the reach of small government (local municipalities). The bill appeared on one hand to be a retaliation to the checkout bag ban recently enacted in Austin, the State Capitol. But, legislation has been introduced in previous years in Texas to try and limit 'home rule', which allows local cities and municipalities to adopt plastic bag bans and fee-based programs. In addition, this new bill would have rolled back the existing bag ordinances in Austin, Brownsville, Fort Stockton, Freer, Laguna Vista, South Padre Island and Sunset Valley. JUNE 2013 UPDATE: THANK YOU for taking action to let your legislators know about this bad bag bill. It died in committee but may be back in coming years. See the action alert.
  • Austin Plastic Bag Ban A bag ban ordinance in the City of Austin is one of the broadest bag bans in the nation, prohibiting disposable (‘single-use’) paper and plastic bags at all checkout counters in January 2016. The ordinance will allow retailers to provide the currently available thin, single-use plastic bags for a $0.25/bag fee starting in 2013. City officials believe that the three year period leading up to the complete ban will enable consumers and retailers to get accustomed to the change. After much debate, the Austin City Council approved the reusable bag ordinance on March 2nd, 2012. The final ordinance language includes a phase out of both plastic and paper checkout bags starting in March 2013. Campaign website
  • Increased public beach parking in South Padre Island Gulf Blvd. Redesign Decision South Padre Island's Gulf Blvd. has had inadequate parking for public beach access that is required by the Texas Open Beaches Act for over a decade. The South Texas Chapter has been advocating and fighting for increased public beach parking opportunities for over 3 years. Congestion has been getting worse and worse over the past several years because of an increase in population of the Rio Grande Valley and their desire to visit the beach. In an attempt to "control" this situation, SPI City Council attempted to implement a paid parking program under AMPCO to "control" this congestion and "encourage" the visitors to park remotely away from the area and be shuttled in or walk or go to the county parks. The South Texas Chapter opposed this plan because it would have limited access to over 2 miles of beach and the revenue would have almost entirely gone to AMPCO instead of the beach maintenance fund which is mandated by Texas Law. The City Council rejected the paid parking plan after the South Texas Chapter was able to gain support of other groups and residents on South Padre Island. The Council formed a Gulf Blvd. Action Group which included the South Texas Chapter to come up with a solution that addressed increased and safer parking, private property protection and pedestrian safety. The Group came up with a plan that would realign Gulf Blvd. and use the entire Right of Way instead of only the small portion currently used by the city. this included taking back sections that had been encroached upon by property owners to add sidewalks and increase parking by trading parallel parking for diagonal end in parking. This plan would be carried out in phases over the next 4-5 years. On January 4th, 2012 the SPI City Council approved and funded phase I.
  • Building Set-Backs Maintained Texas Coastal Bend Chapter activists urged the Corpus Christi city council to maintain the county-recommended 350 foot set-back from the ocean. The city wanted to reduce it to 200 feet or less, but council member Nelda Martinez supported the chapter's "more is better" in approach and lead the vote to keep it at the county-recommended level. For years, erosion, strong hurricanes, and persistent coastal subsidence have plagued the Texas shoreline. With three of the nation’s busiest ports, large coastal metropolitan centers, and a thriving coastal economy, the State stands to be significantly affected by climate change and sea-level rise. Maintaining building set-backs is critically important in this effort.
  • Texas Bag Legislation Defeated Surfrider Foundation won a Rise Above Plastics victory when the attempt by two Texas Legislators to limit local rule on plastic bag ordinances failed in the Texas Legislature, leaving local communities able to tackle plastic pollution on their own terms. Local preemption has been a recent tactic of bag ordinance opposition groups. This victory was the result of a joint effort by all five Surfrider Foundation Texas Chapters and the Texas Campaign for the Environment as we rallied opposition to the bill from all over the state. This now leaves the door open for proposed plastic bag ordinances to be passed in Texas and join South Padre Island, Brownsville and Fort Stockton as communities that have adopted plastic ordinances in an effort to reduce plastic litter in their areas.
  • Texas Opens Its Beaches with a Constitutional Amendment! After an organized and integrated effort on behalf of the Central Texas, South Texas, Texas Coastal Bend, Texas Upper Coast and Galveston chapters to promote their beach access goals on a statewide level, the people of Texas passed a constitutional amendment through a statewide vote. The “Prop 9” amendment created a constitutional "right" to beach access. The constitutional amendment protects “the right of the public, individually and collectively, to access and use the public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico.” The people of Texas voted approximately 75% in favor of the amendment. Texas constitutional acts are very strong and require a two-thirds majority of the Texas state legislature to change (instead of a simple majority). The amendment also sends a strong message to developers and politicians about open beach access. This constitutional amendment will help to support the Texas Open Beaches Act, which passed in 1959 to guarantee public beach access all of Texas’ 367 miles of coast. It will also help to defend the TXOBA in any litigation cases that challenge the law.
  • Texas Open Beaches Act Defended by Courts The Surfrider Foundation Chapters in Texas have won an important legal battle to keep their beaches open for all Texans. On September 12, 2007, Texas State District Judge Patrick Sebesta granted the state’s Motion for Summary Judgment by ruling that the Texas Open Beaches Act was constitutional and ordered the removal of the 16 houses that at that point encroached on the public beach at the Village of Surfside Beach, Texas. Sebesta's judgment was the second judicial ruling within several months where the Texas Open Beaches Act was found to be constitutional. Under the Texas Open Beaches Act, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson can ask the courts to authorize the removal of structures on the public beach to ensure proper public access. In June 2006, Commissioner Patterson notified a number of property owners that he might pursue the removal of any houses on the public beach and offered financial assistance to move the houses. This action was embodied in his Plan for Texas Open Beaches, as unveiled in July 2006. A majority of the hold-out property owners then sued Patterson to block the removal of their houses, resulting in Judge Sebesta’s ruling. A number of the property owners accepted the state’s offer for financial assistance to remove or demolish their houses. In all, 14 structures were relocatedfrom the public beach at Surfside under CEPRA-funded relocation projects undertaken in 2007, with another relocation project executed on West Galveston Island, and a structure demolition project executed at Treasure Island the same year. A number of holdouts appealed the September 2007 ruling, however. In February 2008, Judge Sebesta denied the Surfside Beach Drive holdout property owners’ motion to allow reconnection to municipal water and sewer services, to make repairs and for vehicular access to the landward side of these structures. However, the judge issued a stay of his previous removal order on the grounds that the property owners were likely to appeal to the US Supreme Court, in agreeing with them that these orders be suspended until the court receives a mandate from a higher court evidencing a final, unappealable judgment affirming removal. Prior to the landfall of Hurricane Ike on September 13, 2008, 14 hold-out structures remained on the public beach seaward of Beach Drive at the Village of Surfside, eight of which were identified as subject structures eligible for a voluntary buy-out under a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) project for which the Village was granted approval to begin prior to Hurricane Ike. Hurricane Ike destroyed ten of these structures, such that at present, only four (three of which are subject structures under the aforementioned HMGP project) remain standing seaward of Beach Drive. The Texas Attorney General’s Office – which has represented the state and Commissioner Patterson during the legal proceedings -- said that beach photos provided by the Texas Chapter during a legal deposition in Austin two years ago, along with the Chapter’s fortuitous "adoption" of the mile of beach in question in 1998, were key events in the judicial process.
  • Beach Water Quality Notification in Corpus Christi Coastal Bend Chapter activists scored a major victory in 2008 when the Corpus Christi City Council unanimously passed a motion to implement beach water quality posting per the protocol of the Texas General Land Office's Texas Beach Watch Program. The Beach Watch Program signs are installed and Corpus Christi residents and tourists alike are now able to make informed decisions before swimming - or windsurfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, fishing or surfing - in the bay and Gulf waters.
  • The Texas Chapter was very active in working to prevent legislation that could have led to more coastal armoring on Galveston Island.
  • The Texas Chapter reported progress in their ongoing Texas Open Beaches Act campaign. A proposed 8-year moratorium on removing structures that were in violation the state's Open Beaches Act was cut to 2 years.

To see all of Surfrider Foundation's coastal victories and campaigns, go here.

State of the Beach Report: Texas
Texas Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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