The relaxation of state regulations after Hurricane Harvey has allowed Texas coastal communities to undertake nearly a dozen dune reconstruction projects.
Galveston can authorize emergency beachfront repairs until at least Jan. 3, including for dunes damaged by the storm, the Galveston County News reported .
The Texas General Land Office usually makes the final decision on applications collected by the city, but it issued an emergency rule in September suspending its own oversight to speed up post-hurricane repairs.
The emergency rules don’t allow for new dune construction, but instead allows groups to restore dunes to the state they were in before the hurricane, said Brittany Eck, spokeswoman for the land office.
Eck said cities still have to ensure applicants adhere to the permit requirements.
“The homeowners must still get the permit through the local entity, but the GLO does not have to review it for approval to be granted,” she said. “The rules regulating these improvements are still in place.”
Galveston was largely spared from major destruction, but several groups in the city’s West End said the dunes in their neighborhoods were almost wiped out by Harvey’s storm surge and runoff. They said the lack of adequate dune structures puts public and private structures at risk.
“This is a matter of protecting infrastructure there,” said Chris Robb, president of the Pirates Property Owners Association. “If we don’t do this, we are going to lose roads.”
The city has approved less than a dozen applicants for dune repairs so far.
Hernan Botero owns the beach maintenance company Beachside Environmental, which is doing several of the dune projects for neighborhood associations and condominiums. Botero said the work is environmentally necessary, especially as tides rise in the coming years.
“If we get another Harvey or another Ike or something worse, there’s not going to be anything here,” he said. “You need these dune systems to be able to protect the buildings.”