CREWS NOW PUMPING REPLACEMENT BEACH SAND ALONG GALVESTON SHORELINE The Galveston.com Sand Cam was pointed east yesterday morning to capture the action as work crews pumped a slurry of sand from the Big Reef area on the northern end of the barrier island onto the beaches along the seawall, as part of a $19.5 million project intended to add between 100 and 150 feet of beach back to the eroded shoreline. A few smaller sand-adding projects have taken place over the last few years, winning a nod from the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association; Kelly de Shaun of the Galveston Parks Board tells Harvey Rice that this round of sanding is proactive maintenance, unlike the sand trucked in back in 2009 after Hurricane Ike paid a visit to the island. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Galveston seawall: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool
STATE LEADERS LOOK TO BAN PROPOSED GALVESTON BAG BAN, STOP LOCAL CALIFORNIA-IZATION Members of Galveston’s city council expect to vote next year on a ban on plastic bags, writes Harvey Rice this week — and also expect the state government to try to overturn that ban, whether by lawsuit or through new legislation. Proponents of the ban note that the bags frequently make their way into the water around the island, where they may start new careers decorating the local beaches or killing birds and turtles that try to eat them. Rice notes that top members of the state government believe, however, that the bigger problem is Texas cities being “California-ized” (as governor Greg Abbott called it) by their own locally-developed rules; this include the 2014 Denton fracking ban that inspired a no-local-oil-and-gas-regulations-allowed law last session, invalidating dozens of older municipal ordinances around the state. Attorney general Ken Paxton has also sued Brownsville over a fee on retailer bag use, and supports the ongoing lawsuit that put the brakes on Laredo’s recent bag ban (which in turn caused Port Aransas to quietly stop enforcing its own ban, until the Texas supreme court weighs in). The Chronicle‘s editorial board also notes that state senator Bob Hall from Edgewood in Northwest Houston has already filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session aimed at eliminating all local bag rules. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Galveston seagulls: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool
Atop the retail-harboring ground floor of this 1878 building now for sale in Galveston is a living space — or several, the listing suggests, if you’re willing to get creative. The 2-story mixed-use RF Martin & Company building at the southeast corner of 25th and Market streets (a few blocks south of the Strand, and of the Galveston Ship Channel cruise terminals) went up for sale early last week. The asking price is currently set at $1.4 million — though the listing says that can be offset by income from the street-level tenants (currently including eclectic cafe Eatcetera and stationary station Betsy by Design), or a potential conversion of the space into condos or a boutique hotel.
Here’s the view from Market St.:
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Market St. Market
NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATIONISTS TO GATHER IN HOUSTON, GAWK AT ASTRODOME The National Trust for Historic Preservation — that’d be the folks that coined the ‘orgy of irrational destruction’ line picked up by Save the Bungalows a few years back — is holding its annual conference in Houston for the first time, starting next Tuesday. Current president Stephanie Meeks cites the city’s “compelling preservation story,” amid a regional lack of preservation-minded rules and regulations, as a reason for picking the city. Planned field trip locales include the Astrodome (currently getting ready for that basement parking garage remodel), as well as Mission Control, the artsifying warehouses and industrial facilities around Washington Ave., and a handful of Galveston historic districts. Also on the docket: the debut of the organization’s Atlas of ReUrbanism (a digital collection of built environment data aimed public officials, reporters, and other city data scavengers), for which Houston is one of 5 starter cities. Would-be attendees can catch some conference sessions next Tuesday through Friday in the neighborhood of the newly-game-faced George R. Brown Convention Center; those who don’t want to make the trip downtown can watch some sessions at home. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of Astrodome: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool
EXCESSIVE GALVESTON BEACH BACTERIA PROBABLY NOT LEG-THREATENING, JUST FECAL, SAY OFFICIALS Scott Packard assures KHOU this week that the beach advisories put out by the Galveston County Health District lately aren’t related to flesh-eating strains of Vibrio bacteria — the agency has been fielding concerned phone calls in the wake of a Jacinto City man’s ongoing hospitalization and forced amputation due to a suspected Vibrio infection following a swim in Galveston with an open wound. But direct infection from seawater contact, while a perennial occurrence in Gulf Coast states, is nonetheless extraordinarily rare, Packard says. Rather, the beach advisories reflect above-standard measuremens of run-of-the-mill fecal bacteria: “Typically after periods of heavy rains [in] any recreational or coastal area, rain water will wash cattle waste, pet waste and some sewage overflows into the Gulf through rivers and streams, and that will make the levels spike for typically a day or so.” [KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Galveston Island sites with high bacteria levels: Texas General Land Office
That’s Galveston Island going for a dip in the before-and-after captures above, from a set of interactive timelapse maps released by the Texas Tribune and ProPublica yesterday (along with several articles by authors Kiah Collier and Neena Satija). The new maps model flooding across the Houston region during Hurricane Ike — as well as what would have happened if Ike had actually hit just south of Houston, as meteorologists initially expected.
The maps are your chance to relive an old disaster, or to see how many of your neighbors you can take out with a hypothetical-but-not-unrealistic future storm: users can pick between Ike, south-er Ike, a storm 15% stronger than Ike (nicknamed Mighty Ike), and a modeled 500-year storm (which the article suggests may actually be a concern on the every-few-decades-or-so level; ‘500-year’ has always meant ‘a low probability in any year’, and climate change is shaking up old modeling assumptions). The graphics also include a few dramatic face-offs: Mighty Ike and the 500-year storm VS. 2 of the miles-long multi-billion-dollar coastal protection projects being studied for the upper Texas coast.
You can even search for your home address in the map system to see what flood levels might look like in your own back yard. Here’s what the maps show happening to the Clear Lake, Seabrook, and League City areas at the peak of the 500-year storm model’s storm surge, which the article says is a “not if, but when” event:
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Hell and High Water
Down in Galveston, seafood-slash-southern-focused Harborside Mercantile is opening up for a preview this evening, after clearing some liquor licensing hurdles that set back the planned December startup. The restaurant, located at 2021 Strand St., is a collaboration between Richard Craig (whose 3-wheeled Hubcap Grill will be getting a 4th location inside IAH) and Joshua Martinez (owner of The Modular foodtruck and the former Chicken Ranch).
The Strand, buoyantly styled as the “Wall Street of the South” in the 19th century, was battered by fires, the Civil War, and numerous destructive hurricanes before sinking out of prominence and settling into life as a warehouse district; historical restorations in the 1960s paved the way for the district’s eventual resurgence as a tourist destination.
Photos: Harborside Mercantile
On the Island
A SEAWALL IN CANADA TAKES A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO COMBATING COASTAL EROSION Meanwhile, in Vancouver: Those familiar with Galveston’s frequent sand replenishment projects likely know that flat seawalls can exacerbate beach erosion by reflecting wave energy that would dissipate more readily in a natural sandy setting. In response so-called king tides pummeling the coast of Vancouver, a Canadian landscape artist collaborated with a biologist and engineers to address beach erosion in a new way. Blending principles of ecology, hydrology, and aesthetics, Metamorphous incorporates boulders, plant life, and an angular a steel structure intended to rust away altogether in less than 100 years. The functional public art piece slows the flow of water as it rushes inland, causing sand to be deposited on the beach for the first time in resident memory. [Citylab]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT ENDING FEDERAL FLOOD INSURANCE SUBSIDIES COULD DO FOR GALVESTON “Biggert-Watters would have destroyed the home market in many of Galveston’s West End beach communities. My wife and I were looking at homes just as the revised rate plan went into effect in late 2013. The quote I received for JUST FLOOD INSURANCE on a $250K house was $40,000 per year. As long as the government allows federally backed mortgages in these areas, they will have to subsidize the insurance rates. It really is that simple. If the rates aren’t subsidized, the market will collapse for these homes. It will be a vicious circle. Those that need a mortgage to afford a home won’t be able to afford insurance. Those who own a home with a mortgage won’t be able to afford insurance. Homes will only be marketable to cash buyers who can self-insure. How much would you pay for a home that you could only market via an owner-financed or cash transaction? A property that would essentially be unmarketable to buyers via traditional mortgage.” [Mike Honcho, commenting on Comment of the Day: Why You Can Get Flood Insurance in Houston] Illustration: Lulu