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...A 1959 law known as the Texas Open Beaches Act. Under the law, the strip of beach between the average high-tide line and the average low-tide line is considered public property, and it is illegal to build anything there.
Over the years, the state has repeatedly invoked the law to seize houses in cases where a storm eroded a beach so badly that a home was suddenly sitting on public property. The aftermath of Ike could see the biggest such use of the law in Texas history.
(excerpt from the "Texas Open Beaches Act")
61.013. "It is an offense against the public policy of this state for any person to create, erect, or construct any obstruction, barrier, or restraint that will interfere with the free and unrestricted right of the public, individually and collectively, lawfully and legally to enter or to leave any public beach or to use any public beach or any larger area abutting on or contiguous to a public beach if the public has acquired a right of use or easement to or over the area by prescription, dedication, or has retained a right by virtue of continuous right in the public."...
"No person may display or cause to be displayed on or adjacent to any public beach any sign, marker, or warning, or make or cause to be made any written or oral communication which states that the public beach is private property or represent in any other manner that the public does not have the right of access to the public beach as guaranteed by this subchapter."...
"The attorney general shall strictly and vigorously enforce the prohibition against encroachments on and interferences with the public beach easement. The attorney general shall develop and publicize an enforcement policy to prevent and remove any encroachments and interferences on the public beach. The land office may assist the attorney general in enforcing this subchapter."...
"I don't like it one bit," said Phillip Curtis, 58, a Dallas contractor who owns two homes -- a $350,000 vacation home and a $200,000 rental -- on Galveston Island's Jamaica Beach. "I think the state should allow us to try to save the houses. I don't appreciate the state telling people, `Now it belongs to us.' It breaks your heart."
The former state senator who wrote the law had little sympathy.
"We're talking about damn fools that have built houses on the edge of the sea for as long as man could remember and against every advice anyone has given," A.R. "Babe" Schwartz said.
Those whose homes were destroyed can collect insurance. But it is unclear whether those whose undamaged homes are condemned under the Texas law will get any compensation, from the state or anyone else. Land Office spokesman Jim Suydam said the agency used to offer people up to $50,000 to move, but he didn't know if that fund still exists.
Rebuilding the eaten-away beaches does not appear to be an option. [A.R. "Babe"] Schwartz said that the Gulf of Mexico does not deposit sand on Galveston Island and other nearby beaches, and that trucking in huge amounts of sand would not work, because storms would just wash it away within a year or two.
The law was enacted when there were far fewer houses on the Texas coast. In fact, there are lot more houses on the coast now than there were in 1983, during Hurricane Alicia, the last time the law was invoked against large numbers of homeowners. Many of the beach homes on Galveston and other nearby beaches are second homes, many of them rather modest.
Schwartz said the area's homeowners should not be surprised.
"Every one of them was warned of that in their earnest money contract, in the deed they received, in the title policy they bought," he said. "And whether you like it or not, neither the Constitution of the United States nor the state of Texas nor any law permits you to have a structure on state-owned property that's subject to the flow of the tide."
"No one has ever succesfully ever beaten the state when the state comes after you under the Open Beaches Act," said Charles Irvine, a Houston coastal law attorney. "But everyone still tries to think up innovative arguments."
Historically Texans drove along the beach for miles, and in some cases the beach was used as a roadway between coastal communities; therefore, driving and parking along the beach developed into a cultural phenomenon which is still popular today. In truly Texas fashion, the impetus of the OBA had roots in the oil industry involving disputes over mineral right ownership. Beachfront and bay-front landowners contested the common law property boundary that established the line of vegetation as the state lands boundary. The Luttes vs. State Supreme Court ruling changed the boundary between beachfront private property and state owned submerged lands to the Mean High Tide Line. Once this ruling was made, beachfront landowners began onstructing fences and barriers to restrict vehicular access on the beach, and consequently the public responded
It is estimated that the population will nearly double to 43 million in the next 50 years, according to Texas Water Development Board’s 2007 State Water Plan.
with discontent. The state legislature took action in a special session by enacting the
OBA in 1959. The OBA merely defined the public’s common law rights, and did not
give the public ownership nor did it create rights in private property, but rather it
described the existing rights for public easement across private land. Littoral owners actually hold title to the dry beach above Mean High Tide (MHT), but if the public historically used and accessed the beach then they maintained that right of access
OBA History Link
In Texas — and, to varying degrees, in other states — the beach is essentially a park.
Public vs. Private
As former Texas legislator A. R. "Babe" Schwartz puts it, "You can't go out and build a house on a state park." And, he adds, you can't keep a house on a state park even if the house was there first and the park moved under it.
Schwartz is an author of the Texas Open Beaches Act, a 50-year-old law that declares the beach a public way.
"If you've got any piece of your structure on what is state land," he says, "then you're not entitled to keep it there."
The Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office (GLO) is tasked under the Texas Open Beaches Act (OBA), (found in Chapter 61, Natural Resources Code), with protecting the public’s common law beach easement, from the line of vegetation seaward to the line of mean low water. The fact that erosion and storm events have caused structures to lie on the public beach has created a situation where the interests of the property owners conflict with the public’s right to access and use the beach. The problem of houses ending up on the public beach because of erosion and weather events poses a difficult issue for the commissioner of the GLO. Many, if not all, such houses were built behind the line of vegetation, but the forces of nature moved the beach landward, leaving the houses on the beach. The OBA provides for mandatory disclosure concerning the real risk that coastal property may end up on the beach and be subject to removal. However, many property owners claim that they did not read the disclaimer or did not pay attention to it because it was one of many legal documents provided to them at closing. In order for purchasers of real property near the beach to rationally assess the high risk that the property may end up on the beach, additional disclosures made prior to closing might raise this issue before the mortgage is arranged and the transfer of title is imminent.
The Commissioner of the GLO also enforces the Dune Protection Act (DPA), (found Chapter 63, Natural Resources Code). The DPA authorizes the GLO and coastal local governments to regulate and prohibit activities that would adversely affect dunes and dune vegetation seaward of the local government’s established dune protection.
Originally posted by adrenochrome
reply to post by roadgravel
i'd really like to know who's gonna be getting all the money they make from all these fines and whatnot. also, what exactly is that money going to be used for?
'The bureaucracy is expanding to fulfuill the needs of the expanding bureaucracy. Not only this, but governments are now grabbing land to give to contractors for building malls, and other 'public interest' projects. Further, they are also STEALING a lot of land, by literally planting, oh say- one marijuana plant on your acre, or 20 acres. Then they send themselves an anonymous tip that the drug they just planted is there, and they sieze the property, and the owner has no rights to fight it in court. Done deal. End of story. End of justice. End of democracy. This is occuring all over the US now, it is not just a 'possibility'. Maybe if you post some conspiracy blogs that expose and offend them, they will go after you. Can and do.
Originally posted by adrenochrome
reply to post by Simplynoone
i remember seeing these signs just about everywhere around Galveston...
is this actually proof that local law enforcement is promoting illegal activity??? all beaches are public according to this Act, right? will the local police come down and send me on my way or fine me for "trespassing" on the beach, or will the state be on my side?
what does everyone think would happen in this scenario?
Originally posted by maintainright
eh I'm not really sure where the conspiracy is here
if someone has bought a house on an eroding piece of coastline, and eventually the house ends up being on the beach, well, I'm pretty sure, pretty soon, it's gonna end up being under water.
End result is the same, bye bye house