Beach erosion already visible after first 2024 storm leaves its mark in Galveston

"That's actually a natural phenomenon -- the dunes are acting exactly how they should be, so they are the first line of defense, the sacrificial structure."

Beach erosion already visible after first 2024 storm leaves its mark in Galveston

BOLIVAR PENINSULA, Texas — As flooding receded on the Gulf Coast, signs of Tropical Storm Alberto's impact on Bolivar Peninsula started to show in the form of erosion.

Water was still high along Crystal Beach on Friday, but as Alberto churned in the Gulf earlier in the week, the rough surf and waves hitting the dunes cut deep, at times sending sheets of sand back into the water.

"The dune is there and it provides sand for the beach. That's actually a good thing for the beach -- if there is a dune there," Texas A&M Galveston Professor Timothy Dellapenna said.

He said the recent storm brought up the tide and cut the dunes at the toe. He said that's not generally an issue, but there is a problem that requires our attention. He said research shows Galveston sea levels have risen 1.5 feet over the last 70 years.

"The big issue is there's not a lot of sand available in the Gulf of Mexico for beach nourishment," Dellapenna said. "So, it's really critical here that we address this issue because as sea level rise, we continually lose the beach."

Unlike other waterfronts around the country, experts said it's hard for new sand to make its way to the beaches along our coast because the flow of sand gets caught up upstream from the beach at Galveston Bay.

"It can be a challenge if there's not enough sediment in the system, which is why our agency is working really hard to identify sediment sources," Texas General Land Office Deputy Director Angela Sunley said.

On average, she said we see about 4 feet of land erosion every year.

"That's actually a natural phenomenon -- the dunes are acting exactly how they should be, so they are the first line of defense, the sacrificial structure," Sunley said.

Dellapenna said that in terms of how bad the erosion will be this year, it's hard to tell as each storm is different and can have a different impact.

The Texas General Land Office is bringing crews out next week to assess the beach and the condition of the dunes. They're also assisting local jurisdictions with clean-up here along the coast.

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