Energy & Environment

Looking To Holland To Find More Sand For Galveston Island

Galveston Island is trying a new way to make its beaches bigger.

Backhoe working on beach renourishment project on Galveston Island

For years, sand has been returned to eroded beaches and dunes on Galveston Island by bulldozers and backhoes at a cost of millions of dollars. Now, a new idea: let Mother Nature do the work.

"If you put sand down you know it's going to move," says Galveston Island Park Board Director Kelly de Schaun.

She says they're looking at a way to put that thought to work, the idea that sand naturally moves. It's the basis for an experiment underway on the North Sea coast of the Netherlands.

A few years ago, the Dutch dumped tons of sand in one spot on the coast. Now, they're finding that waves and tides naturally move the sand and deposit back along a beach. So sand piled in one spot might continually restore an entire beach for possibly 20 years, negating the need to spread the sand every five years or so with all those bulldozers and backhoes.

"We've been looking at that model and are currently entered into a project that we just started with Texas A&M," says de Schaun.

De Schaun says the project will take a few years to develop and will be located on the west end of the seawall, a point of bad erosion that Hurricane Ike threatened to actually breach.

But will it work? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is experimenting with dumping sand just off the edge of South Padre Island according to the Corps' Sharon Tirpak. She told a legislative committee last week: "We have placed it just off shore of South Padre Island and it has continued to go ahead build some of the beaches. so we're kind of testing the theory out a little bit."

Testing a theory that says if nature can take sand away, maybe it can return it too.

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Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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