A group of more than 50 Lamar residents voiced their questions and concerns over the proposed Lamar Beach Road (LBR) hazard mitigation project in a public meeting at the Lamar Volunteer Fire Department Friday, Sept. 11.
Representatives from Mott MacDonald began the meeting with a presentation covering what the project will entail, its purpose, and how it will affect property owners on LBR.
The project is a mostly grant funded one aimed to improve local conditions in an area identified as high risk to the impact of catastrophic storms, such as a hurricane. It’s meant to harden the shoreline to prevent loss of it, and prevent or reduce damages to roads and utilities.
This would be done by restructuring and raising LBR by one foot, and placing multiple natural oyster reefs around 400 feet from the shoreline as a breakwater.
It would be primarily funded by a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 404 Hazard Mitigation grant (25 percent local match).
The cost of the project is $5,818,474 with FEMA paying $4,363,855 of the cost. The state of Texas, due to SB-7, will pay 75 percent of the local match, which is $1,090,963; leaving the county with a match requirement of $363,654.
Aransas County has been searching for funding to meet the match requirement through different avenues such as Restore Act funds and the Rebuild Texas Foundation. They are currently awaiting a ruling on the use of Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funds. Borrowing funds is a last resort.
It is also meant to protect the shoreline against a ‘100 year storm’ and satisfy numerous conditions outlined by FEMA.
While some warmed up to the idea of the project, most individuals either opposed the project, or voiced critical concerns with it.
Over the course of two and a half hours, MacDonald representatives and Lamar residents exchanged dialogue.
Many residents questioned possible structural and geographical concerns with the elevated road and the natural oyster reefs.
“The major flaw I see with this (oyster reefs), when it comes through (natural water movement by wind direction from St. Charles Bay), when you haven’t engineered it correctly or if you haven’t taken into account our water movement, you’re going to create a funnel and pile up (sediment) into the boat ramp,” said one attendee.
“If most of the land, landward side, is higher than the road, why would you not just slope everything down to the bay instead of catching the water on purpose?” asked another attendee.
Other residents simply don’t want it.
“Even though we don’t want this (project), why do we have to have it?” Another attendee asked.
“It’s for protection,” Mott MacDonald Coastal Engineer Luis Maristany responded. “It’s to protect the community, improve the habitat, and eventually improve the overall resiliency of the community. That translates to property value; it can translate to insurance, flood insurance, things like that.
“That being said, if the people don’t want it, you’re not getting it;,it’s not happening. And if this doesn’t happen, my warning is, it’s not going to happen. Because FEMA, there giving us the opportunity to do this, if we turn this down at this point, the next possible time is after another (major) storm. And we’re still set to the same requirements.
“While there’s other options, you can’t get them funded. So it puts us in a situation where, we can make tweaks, but if we try and blow this thing out of the water and say ‘not do it,’ it’s not going to be done and Lamar Beach Road is going to be at-risk.”
Another meeting regarding the similar Shell Ridge Road hazard mitigation project is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18.