The Aransas County Navigation District hosted an “unofficial” public meeting regarding the Fulton Beach Road Flood (FBR) Hazard Mitigation Project Wednesday, July 15 at the saltwater pavilion. The hearing lasted almost two hours, with the first hour being a presentation by Mott MacDonald’s Luis Maristany and Aaron Horine. The second hour featured a question and answer period with property owners asking questions of the MacDonald representatives, and airing their concerns about the project.
(Note: The Fulton Beach Road Flood Hazard Mitigation Project has been reported about a number of times in The Rockport Pilot. Details of that project are not repeated in this story.)
The FBR project, as well as the Lamar Beach Road Flood Hazard Mitigation Project, is funded via FEMA 404 Hazardous Mitigation grants.
In a nutshell, the FBR project is a living shoreline design concept that includes offshore segmented breakwaters, new planting of various seagrasses, removal of existing concrete ruble, and roadway improvements, including raising FBR is the project area by one foot.
Each breakwater is between 100’ and 220’ in length, and is staggered.
A new drainage swale will be dug out on the west side of the roadway, and new drainage structures installed.
The benefits of the project include better erosion protection, a decreased frequency of roadway flooding, and creating better intertidal and upland vegetation habitats.
Horine noted work on FBR was initially part of the Live Oak Peninsula Shoreline Stabilization Plan in 2005. Funding for some of the projects included in that plan became available in 2010, and the county developed preliminary plans in 2012, however, funding ran out.
FBR was added to the Aransas County Resiliency Initiative in 2015, and then Hurricane Harvey happened.
Local Hazard Mitigation plans (eligible for federal funding) were included in the state’s Hazard Mitigation Plan, and therefore eligible for FEMA 404 Hazardous Mitigation grants.
The $3.1 million project is paid 75% with federal funds, and 25% local. However, the state is paying 75% of the 25% local match, which leaves close to $200,000 required from local funding.
Aransas County Project Manager John Strothman said the county is seeking funding from other areas to pay the local share.
Horine noted the current FBR plan was outlined on a number of occasions since October 2019, including at ACND, City of Rockport, and Town of Fulton meetings.
Maristany then reviewed the same material in a power point presentation, which was outlined at in previous meetings.
Prior to taking questions from the audience, he noted the goal is to begin the FBR project this winter, or early next year, with breakwaters and concrete demo completed first, followed by road improvements, shoreline fill and planting.
He pointed to Ransom Point, Shamrock Island, and Grassy Point as examples of similar projects.
Fulton Beach Road resident Scott Hime, a vocal opponent of the plan as presented, said, “There’s going to be someone else’s land between you and the water … there are so many things wrong with this.
“It’s (FBR) an iconic piece of our community and it will forever be changed.”
He said the Aransas County Long Term Recovery Team (LTRT) members aren’t bad people, but they don’t set public policy.
Hime also said the original Corps of Engineer’s permit (issued in May 2012, and recently extended through December 2022, with amendments still to be approved) called for a living shoreline only (no breakwaters).
He said everyone is in favor of doing something about shoreline erosion, and nobody wants to not get all the (federal) money available for such projects, but added, “Just go back to the drawing board and make the suit fit (i.e. – make it work for property owners and others).”
Hime said the current permit doesn’t fit the proposed plan.
“This job isn’t permitted,” he said. “We should voice our concerns.
“If we lose out on this money, it’s not the ACND’s or the LTRT’s fault. It’s that we didn’t get the permit addressed.”
Two young brothers addressed the crowd, saying the FBR project will change the way they get to fish.
“Wading and fishing from rocks is our only option,” said one of the brothers.
One man said he has observed the FBR shoreline for 70 years. He said, “They’re not planting grass (between the shoreline and breakwaters). They’re making a swamp.
“We aren’t going to wade out into a snake-infested swamp.”
The FBR project is broken into two sites: south, located between Traylor Boulevard and the Lighthouse Inn; and north, a similar length beginning north of the Fulton Convention Center – Paws & Taws to the area near Heron’s Roost.
A second phase of the project will continue similar work, from Heron’s Roost to near the Kontiki Resort.
Horine said his company is working to obtain the Corps permit for that work.
One woman said, “One of my concerns is it makes everything homogenous, like cookie cutter.
“The area is going to lose so much of its character. It makes me sad to think of what my view will be.”
Another man noted the primary purpose for the project is to protect FBR.
“Most, if not all the homes (in that area) are 15 feet (above sea level),” he said.
The man said property owners needed to be engaged with the second permit for phase 2 of the project.
Horine said the initial thrust of the project goes back to hazard mitigation, or making an area better than it was before.
“The breakwaters are the front line of defense (against erosion/flooding),” he said. “The plants further cuts down the wave action, and raising the road further protects (the shoreline).”
One man asked, “Don’t you think putting the breakwaters further out would work?”
He added, “It sort of kills the buzz I have for living here. I’m going to have a marshland in front of me.
“I’ve never seen breakwaters this close. Why not just bulkhead the whole thing?”
It was noted placing the breakwaters further out, or bulkheading the shoreline, will be too expensive, and not fit into what FEMA is looking for in such a project.
Maristany, addressing the suggestion that revetments would accomplish the same thing as breakwaters, said FEMA wouldn’t fund that plan.
He said FEMA projects must meet strict guidelines and are graded on cost/benefit analysis.
“This (plan shown) is custom designed for this shoreline,” said Maristany.
Another woman, addressing the “swamp” that will be created between the shoreline and breakwaters, said it smells bad when fishing certain areas around Ransom Point (one of the areas noted as a similar project).
Then the discussion veered in the direction of who will own any new land created.
Hime said, “If land accretes by manmade action it belongs to the state. If it accretes naturally, it belongs to you (if you can prove it).”
Maristany said Texas law is clear regarding new land.
“If land accretes, the public can use it,” he said.
Another man asked if there will be any requirements from organizations that help provide funds for the local match.
“Who have you asked (to help fund the local match)?” he asked.
Strothman said the CCA and Texas Nature Conservancy, among others.
Mary Hime said most of the people affected by the project didn’t know about it.
Maristany said they did the best they could contacting everyone.
Another woman said, “I’ve owned my property since 1962 and knew nothing about this until this afternoon.”
Who pays future maintenance costs was another question asked.
Maristany said there is very little maintenance with a project like this.
ACND Commissioner Tommy Moore said the plans for the FBR Project have changed, and added, “You can stabilize the shoreline a lot cheaper (i.e. – Mesquite Bay shoreline).
He said he has emailed county officials and has asked questions, but not received answers.
“The county attorney asked me why I needed the information,” said Moore.
ACND Chairman Malcolm Dieckow ended the meeting shortly after Moore’s comments, as voices began to rise, and people started talking over each other.