Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is calling on voters to replace the five members of the Texas Supreme Court who issued an opinion he says weakens the Texas Open Beaches Act.

 

The controversial ruling came in a lawsuit filed against the state by the owner of a Galveston beachfront house whose property ended up on the beach when the beach eroded during hurricanes of recent years.

The state Open Beaches law says the beach is open to the public, even if it beach erodes into private beach front property. The law has always been interpreted to mean the owner loses the property if the beach erodes into it.

The Texas Supreme Court says that's not true.  The ruling says "Public access ... ends if the beach is eroded by an "evulsive" event, such as a storm."

Land Commissioner Patterson says this decision will allow beach house owners whose property has eroded to put up fences to keep people off what has become their beach.  "We now have private beaches in Texas where the public can be excluded.''

"I think folks should remember this when it's time to vote."

Local and state officials are trying to make sense of this ruling. It does seem to contradict a law that's been taken for granted by generations of Texans, who take pride in the fact that, unlike beaches in other coastal states, all Texas beaches are public property and open to the public.