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COASTAL ZONE

COASTAL ZONE. The Federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 provided that coastal states develop resource-management programs to regulate coastal resources. The act defines the coastal zone as "coastal waters...and adjacent shorelands...extend[ing] inland only to the extent necessary to control shorelands, the uses of which have a direct and significant impact on the coastal waters." The act further clarifies "shoreline" as the "line of mean high tide, as determined by tide gauges." The Texas legislature responded with the Coastal Public Lands Management Act of 1973, which more broadly defined the state's coastal zone as "the geographic area comprising all the counties of Texas having any tidewater shoreline, including that portion of the bed and waters of the Gulf within the jurisdiction of the State of Texas." That jurisdiction extends to the Gulfward boundary of the state, 10.35 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. Governor Dolph Briscoe directed the General Land Office to develop a coastal management program to be known as the Texas Coastal Management Program. A series of meetings subsequently held in coastal cities from Beaumont to Brownsville and as far upland as Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, however, revealed concerns extending far inland. Cattlemen, manufacturers, oil and gas interests, and environmentalists all had an important interest in the Coastal Plain. Moreover, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation, the Texas Water Resources Board, the Railroad Commission,qqv and other state agencies were involved in coastal management.

By 1975 the Texas Coastal Management Program had redefined the Texas coastal zone as "southwest along the coast from the Sabine to the Rio Grande, seaward into the Gulf of Mexico for a distance of 10.35 miles, and inland to include 36 counties." This zone is composed of eight geographic areas extending from the inner continental shelf to about forty miles inland. It includes all estuaries and tidally influenced streams and bounding wetlands. From north to south the areas are Beaumont-Port Arthur, Galveston-Houston, Bay City-Freeport, Port Lavaca, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, and Brownsville-Harlingen. The coastal zone as specified in 1975 includes 1,890 miles of waterfront. Of this, 74.6 percent is bays and estuaries and 373 miles faces the Gulf of Mexico. Eighty percent of the coast is behind a strip of barrier islands that include Matagorda, St. Joseph, Mustang, and Padre islandsqv. Except for three areas where the mainland is directly exposed to the Gulf, the islands and peninsulas form an almost continuous barrier shield, protecting the mainland from waves and storms. The total coastal zone comprises an area of more than 33,000 square miles. The coastal counties have one-third of the state's population, one-third of its economic activity, 40 percent of the national petrochemical industry, 25 percent of the national petroleum-refining capacity, and three of the ten largest seaports; yet they make up only about one-tenth of the total land area of the state. The zone is richly endowed with natural resources. Its mineral production, largely of oil and gas, has a value of nearly $1 billion a year. Another $156 million comes from commercial fisheries. The fertile soils along the coast produce agricultural products valued at $500 million a year. The beaches and waters attract about three million tourists who spend nearly $1.6 billion per year. In spite of the dangers from hurricanes and beach erosion, development in the coastal zone has been continuous and rapid since the end of World War II. Texas withdrew from the Federal Coastal Management Program in 1981 but continued to manage its coastal resources through the General Land Office.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Texas Coastal Legislation (Austin: General Land Office and Texas Coastal and Marine Council, 1984). Texas Coastal Management Plan, 1990–1991 (Austin: General Land Office, 1991).

Art Leatherwood

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Art Leatherwood, "COASTAL ZONE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/rrc16), accessed August 29, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.