Kemah residents oppose proposed oyster reef

April 19, 2011 8:28:42 PM PDT
A business proposal in Kemah has an entire neighborhood upset. The plan is to build an oyster reef right off the coast along Kipp Avenue and those who live there say it'll ruin more than just the view from their homes.

This is a dispute that's not just about friction between neighbors, but about what's good for Galveston Bay as well. The argument centers over restoring oyster reefs.

If there's anything the neighbors on Kipp Avenue in Kemah agree on, it's that the Joiners and former Kemah Mayor Bill King don't get along.

"It has kind of destroyed our lives in our own home," neighbor Colene Joiner said.

"It makes no sense whatsoever," King said.

And a proposed oyster reef restoration project off King's shoreline is the latest thing the Kipp Avenue neighbors are fighting about.

The Joiners have gotten dozens of other people in the neighborhood to sign a petition against King's plans. They say they weren't told until the Texas General Land Office asked for their approval and say it was approved despite their objections.

The Oyster Reef Restoration Project is led by the Galveston Bay Foundation, which drew up the application filed by King to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Land Office.

"Mr. Joiner doesn't want to see oyster shell down at the bay. In my mind that's a pretty extreme case of what I call NIMBY (Not in My Backyard)," said Bob Stokes with the Galveston Bay Foundation.

There are dozens of artificial oyster reefs under the waves off the shore of San Leon not too far from Kemah installed after Hurricane Ike destroyed 50 percent of the natural oyster beds along the Texas Gulf coast.

"We put down about five to six inches of crushed concrete on these reef pads. Typical reef pad is about 200 feet long by 40 feet wide," said Bill Rodney with the Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Baby oysters are then laid on top and latch on.

King, who once served as the chair of the board of the Galveston Bay Foundation, says he just wants to see oysters flourish in Kemah like they do in San Leon.

"There is no rational objection that you can formulate to the bringing back of the natural environment of Galveston Bay," King said.

But the Joiners next door say they're trying to get the Texas General Land Office to revoke approval because they say the bed of concrete chunks will affect the view and the value of their waterfront property -- especially when the water washes out from time to time.

"Why can't it be somewhere where it doesn't destroy people's lives and property values? And almost every house along here has signed our petition," Colene Joiner said.

Not the case, says King.

"If you have a live oyster reef anywhere close your property, your property immediately becomes more valuable because the fishing dramatically improves," King said.

The Joiners say they have hired an environmentalist to evaluate the shore, and have gone to Congressman Ted Poe's office for help.

King in the meantime says the reef will go in sometime before June, and if his approval is revoked, he'll appeal.


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