by Bethany Blankley
May 27, 2021
Texas property owners have sued General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush and Attorney General Ken Paxton, alleging Bush violated state and federal law when he issued an order that “unconstitutionally and illegally takes, seizes, and deprives the plaintiffs of real property.”
The plaintiffs are represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed their case, Sheffield v. Bush, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Under longstanding Texas law, the state owns the areas of beaches between the average low and high tide lines. The land inland of the mean high tide line, which includes lots like those owned by the plaintiffs, is privately owned.
However, after Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Beta hit, instead of proposing ways to restore wiped out public beaches, like dredging or implementing other environmental measures in the Galveston area, Bush confiscated private land to extend access to public beach, according to the lawsuit.
On March 29, Bush unilaterally decreed that all land located 200 feet from the mean low tide line was a public beach. No local input or public comment period was given, the lawsuit maintains, and property owners were given no prior notice or compensation.
The GLO says it “conducted extensive beach surveys following the storms and determined that the line of vegetation had been completely obliterated in certain areas” after the storms and issued the order under the authority of Texas Natural Resource Code Sections 61.0171 and 61.0185.