Commissioners: Bessie Heights Marshland needs to be preserved

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, June 15, 2016

By Dawn Burleigh

Concerns for the Bessie Heights Marsh Fleeting area prompted Orange County Commissioners Court to pass a resolution during the Tuesday afternoon meeting.

“Millions of dollars have gone in to restoration efforts for the Bessie Heights Marshland,” Commissioner Pct. 4 Jody Crump said. “Two public comments meetings were held in Jefferson County, but nothing here.”

Crump said he contacted the General Land Office concerning the fleeting area and was sent two images.

“There are 38 barges out there right now,” Crump said. “Some are in grassy areas now. I am concerned about this issue.”

The court stressed being pro business but also all agreed the need to preserve the marshland.

“I am concerned about damage to the march and we were not approached,” Crump said. “The time to accept public comments expired Friday.”

Commissioner Pct . 3 John Banken reiterated concerns the county was not notified.

“I am opposed to this. How are they going to park in a small area,” Banken said. “I am against dredging more of the marsh.”

Orange County Judge Stephen ‘Brint’ Carlton said he understood the need to improve economic development.

“In this instance, I agree. There is a lack of documentation to show an environmental study, or economic impact,” Carlton said. “We are trying to become a destination spot for fishing. I would hate to see a negative impact on parks and wildlife.”

Commissioner Pct . 1 David Dubose pointed out the importance of the marshland during the March flooding.

“The marsh absorbed water from the floods,” Dubose said.

The court agreed documentation and a presentation were needed to provide further information concerning the fleeting area.

Commissioner’s Court of Orange County, Texas recognizes that establishing a fleeting area in close proximity to the Bessie Heights Marsh could pose a threat to the vital environmentally sensitive wetland.

Whereas, lastly, the Commissioner’s Court of Orange County, Texas recognizes that the process of permitting and leasing coastal public land should be more transparent, and acknowledge a need for more input from local elected officials, local governmental bodies, as well as members of the public. We also recognize the importance of producing documentation and environmental impact studies to local elected officials, and local governments, as to how a proposed fleeting area could impact the wetlands in which they are seeking to lease, according to the resolution passed by the court.