New GLO Policy: Stealing, ruining public lands, water apparently Okay

Published 11:58 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Editorial By Tom Bell

If someone borrowed your car and brought it back with scratches on the door and a flat tire, you would probably be pretty bent out of shape by it. And rightly so.
But what if that person took your car without even asking first?
That is basically the situation we have in the Bessie Heights Marsh today. Right now, a reckless, renegade fleeting company is parking up to 60 barges up in the banks of the marsh causing who knows how much damage to the plants and wildlife habitat on a daily basis. And they are doing this without a permit and without paying the State a dime for using public lands.
Meanwhile the General Land Office, which is the state agency responsible for enforcing, permitting and safeguarding our public waters, has turned a blind eye and given these carpetbaggers a free pass.
It’s hard to know which is more unbelievable: that any company would be so brazen as to claim public land and waters for their own private use and profit, or that the government entity responsible for enforcing the law would so completely fail in discharging their clear duties.
After all, millions of our tax dollars – both state and federal – have been spent trying to restore lost marshland there in Bessie Heights, one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the State of Texas.
In fact, state biologists in recent decades have mounted a sustained effort to add marsh plants. Just one such planting effort in 2002 cost $750,000 of our tax dollars, according to media reports.
And last year, these planting efforts got a big shot in the arm when it was announced that British Petroleum was including the area in a $960,000 grant for marshland restoration.
What makes the present situation all the more outrageous is the fact that there is plenty of land along the Neches – outside of this environmentally sensitive area – that this careless company could lease. Rather than essentially squatting on public property, they could run a safer, more responsible operation elsewhere.
Apparently, that’s not how this reckless company does business. Their representatives admit they haven’t even done an environmental impact study or pay for their use of public property.
This matters because accidents happen in the energy transportation business. The most recent example came over the Memorial Day weekend when a pipeline spill shut down parts of the Neches River for several days. Accidents involving barges also happen, and the barges parked in the Bessie Heights Marsh would, as a matter of routine, be carrying dangerous and toxic materials such as benzene, toluene, xylene, ethylene, and other chemicals.
Over a decade ago, another fleeting company tried to pull the same stunt – putting profits before precious natural resources like the Bessie Heights. We beat it then, and we will fight to beat this latest lawlessness too.
We simply cannot allow this untenable situation to evolve unchallenged, so a band of concerned residents is reconstituting the Citizens for the Preservation of Bessie Heights to fight this reckless encroachment on public waters. If you share these concerns, please go to to sign up and join our cause.
Just as we would never let someone steal and ruin our car, we should and will speak up while a selfish and short-sighted company steals and damages our public lands and waters. This land is our land; not theirs.

As head of The Citizens for the Protection of Bessie Heights Marsh this is my thoughts about the fleeting company parking barges in Bessie Heights.