Shoreline Changes between Sabine Pass and Bolivar Roads, An Analysis of Historical Changes of the Texas Gulf Shoreline

Historical monitoring between Sabine Pass and Bolivar Roads records the nature and magnitude of changes in position of the shoreline and vegetation line and provides insight into the factors affecting those changes. Documentation of changes is accomplished by the compilation of shoreline and vegetation line position from topographic maps, aerial photographs, and coastal charts of various vintages. Comparison of shoreline position based on topographic charts (dated 1882-83) and aerial photographs (taken in 1930, 1955-57, 1965, and 1974) indicates short-term changes of accretion and erosion along the Gulf shoreline between Sabine Pass and Bolivar Roads. Erosion produces a net loss in land, whereas accretion produces a net gain in land. Comparison of the vegetation line based on the aforementioned aerial photographs indicates short-term cycles of erosion related to storms (primarily hurricanes) and recovery during intervening years of low storm incidence. Long-term trend or direction of shoreline changes averaged over the 92-year time period of this study indicates that net accretion was 2,225 feet at Sabine Pass although there was no net change 2 miles west of Sabine Pass. Except for minor accretion associated with shoreline adjustment where the major change in orientation of the coast occurs west of Sabine Pass, net erosion dominated the shoreline from the preceding segment to approximately 3 miles east of Crystal Beach. Maximum net erosion was 2,900 feet or 31.5 feet per year; minimum net erosion was 100 feet or 1.1 feet per year. Net erosion for this segment over the 92-year time interval averaged 775 feet or 8.4 feet per year. Net accretion or equilibrium was recorded along the remaining beach westward from Crystal Beach to the east jetty at Bolivar Roads. Maximum net accretion for this segment, 2,575 feet, occurred just east of the east jetty; minimum net accretion for this segment was 25 feet. Because of limitations imposed by the technique used, rates of change are subordinate to trends or direction of change. Furthermore, values determined for long-term net changes should be used in context. The values for rates of net change are adequate for describing long-term trends; however, rates of short-term changes may be of greater magnitude than rates of long-term changes, particularly in areas where both accretion and erosion have occurred. Major and minor factors affecting shoreline changes include: (1) climate, (2) storm frequency and intensity, (3) local and eustatic sea-level conditions, (4) sediment budget, and (5) human activities. The major factors affecting shoreline changes along the Texas Coast, including the shoreline between Sabine Pass and Bolivar Roads, are relative sea-level rise, compactional subsidence, and a deficit in sediment supply. Changes in position of the vegetation line are primarily related to storms. Studies indicate that changes in shoreline and vegetation line between Sabine Pass and Bolivar Roads are largely the result of natural processes, perhaps expedited by man's activities. The only exceptions are accretion associated with the jetties at Sabine Pass and Bolivar Roads as well as erosion aggravated by the opening of Rollover Pass. A basic comprehension of these physical processes and their effects is requisite to avoid or minimize physical and economic losses associated with development and use of the coast.
Robert A. Morton

Morton, R. A., 1975, Shoreline Changes between Sabine Pass and Bolivar Roads, An Analysis of Historical Changes of the Texas Gulf Shoreline: The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, Geological Circular 75-6, 43 p.

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The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology
Geological Circular