When "Ocean View" Suddenly Becomes "On the Beach": Texas Supreme Court Tackles Rolling Easements

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Under Texas law, the public has an easement to access dry beaches. This easement extends landward to the vegetation line. A recent Texas Supreme Court case examined the validity of the easement when a hurricane suddenly alters the beachfront.

The property owner had constructed a house behind the vegetation line in the West Beach area of Galveston Island. Hurricane Rita caused sudden and dramatic beach erosion and the house was now seaward of the vegetation line. When the state attempted to enforce the public easement, the property owner initiated litigation in federal court arguing that the state was engaged in an unconstitutional “taking” of private property. Ultimately, the Fifth Circuit certified a question to the Texas Supreme Court regarding whether the public beach access easement “rolled” into previously unencumbered private property when storms altered the shoreline.

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