Page Content

Coastal Construction Glossary

Decrease text sizeRestore default text sizeIncrease text size  Print this page

The backshore (dry beach) is inundated only by storm tides and the higher spring tides. The backshore also supplies sand to the dunes.

The beach extends from the mean low tide line to the line of natural vegetation along the shoreline.

Beach/Dune Construction
Causing or carrying out any building, bulkheading, filling, clearing, excavation, or substantial improvement to land or the size of any structure. “Building” includes but is not limited to, disposal of dredged materials. “Excavation” includes, but is not limited to, removal or alteration of dunes and dune vegetation and scraping, grading, or dredging a site. “Substantial improvements to land or the size of any structure” include, but are not limited to, creation of vehicular or pedestrian trails, landscape work (that adversely affects dunes or dune vegetation), and increasing the size of any structure. 

Beach/Dune Construction - Large-scale
Construction activity greater than 5,000 square feet or habitable structures greater than two stories in height. Both the area beneath the lowest habitable level of an elevated structure and a cupola (i.e., "widow's walk") with an area of 400 square feet or less on the top of the second habitable story are not considered stories for the purpose of this section. Multiple-family habitable structures are typical of this type of construction.

Beach/Dune Construction - Small-scale
Construction activity less than or equal to 5,000 square feet or habitable structures less than or equal to two stories in height. Both the area beneath the lowest habitable level of an elevated structure and a cupola (i.e., "widow's walk") with an area of 400 square feet or less on the top of the second habitable story are not considered stories for the purpose of this section. Single-family habitable structures are typical of this type of construction.

Beach/Dune Rules
Regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office for administering the requirements under the Open Beaches Act and Dune Protection Act. 

Beach/Dune System
The beach/dune system includes all of the land from the line of mean low tide to the landward limit of dune formation.

Beachfront Construction Certificate
The purpose of a beachfront construction certificate is to ensure construction neither encroaches upon the public beach, nor interferes with, or otherwise restricts, the public's right to use and have access to and from the public beach.

Coastal Construction
Coastal construction may consist of something as simple as repairs to an existing beach house to building a boat ramp or marina. Depending on the type of construction, a variety of permits are needed in addition to normal local government non-coastal related building permits. In general, the closer the building is to tidal waters of the Gulf of Mexico and excavation near or below mean high tide, the more permits will be needed.

Coppice Mounds
Coppice mounds, the initial stages of dune growth, are formed as sand accumulates on the downwind side of plants and other obstructions on or immediately adjacent to the beach. The mounds are a source of sand that is exchanged via water with offshore bars. Coppice mounds may become vegetated and eventually increase in height, becoming foredunes.

Critical Dunes
Critical dunes are all dunes (coppice mounds, foredunes, foredune ridges, and some backdunes) that store sand to replenish eroding public beaches.

Dune Protection Act
The Dune Protection Act and the Open Beaches Act require certain local governments to adopt and implement programs for the preservation of dunes and the preservation and enhancement of use of and access to and from public beaches. These Acts provide for regulation of generally the same activities and the same geographic areas, and their requirements are scientifically and legally related. Local governments required to adopt dune protection and beach access programs shall integrate them into a single plan consisting of procedural and substantive requirements for management of the beach/dune system within their jurisdiction. The authority to integrate such plans is provided pursuant to the Dune Protection Act and the Open Beaches Act. The local government plans shall be consistent with the requirements of the Open Beaches Act and the Dune Protection Act. (From the Texas Administrative Code)

Dune Protection Line
A line established by a local government to preserve dunes located on the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico. It may be set no farther than 1,000 feet landward of mean high tide. Special criteria apply to construction activities seaward of this line.

Dune Protection Manual
The DPM is a publication that provides information related to the beach/dune system and provides detailed guidance for dune restoration projects and the construction of dune walkovers. The manual also provides general information related to dune impacts from drainage patterns and the construction of access roads. The DPM discusses appropriate dune restoration methods including installing sand fences, planting dune vegetation, and importing sand from an offsite source. A list of related federal, state, and local laws and regulations are provided as well as contact information for local, state, and federal entities.

Dune Protection Permit
The purpose of a dune protection permit is to protect dunes and dune vegetation from adverse effects resulting directly or indirectly from construction in a critical dune area or seaward of the dune protection line.

Foredunes (also called fore-island dunes or primary frontal dunes) are the first clearly distinguishable, vegetated dune formations landward of the water. They are also the first to dissipate storm-generated wave and current energy. Although foredunes may be large and continuous, they typically are separate rounded knolls.

Foredune Ridge
The foredune ridge is high, continuous, and well stabilized by vegetation. This ridge normally rises sharply landward from the foredune area but may rise directly from a flat, wave-cut beach immediately after a hurricane. The foredune ridge helps block storm surge and prevents it from washing inland.

The foreshore (wet beach) is the area affected by normal daily tides.

Public Beach
A public beach is any beach, whether publicly or privately owned, extending inland from the line of mean low tide to the natural line of vegetation bordering on the Gulf of Mexico to which the public has acquired the right of use. This definition does not include a beach that is not accessible by a public road or public ferry.

Texas Coastal Zone Boundary
The Texas coastal zone is generally the area seaward of the Texas coastal facility designation line, up to three marine leagues into the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas coastal facility designation line roughly follows roads that are parallel to coastal waters and wetlands generally within one mile of tidal rivers. The boundary encompasses all or portions of 18 coastal counties.

Texas Open Beaches Act
The Texas Open Beaches Act is a state law that was enacted in 1959 to guarantee unrestricted public access to beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. The law is based on the principle that Texas beaches belong to all Texans. The Land Office acts as the steward of the law, assisting the Attorney General in protecting the public easement.

Links to Additional Resources


Rajiv Vedamanikam
Upper Coast
Rajiv Vedamanikam
Natalie Bell
Middle Coast & Lower Coast
Natalie Bell
Jason Pinchback
Jason Pinchback