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Commissioners concerned with using Bessie Heights Marsh for fleeting area


Last updated 6/14/2016 at Noon

A wetlands area known for its natural beauty and delicate eco-system was a point of discussion during commissioners court on Tuesday afternoon.

The Orange County Commissioners met in a regular scheduled session on Tuesday afternoon to take care a variety of regular business, but also to address a matter involving an unidentified company beginning to use the Bessie Heights Marsh as a fleeting area, or staging area, for numerous barges and push boats.

"The Bessie Heights Marsh is an integral part of Orange County," said Jody Crump, Orange County Commissioner of Precinct 4. "It's a protected area and millions of dollars have been spent to restore it over the years. It's well known for its fishing, hunting and for its birding and it serves as a natural watershed. I'm concerned about the damage that can be done to this area by using it as a fleeting area."

According to Crump, a total of 38 vessels, from barges to push boats, are already being stationed in and using more than 28 acres of the Bessie Heights Marsh and many are already encroaching on shoreline areas which are of great concern.

"This company has never come to see (Commissioners Court) and all of the meetings were in Jefferson County," Crump added. "We have not seen any documentation from this group or any environmental studies on what the impact will be to these wetlands."

Orange County Judge Brint Carlton was opposed to the current situation as well and believes there is need to rectify the matter.

"We've tried to improve economic development in Orange County and we want businesses to come hre, but there appears to be a lack of information on the environmental impact and economic impact would be for using the marsh as a fleeting area," Carlton stated. "I would like to see some supporting documentation. We have a lot of questions that need answers at this point."

John Banken, Orange County Commissioner of Precinct 3, concurred.

"We are not opposed to business, but there has been millions of dollars spent on this march area and we need to preserve it," Banken said. "I'm very opposed to this."

Orange County Commissioners then approved a resolution which basically states the Commissioners Court is against the unidentified company using the Bessie Heights Marsh in such a way, at this current time, since no meetings have taken place or information has provided to the commissioners. It also stated the need to involve state and federal officials in such decision making to help guarantee the protection of such vital areas.

Crump said Representative Dade Phelan (Texas -District 21) is now becoming involved this matter and is attempting to help resolve this matter as well.

"We just want some transparency on this situation," Crump added. "We've not been involved in any discussions or meetings and that's what we want. We are requesting documentation and some meetings. That is why we approved the resolution because we want to have agencies like the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) involved in matters like this too."


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