- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - Regulators have decided that oyster leaseholders in Galveston Bay and elsewhere in Texas must pay $20 per acre each year for use of submerged state land.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission originally proposed $60 per acre. The most recent rate had been $6 per acre annually, the Galveston County Daily News (https://bit.ly/2fvm96A ) reported Tuesday.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department official Lance Robinson said the commission decided on the lower rate after oyster leaseholders protested. The price increases were intended to help cover the state’s cost of operating the lease program, mainly enforcement, after the state auditor’s office said $60 an acre is the required amount to maintain the program. The protesters said the price increase would be damaging to the oyster industry after years of environmental tolls on the oyster fishery.

Galveston Bay has 43 privately held leases, held by oyster harvesters through the parks and wildlife department. The leases account for a total of approximately 2,300 acres.

Robinson said while the $20 rate won’t be able to cover the lease enforcement costs, so the wildlife department’s operating budget will need to cover that instead.

The commission renewed the lease program for 15 years, but will review pricing every three years. Current leases will expire at the end of February 2017, which is when leaseholders will have to pay the new rate to renew their lease.

Texas oyster reefs are still recovering from when Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, plus drought and flooding in recent years.

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Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, https://www.galvnews.com


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