Jurors in Galveston have handed a major legal victory to the oyster companies fighting a major takeover of Galveston Bay.
After a two-day trial in Judge Lonnie Cox’s 56thDistrict Court, the oyster fisherman were awarded nearly half a million dollars in legal fees in their fight against S.T.O.R.M., an oyster company that tried to orchestrate the lease of half of oyster beds.
To this day, the Chambers-Liberty County Navigation District has refused to rescind their lease to STORM for 23,000 acres of Galveston bay bottom. Several courts have ruled the lease illegal, and Judge Cox was instrumental in stopping STORM from harassing other oyster boats when he ruled the bid to control Galveston Bay Oyster reefs was illegal last year. The trial was set to assess whether the oyster companies could recoup legal fees.
“This was an illegal lease from the start,” says attorney Cris Feldman of Houston based law firm Feldman and Feldman. “STORM sought to take control of the public resources that belong to all Texans. They threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of Texas fishermen. Today’s ruling goes a long way to begin to repair the damage to their businesses.”
S.T.O.R.M. or Sustainable Texas Oyster Resource Management is a company created by Ben Nelson and Tracy Woody of Smith Point. Nelson was a political power broker in Chambers County, and Woody is a local Justice of the Peace.
“We are honored to have helped expose this political deal and the damage it has done to the Texas oyster crop,” says Feldman.
During this long fight oyster companies were afraid to plant the material needed to create new oyster beds. The oyster population in Galveston Bay was already at risk because of recent tropical weather.