Idea of Texas Coastal Barrier Resurrected Post-Harvey

January 22, 2018

A study suggests if the Houston area continues to boom for 60 years and sea levels rise, a direct hit to Galveston from a massive hurricane could destroy $31.8 billion worth of homes, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Texas A&M researchers looked at possibly building a coastal barrier about 60 miles long from Galveston to Bolivar Peninsula. Experts say potential residential destruction from a storm surge would drop about 80 percent — to $6 billion, the Chronicle reported.

The idea for a coastal barrier has been floated since Hurricane Ike hit the Galveston area in 2008 but congressional funding remains a problem.

“The numbers make sense,” said state Sen. Larry Taylor, a Republican from Friendswood who’s tried for years to get federal funding for a coastal barrier. “This investment is going to pay for itself time and time again.”

After Hurricane Harvey struck in late August, Houston and state officials asked the federal government for $12 billion for a coastal barrier.

The Texas A&M study only looked at damage to homes and apartments from a storm surge — not flooding caused by rainfall — and excludes the potential harm to the region’s commercial buildings and ports.

Storm relief likely will become part of the negotiations for a 2018 spending bill aimed at funding the federal government, said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican.

GOP Congressman Randy Weber, of Friendswood, said some Republican lawmakers have pushed back against funding infrastructure as part of disaster relief, warning of a bad precedent. Weber said he hopes to get the coastal barrier included in an infrastructure package if efforts to include it in disaster relief ultimately fail.

“This is foolish for us to just keep paying for these disasters over and over and over again,” Weber said. “How about something to prevent this from happening on the next go around?”

Scientific studies have established an acceleration in sea-level rise because of a warming atmosphere. Coal and oil burning and the destruction of tropical forests have increased heat-trapping gases that have warmed the planet by 1.8 degrees since 1880.

Earth has been losing 13,500 square miles of ice annually since 1979, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sea levels are generally rising faster along the Texas Gulf Coast and the western Gulf than the average globally, according to a January 2017 study by NOAA.

By 2100, sea level is expected to rise between 1.3 feet and 31 feet, the NOAA study predicts; Galveston Island and most of the Texas coast would be swallowed up under the latter scenario.

Topics Texas

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