State and federal officials on Oct. 26 recommended a plan to protect the Texas coast from hurricanes — particularly the Houston area — with a barrier system made up of floodwalls, floodgates and seawall improvements that could cost up to $31 billion and offer storm surge protection.
The plan, part of a draft report put together by the Texas General Land Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, incorporates some ideas from proposals that were previously developed in the wake of 2008’s Hurricane Ike, which made landfall in Galveston and caused nearly $30 billion in damage. Most of the damage was due to storm surge, caused by storm winds pushing water onshore.
The proposal focuses on preventing storm surge from entering Galveston Bay, which leads into the Houston Ship Channel, home to some of the largest oil refineries in the world and 40 percent of the nation’s petrochemical industry.
The plan calls for 54 miles of levees, 20 miles of floodwalls and a variety of floodgates that would stretch from Bolivar Peninsula, west of Galveston, through Galveston Island. Improvements would also be made to Galveston’s existing seawall, which was built after the 1900 storm that killed more than 6,000 people.
The most expensive part of the new proposal is a series of gates, including a 1,200-foot floating gate, that would cost $5 billion to $6 billion and would close off during a storm an entrance between Bolivar and Galveston Island that eventually leads into the Houston Ship Channel.
The plan calls for 2.2 miles of dune and beach restoration in South Padre Island, a nd nine projects to restore, protect and enhance shorelines, marsh habitats and beaches and dunes along the coast.
The proposal borrows ideas from a project known as the coastal spine, or “Ike Dike,” which was proposed after Hurricane Ike by a Texas A&M University at Galveston professor, and from Rice University’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center.
Six meetings have been scheduled in November and December for the public to discuss the proposal. But even if approved, it could take more than 20 years before the plan becomes a reality.
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