Idea of Texas Coastal Barrier Resurrected After Harvey

January 11, 2018

A new 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 reports.

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 Saturday.

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 to be considered later this month as part of 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?”

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