Nearly 10 years after Hurricane Ike hit Galveston, waterfront officials are still waiting on about $30 million in federal recovery money.
As Port of Galveston officials wait for that money to arrive, the problems caused by Hurricane Ike haven’t gone away and the port is forced to fix them itself or work around them, said John Peterlin, senior director of marketing and administration.
When Hurricane Ike hit the island on Sept. 13, 2008, it caused damage to many of the port’s docks and property to the tune of $119 million, said Asad Khan of Tetra Tech, a consulting firm the port hired to help navigate the FEMA reimbursement process.
Insurance costs covered about $55 million in recovery work and the Federal Emergency Management Agency was initially projected to cover about $40 million, Khan said.
FEMA officials did an initial assessment of port damages and paid about $12.5 million, Khan said. The rest of the funding is caught up in a lengthy administrative process.
The process usually takes about 16 years, Khan said.
“FEMA was involved for the first three months and then the funds were released to the state,” Khan said. “Over 147 people have come to assist the port through the process, whether they be from FEMA or the state or different consulting groups. Every time someone new shows up, you have to educate them on the history and it slows the process down.”
“We’re on the phone with the Texas Department of Emergency Management on a weekly basis,” Khan said.
While the port now negotiates directly with state officials when it comes to much of the reimbursement, it still must go to FEMA officials when it needs to discuss appeals of decisions, Khan said.
There is no firm date on when the port might expect to receive the rest of the FEMA money and so port officials have had to move ahead on the most important projects, Peterlin said.
Port officials have spent about $1.7 million on work at Pier 10, $1.6 million on the cruise walkway across Harborside Drive and about $1.8 million on Pier 15, Khan said. FEMA has only reimbursed the port for the Pier 15 project.
And the work isn’t all done.
“There are some issues with the cruise terminals that are of concern and we would like to be able to fix,” Peterlin said. “But it’s very expensive work created by storm-induced erosion and we’d have to do demolition to get to the area to fix it. And some of the repairs would be close to the terminal buildings themselves.”
The process the port is going through for reimbursement is not unusual and that many other entities in Galveston County are experiencing the same thing, Khan said.
But with the port forced to foot the bill for major projects in the interim, it is causing many financial issues that are only more complicated by consulting payments, Peterlin said.
FEMA will eventually reimburse the port for those expenses as well, but the delays are difficult, Peterlin said.