A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dive team spent Tuesday and Wednesday examining the area around the Moses Lake floodgates for Hurricane Harvey-related damage.
“When the gate opened after the storm, it dumped 50 inches of water through it,” said Joshua Hutchinson, a geotechnical civil engineer with the corps. “We weren’t able to know the full effects of that until now.”
The dive team was following a boat-based survey the corps completed after the hurricane, said Alicia Rea, an emergency management specialist for the group.
Once the dive team results and survey are complete, officials will be able to determine what repairs to make and put the work out for bids, Rea said.
Hurricane Harvey came through Galveston County in late August, causing massive flooding throughout the region.
The Moses Lake floodgates are part of Galveston County’s 16-mile Hurricane Protection Levee meant to prevent landward flooding from storm surges in Galveston Bay.
The levee is shaped roughly like a horseshoe. Its curved 23-foot wall faces east protecting Texas City and La Marque, several major roads, a large industrial water reservoir, the Texas City Prairie Preserve, Moses Lake, a major port and a host of chemical and petrochemical plants.
Divers on Wednesday were looking for evidence of scouring along the area on each side of the floodgates, said Steve England, a hydraulic engineer on the dive team.
Scouring occurs when sediment gathered around an underwater structure is removed, compromising the integrity of the structure, England said.
Officials won’t be able to make final determinations on how the floodgates fared during Harvey until the dive teams complete their studies in five to 10 days, but preliminary data showed some problems, Rea said.
Those weren’t substantial, however, he said.
“I definitely don’t think it will decrease the level of protection,” Rea said. “They are doing dive operations to confirm that. Better safe than sorry.”
Depending on the final results, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will seek one or two repair contracts on the floodgates, Rea said.
During an assessment about a year and a half ago, officials found rock displacement they attributed to Hurricane Ike, Rea said.
Officials should call for bids in the next 30 days, Rea said.
Then, once the results are back for Hurricane Harvey issues, officials could put out a second bid, Rea said.
“That normally takes five to six months,” Rea said. “You could see that come out right toward the end of summer.”