GALVESTON

The city is preparing to start a pilot program for technology to ease street flooding, which is at best a nuisance for islanders and can damage cars and homes.

Initiatives such as adding backflow prevention devices to the drainage system are part of a wider plan to address flooding, particularly as the coast deals with the increasingly noticeable effects of climate change, including sea rise, City Manager Brian Maxwell said. City employees were out Monday testing a device to suck sediment out of storm drains to mitigate flooding.

Week after week, new scientific reports are published detailing the effects climate-related changes are already having on coastal communities. In Virginia, for instance, Norfolk and Virginia Beach residents, particularly those who live near the beach, have been grappling for several years with water flooding into their homes and cars during rains, according to numerous news reports.

Experts attributed those changes — at least in part — to sea rise, which is happening more rapidly between North Carolina and Massachusetts than anywhere in the world, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

In Galveston, intense precipitation — that is, heavy downpours as opposed to more gradual rainfall — is causing more acute drainage issues, said Wes Highfield, an associate professor at Texas A&M University at Galveston and associate director for research at the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores.

Scientists, including the state’s climatologist, attribute the greater frequency of downpours to climate change because the warmer air temperatures fuel more evaporation, Highfield said.

As the water comes down quickly, it’s more difficult for the drainage systems to clear it, so it backs up despite improvements to the city’s drainage infrastructure, Maxwell said.

“Even though we’ve made changes to improve the system, we’re seeing that when we get these rains it’s sometimes taking a longer time to drain,” Maxwell said.

The island hasn’t felt the effects of sea level rise as much as other coastal communities in the United States, particularly the Northeast and south Florida, Highfield said. But planners look at predictions for sea rise with trepidation about what’s already happening and what’s to come.

“There’s no denying that sea rise is real and we’re experiencing it,” Maxwell said.

Galveston has been eyeing changes it can make to address coastal flooding issues, Maxwell said. A federal program that offers lower flood insurance for property owners in cities who reduce flood risks could provide a carrot to make those changes, Maxwell said.

The pilot program, using the Swedish-company Wapro’s WaStop in line check valve, is one part of that. The system works by preventing back flow in stormwater drain lines, Maxwell said. The first device will be installed this month in a drainage line near 57th Street and Avenue Q, Maxwell said.

The city is trying the system at no cost, but if it works, the city plans to install more at an estimated cost of $3 million, Maxwell said.

The city also is exploring hiring a floodplain administrator and beefing up its staff that works on flooding issues, Maxwell said.

“These are all things we have to debate in order to keep ourselves viable and keep flood insurance from going through the roof,” Maxwell said.

Those changes could also gain some political support because they could lead to lower flood rates, Highfield said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which manages the National Flood Insurance Program, in 1990 created a community ratings system. The system allows communities to earn points by taking steps to mitigate flooding and reduces rates for all property owners based on a point system for what changes the community makes, Highfield said.

The program incentivizes initiatives such as freeboarding — elevating structures above the water line — and upgrading drainage infrastructure, Highfield said. Communities also get credit for things such as developing a flood warning system, he said.

Galveston is one of about 1,500 coastal communities that participates in the community ratings system, Highfield said, and the proposals the city is making could help earn more points. There are about 23,000 coastal communities across the country where residents purchase federal flood insurance.

Planning and implementation for flood mitigation has to be local, although funding for it sometimes can be tapped at the local or state level, Highfield said.

That can be a big help, Maxwell said.

“The biggest challenge is always money,” he said.

“The biggest challenge, too, is going to be what happens globally with actual sea rise: Is this going to be something we experience for 50 years and it starts to diminish or are these issues going to get bigger? But in the world of things we can control we need to try to keep ahead.”

Marissa Barnett: 409-683-5257; marissa.barnett@galvnews.com

(30) comments

PD Hyatt

Galveston and Texas City have had flooding problems since the late 60's and befroe....lClimate Change wasn't even a word that anyone used back then.... BTW, Marissa, could you poliease allow us to see where rhe see is rising down in Galvestion Texas and I live on hte mainland and have been waiting years to see the level of the sea go up iota....

Marissa Barnett

Hi PD,

About two years ago I wrote about sea rise in the area and at that time had data (I believe it was from NOAA but I could be mistaken on the source.) I'll look for that to post when I get into the office after our morning meeting.

Thanks for reading.

PD Hyatt

You know Marissa what is extremely funny to people like me? Ye who think that nations can not control their own borders seem to think that you can control what God created.... The weather!

ConcernedInDickinson
PS Robbins

"In Virginia, for instance, Norfolk and Virginia Beach residents, particularly those who live near the beach, have been grappling for several years with water flooding into their homes and cars during rains, according to numerous news reports." I've got family who've resided in the Norfolk area for the past 30 yrs - they've never made any mention of this phenomenon you mention - Sounds like someone has an agenda to push a false narrative as has become the norm w/GDN sadly

Marissa Barnett

I'm happy your relatives haven't been affected. But just because the person you know in Norfolk isn't experiencing it doesn't mean it isn't happening. Here is just a small sampling of people who live there talking about the issues they face:

http://www.npr.org/2014/06/24/324891517/as-sea-levels-rise-norfolk-is-sinking-and-planning

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-norfolk-evidence-of-climate-change-is-in-the-streets-at-high-tide/2014/05/31/fe3ae860-e71f-11e3-8f90-73e071f3d637_story.html?utm_term=.146ee0ff4806

http://pilotonline.com/news/local/environment/norfolk-sea-level-rise-takes-shine-off-waterfront-homes/article_4bbe3802-276e-504e-af9a-47460b804530.html

I could keep going....

Marissa Barnett

http://www.npr.org/2014/06/24/324891517/as-sea-levels-rise-norfolk-is-sinking-and-planning

Marissa Barnett

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-norfolk-evidence-of-climate-change-is-in-the-streets-at-high-tide/2014/05/31/fe3ae860-e71f-11e3-8f90-73e071f3d637_story.html?utm_term=.146ee0ff4806

Marissa Barnett

http://pilotonline.com/news/local/environment/norfolk-sea-level-rise-takes-shine-off-waterfront-homes/article_4bbe3802-276e-504e-af9a-47460b804530.html

Lisa Blair

Very well researched and written article. Thank you Marissa and GCDN. And hats off to our city leadership for being forward thinking about ALL of the factors that contribute to Galveston's street flooding.

Marissa Barnett

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOLdH63qsRM

Marissa Barnett

I have no agenda other than to report fairly and accurately. It's fine to disagree with city officials and scientists. The Daily News welcomes a diversity of opinions.

But the fact of the matter is the city is exploring ways to combat coastal flooding, which the vast majority of scientists say could be exacerbated by climate change. Those things are objectively true.

Don Ciaccio

The climate has been changing for millions of years!! You are right Marissa, but the claim that the current climate changes are man-made is still NOT known and scientists do NOT ALL AGREE that man is RESPONSIBLE for a warming period. The rains we recently received are ABSOLUTELY NORMAL. check some of the rain amounts in the late 70's, when Alvin tx received the largest rainfall ever recorded in 24 hours - 45 inches. Marissa, the scientists during the 1970's claimed we were headed to a mini ice age!!! They were wrong and rainfalls during this cool cycle were just as bad, if not worse, than the rains now in a warming period. Try researching rainfall amounts for the past 50 years, you'll find wet periods and dry periods, floods and extreme droughts. All a normal part of our ever changing weather. Btw, the US has not had a landfalling major hurricane for over 4,300 days. Some scientists are attributing this to a warmer climate!! Let the warm weather continue, it's great news for crops and the human race. Last mini ice age, millions died of starvation across Europe.

Marissa Barnett

Hi Don,

Thank you for reading, sharing information and your viewpoint.

I just wanted to point out that the article does not wade into the debate about whether or not climate change is man-made, nor did the people interviewed comment on that in our conversation. And no one in the article is arguing that the city hasn't always had issues with street flooding or that any future flooding is entirely climate-driven.

I do think the fervor around opinions about climate change is misconstruing the points raised in the article, which is the reason I'm responding to comments. I do feel the need to at least attempt to explain how articles are written from a reporter's viewpoint because of the ongoing discussion in modern day politics about real and fake information. And I welcome readers to respond.

In the interview, the city manager said the city is attempting to make improvements to infrastructure to address (long-running) issues of coastal flooding, regardless of the cause. The city manager indicated those issues could be worse when you consider research related to sea rise, which scientists have attributed to climate change. Given the flooding issues were already seeing (regardless of cause), and the predictions reported in study after study, there's desire to plan for a worse-case scenario. I think that is best illustrated in this quote: “The biggest challenge, too, is going to be what happens globally with actual sea rise: Is this going to be something we experience for 50 years and it starts to diminish or are these issues going to get bigger? But in the world of things we can control we need to try to keep ahead.”
Also, as is touched on, a very large part of this that making changes could lower flood rates.

I'm not interested in getting into the greater debate in the comment section over climate change. I'm not a scientist. But as for the comments that The Daily News is a "liberal rag" and "purveyor of bs" as was mentioned in comments, I will say this: I don't think anyone can accurately say the majority of scientists are not attributing sea rise and intense precipitation to changes in the climate. Yes, you can find some scientists who might disagree, but it is not the majority. Of course, no one can predict the future with absolute certainty and its OK to disagree with arguments. Science is, after all, a hypothesis based on prior knowledge and observation. Newspapers, too, are not making the declarative, end-all-be-all statement on any one thing. It's about viewpoint sharing and if this story were about that greater debate then a minority viewpoint would have been included. But it isn't about that, it's about the city efforts on street flooding with an eye on what changes could be in store for the future.

ConcernedInDickinson
PS Robbins

Presume you've then also read of the Vostok Ice Core studies? http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/labs/Lab10_Vostok/Vostok.htm

Don Ciaccio

The founder of the weather (who is a scientist) would absolutely disagree with you Marissa. Listen to the other side of the argument.
https://youtu.be/LRQS5RhrwLA

Don Ciaccio

This rag you call a newspaper has become nothing more than a radical left wing pile of garbage. Man-made climate change is the largest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people. This paper has become nothing but a conveyor of BS!

Don Ciaccio

Galveston has had street flooding since we put in streets. Maybe the editors of this rag should review past editions of their paper. They will find articles about street flooding here for the last century.

Carlos Ponce

Just face it, Galvestonians, you're living underwater according to predictions made by Climate Change guru Al Gore.[scared]

Don Ciaccio

And maybe the Aggie you interviewed has Alzheimer's. Texas just came out of a bad drought. Worst one since the 50's. Now it's raining. Omg. We are all going to die!!! 😂😂😂😂😂

Gary Scoggin

Predictable responses from our friends on the far right.

Diane Brodie

Predictable propaganda from the liberals.

Steve Fouga

I feel that when there's a problem, it should be addressed regardless of its cause, and regardless of whether others feel it's a problem.

Galveston's streets flood; this is a demonstrable fact most recently demonstrated on Sunday. It's a problem that should be addressed whether it's been happening for years or not. It's a problem whether climate change is man-made or not. It's a problem whether your particular street floods or not.

Kudos to the City for treating street flooding with the seriousness it deserves.

PD Hyatt

The streets of Galveston have been flooding since before I got here in the late 60's and Galveston has never seen to be intrested in fixing the problems with the drainage system....

Steve Fouga

I know! Good thing the current Council and City management has a better idea. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm looking forward to a little less flooding. But maybe that's just me.

Kelly Naschke

This article is total manure. And Marissa...saying you don't have an agenda is laughable. If you didn't have an agenda you would have not written this article. To say you don't have an agenda is insulting. Why didn't you present the other side of the story? I will NEVER forget being in the 2nd grade at Trinity in theb70's and being told that the Island was sinking and that by the time I grew up..there would be no Galveston. That's as comical as Al Gores predictions of 10 years ago. How about your next story being on how WRONG all of his predictions were?

Steve Fouga

Kelly, the streets flood! They flood! It's the City's job to do something about that.

The sea level is rising. There is proof of it. It's really simple: you measure how high the ocean is, and then later you measure again. If it's higher, then the level is rising, or the land is sinking. In Galveston's case, it's both.

So the article isn't total manure after all. The streets flood, they flood worse than they used to, and the City is planning to address the problem. Simple as that.

Robert Braeking

I am well aware of the street flooding on Port Industrial, or whatever the real estate developers renamed it. As I navigate through the high water I can see the slipways to the north with the water level several feet below the surface of the pavement. Even if the sea level were to drop a hundred feet, Port Industrial would still flood. The culverts that carry the rain water are inadequate, collapsed, and poorly maintained. The massive expanses of impermeable cruise ship passenger parking lots create more runoff exacerbating the problem. All the streets in Galveston are pitched toward Port Industrial. Even a blind man could see that the problem is NOT sea level rising.

Don Ciaccio

And now you can hear the other side of the story from a scientist. The founder of The Weather Channel says differently. https://youtu.be/LRQS5RhrwLA

Christopher Smith

Great reporting. Flooding is definitely a problem. I know I've gotten water in my car before. I'm glad to see the city doing something about it. Thanks GCDN for reporting on it.

David Doe

Fact is there are NO FACTS other than when it rains it might flood. I remember it raining back in the early 70's and it flooded worse than it did Sunday. People in Virginia keep building more and more and closer to the water. Well, when you do that you take a chance of losing your establishment. The Climate has been changing since the beginning of time and will continue. The more concrete that is put on the Island the easier it will be to flood because of run-off. It's not rocket science.Satellite data says that Earth hasn’t warmed in nearly 20 years. Yes, 2015 supposedly “smashed” the previous temperature record. But actually it was the third-warmest year on record according to satellitesClaims of “hottest ever” in 2015 have been due in part to a strong El Niño in 2015 (which even climate scientist Dr. Richard Betts grudgingly admits to) and some statistical sleight of hand by NOAA to boost temperatures. They said in 1997, that the current absolute temperature of the Earth was warmer by several degrees that today, but they’ve since changed their methodology and say that’s no longer the case…however, their initial claim lines up with what we see in the satellite record above about 1997 and 1998 when the supersized El Niño happened.
Let's STOP with the Science claims because they just aren't True!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.