GALVESTON — A split City Council voted to award a nonprofit group $250,000 on Thursday to help the groups effort’s to raise money in support of the Ike Dike coastal protection barrier.

The Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance will receive the grant from the city’s 4B Sales Tax revenues later this month.

Mayor Lewis Rosen and council members Marie Robb, Rusty Legg and Cornelia Harris Banks voted in favor of the grant. District 3 councilwoman Elizabeth Beeton voted against it. Councilmembers Norman Pappous and Terrilyn Tarlton abstained from the vote.

The council members who did not vote for the grant said they were unsure it was the best use of money at this time, particularly because of the number of other studies that must be completed in order for the Ike Dike — a proposed system of barriers that would stretch the length of Galveston Island and also construct two storm surge gates across the mouths of the San Luis Pass and Bolivar Roads — to become a reality.

“We don’t know what form the surge protection is going to take. We don’t know if we’re going to get the money. We don’t even know if the federal government is even interested in giving us the money,” Pappous said. “There are no partners in this project that are actual players that are going to determine whether or not this goes forward.”

The council was told last month by the Army Corps of Engineers that the Houston-Galveston area would not be included in an impending project feasibility study for the Texas coast. Such a study could result in recommendations being made to Congress for funding of federal infrastructure projects — which the Ike Dike would almost certainly need to be.

The corps did tell city officials that a study for the Galveston area was possible in the near future, but such a study cost would about $9 million and be would require local matching funds.

The council members supporting the grant, however, said spending money to support smaller studies now was a necessary action to show commitment to the project.

“At some point in time we are going to have to take a risk to make sure we can move forward,” said Banks. “I think that we need to get involved at this time. I think that we cannot wait.”

The Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance is a nonprofit group that was organized by the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, an economic development group that has long supported the Ike Dike project. The president of the alliance is Fredell Rosen, who is married to Mayor Lewis Rosen. Earlier this year, the group also received a $250,000 grant from the Port of Galveston.

During the meeting, Mayor Rosen said he resented any implications that he would profit in some way from the grant.

“If you look around this council, everybody’s spouse does volunteer work throughout this community, and it should be applauded instead of suspected of some kind of wrongdoing,” Rosen said.

The Texas A&M study specifically cited in the Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance grant application is estimated to cost $1.5 million, according to TAMUG professor Bill Merrell, who created the Ike Dike concept.

Merrell said earlier this week that $900,000 had been raised toward that study. The alliance’s grant applications states that it will direct the award to Texas A&M as well as toward an advertising campaign that will “assure that appropriate and accurate information on surge suppression is distributed to decision-makers and citizens.”

The application does not say how much of the money that it collected would support the studies and how much would be used for outreach.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

(5) comments

Ron Shelby

Why did Beeton vote against? It wasn't in the story.

Mike Box

Possibly she voted against it because there are other less expensive and better options. The Ike Dike, because it is pushed by TAMUG, seems to have developed a life of its own. Rice University studied the situation and suggested a more limited and less expensive alternative that does not destroy the beach from HIgh Island to Freeport. GCDN might have done a story on that study, but I don't remember seeing it. Living on Boliver or the West End would be much different if you were behind a wall with no beach and no view of the gulf. We need to study the OPTIONS, not the IKE DIKE.

Curtiss Brown

Well, she'd be wrong about that. The Cemetery Gates proposed by Rice will end up costing the same and saving no one. Texas City and the rest of Galveston County would be swamped. The height of the water at the north end of the bay would be 24' in the worst case scenario. The Ike Dike protects many more and does so with a much simpler project.
You have to wonder about the kind of person who fails to educate her followers on what is necessary to live on the coast and instead follow the knee-jerk respondents into an ugly future.

Mike Box

Didn't mean to insinuate that I support (or have even read) the entire Rice proposal. Just saying I think there's a much cheaper and better way to protect Galveston and we should look at all the possibilities. I certainly don't speak for Ms Beeton, but I think the ugly future would be the entire upper Texas coast without a beach, just one long seawall.

Norman Pappous

Concern for this funding centered around the fact that the money may be wasted if CoE are not on board with how the study will be conducted. There was no request from CoE, TAMUG, or Rice. Is this money going to be counted as part of our $5 million match? No answer - so we may be needlessly spending this money twice...

Had the CoE come and said this would count as part of our local match - the vote may have been 7-0.....

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