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.