GALVESTON — The City Council is set to approve a $250,000 grant to a nonprofit group dedicated to funding studies related to the proposed Ike Dike.
If approved, the grant would double the amount of money the council has given toward the proposed storm protection barrier since 2012.
The grant request is from a nonprofit group called the Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance. In a letter, the group’s leaders say that the alliance is focused on facilitating “research and studies regarding alternatives providing protection from hurricane or other storm surge in the Gulf Coastal region.”
Specifically, the group says that it wishes to raise funds to help Texas A&M University at Galveston raise money to complete a research and economic impact study for the Ike Dike project.
The letter says that the president of the alliance is Fredell Rosen, wife of Mayor Lewis Rosen.
On Tuesday, Mayor Rosen said he thought the grant was an appropriate and necessary investment.
“This is first part of the process for Galveston to become proactive to defend itself,” Rosen said.
The funding would come from the city’s 4B sales tax, which is administered by the Galveston Island Industrial Development Corp. In November 2012, the corporation — whose members include four members of the City Council — approved a grant of $250,000 that went to Texas A&M University at Galveston to help pay for studies related to the Ike Dike. The proposed project would cost $6 billion to $10 billion.
The brainchild of Texas A&M at Galveston Professor Bill Merrell, the Ike Dike is a proposed system of levees and fortified dunes that would stretch the length of Galveston Island and would include gates across Bolivar Roads and the San Luis Pass. Supporters say the dike would stop a storm surge from entering Galveston Bay and prevent the type flooding that occurred during Hurricane Ike.
Rosen, the chairman of the Industrial Development Corp., did acknowledge that there are other potential uses for the money, which is coming out of a fund dedicated to economic development. But he said he believed the Ike Dike was a top priority.
“If you don’t do it, nothing is going to happen,” Rosen said. “We have to be proactive.”
The Industrial Development Corp. gave its approval to the grant on March 24. A public hearing was conducted on April 21.
The grant is on the council’s agenda as a consent item. Generally, consent agenda items are voted on as a group and without discussion by the council.
Even if the council approves the grant, the city will not write a check right away. Under the city’s rules, there is a 60-day waiting period from when a expense from the sales tax funds are approved and when they can be distributed. During that time, citizens can circulate a petition to force the expense to be put up for election.
The deadline for such a petition would be May 23. A new council will be installed following Saturday’s city election.
Meanwhile, work is moving forward on a different study by the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District. The district was formed after Hurricane Ike to develop recommendations on how to help Texas rebuild and recover from disasters. One of the district’s goals was to conduct a study on how to reduce the impact of water damage caused by storms.
That study received funding from the Texas General Land Office last summer, and earlier this week, the district approved a group of contractors that would conduct the study, which is predicted to be completed by 2016.
That study is unrelated to the one being pursued by Merrell and TAMUG, which is intended only to research matters related to the Ike Dike, including an economic analyses, structure design and public outreach.
Merrell said Tuesday that the university had raised $900,000 for his study, which does not include the $250,000 city contributed in 2012. He added that while the university would welcome support from the Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance, it is unrelated to the university.
“Obviously, they’re friendly to the Ike Dike concept,” Merrell said. “I didn’t write it. I haven’t even seen it.”
The various studies could be considered preliminary steps toward any large-scale infrastructure projects that could be built in Galveston Bay.
The construction of such projects, however, would likely require significant federal funding.
During a workshop in April, Sharon Tirpak, a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told the council that the Galveston area would not be included in a $3 million feasibility study to identify possible storm protection projects on the Texas coast.
“Congress ... the way budgets are these days, we just don’t get as much funding as we did in the past,” Tirpak said. “This area has not been on the political radar in Washington such as Louisiana was or the Northeast coast was after Hurricane Sandy.”
IF YOU GO
What: Galveston City Council
When: 1 p.m. today
Where: City Hall, 823 Rosenberg Ave.