GALVESTON — A newly formed nonprofit group says it wants to help make building a coastal hurricane barrier an issue not just for islanders, but for the entire Galveston Bay region.

The Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance launched a campaign Wednesday pitching what it calls a “Coastal Barrier Concept for Storm Surge Protection.”

The concept, however, has a more familiar name among people who’ve followed efforts to build a barrier since a major storm struck the island in 2008.

It’s the Ike Dike, mostly.

Kenneth Mays, an account executive for Griffin Communications Group, the marketing firm hired by the alliance, said the campaign is an effort to move away from the Ike Dike name, but not the idea.

“The concept that we rolled out is really a Houston-Galveston region protection system; it’s protecting the entire Galveston Bay,” Mays said.

“It’s really a new concept,” Mays said. “That’s why we have new name for it. It’s more inclusive; it really protects a larger region.”

The crux of the new marketing push is to emphasize that a system of levees and gates nearly 30 miles long would protect not only Galveston Island from coastal flooding, but also communities and industries on the shores of Galveston Bay. That could explain why Wednesday’s media event was in La Porte, in Harris County, and not in Galveston County, where the Ike Dike has been a topic of discussion for years.

The project, according to the alliance, would cost between $4 billion and $6 billion, of which the federal government would pick up 85 percent. The group’s largest selling point, right now, is a computer model showing that if Ike had followed its originally projected path, it would have resulted in a storm surge that could have “killed hundreds, left thousands homeless and jobless and cause economic damage around $100 billion,” according to the group’s marketing materials.

The alliance’s marketing materials don’t entirely do away with the Ike Dike terminology, however.

One question in the new concept’s Frequently Asked Questions sheet about the Coastal Barrier Concept asks pointedly “Is this the same solution as the Ike Dike Concept?”

The answer: “While they are one in the same, the proposed solution does not yet have an official name.”

The Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance was formed earlier this year, with help from the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, an economic development group that has long supported the Ike Dike concept. Its goal, according to its FAQ sheet, is to build broad awareness of the need for the barrier, and help generate local funds to “make it happen.”

Last month, the Galveston City Council approved paying $250,000 in 4-B tax revenue controlled by the city’s Industrial Development Corp. toward the group’s effort. The Port of Galveston has committed an equal amount.

A letter sent to the Industrial Development Corp. from the alliance’s board in March said the city money would be used to fund both additional research and “widespread dissemination of those results.”

The debut to the newish sales pitch comes the same week the federal government announced it had awarded nearly $1 billion for storm surge protection in another part of the United States.

Six projects in the New York and New Jersey area received grants totaling $920 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The largest grant of the group, $335 million, will go toward building part of a 10-mile-long barrier around Manhattan’s east side.

New York’s barrier will be a 10- to 20-foot-high berm covered will trees, shrubs and perennials that will act as a barrier against the type storm surge caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The six projects are funded out of the housing department’s $3.9 billion portion of a $60 billion aid package given to the New York-New Jersey area following that storm.

After Hurricane Ike, Texas received about $3.1 billion in HUD disaster recovery funding, according to a 2013 report from the Congressional Research Service.

Texas’ disaster funds were used for a variety of purposes — including housing recovery and flood mitigation for individual homeowners — but not for large-scale mitigation projects, like the ones now underway in the northeast.

The purpose of making the Ike Dike into a regional effort is to draw some sort of attention to the Houston-Galveston region that brought money quickly to New York, Vic Pierson, the alliance’s vice president, said.

“It they were able to get it, we should be able to as well,” Pierson said. “We have to make our case.”

Pierson said of the money that the alliance has already received, $75,000 has gone to the Bay Area Economic Partnership for marketing. The rest of the money was being paid directly for research, including an economic impact study being conducted by the University of Houston and a hurricane modeling project at Jackson State University.

The alliance’s materials do address other coastal barrier proposals — such as the so-called Centennial Gate that a Rice University group has proposed be built farther into Galveston Bay near the Fred Hartman Bridge. That group has suggested that building a smaller gate closer to Houston and then constructing levee around Galveston and other areas in the bay would be a more economical solution to protecting against storm surge.

“Coastal mitigation ... is the only solution that protects the entire region — from Galveston Island north to Houston and all of the surrounding communities,” the document says.

The Centennial Gate leaves “a significant and highly populated portion of the region completely unprotected.”

Mays said the alliance’s efforts right now are not focused on attracting federal funds for the project, but for raising money for preliminary studies related to the Ike Dike idea. Data collected in those studies could be used as part of later studies, such as the kind needed to be completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before a federal project is completed.

“Right now the focus is on these studies that need to be done to really flesh out the idea,” Mays said.

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

(10) comments

PD Hyatt

Project started out at 1-3 bilion, now it is up to 4-6 billion dollars. By the time they get all of the permits and studies that will be needed and the lawsuits that will come because of the anti-developement people. The price tag will be somewhere between 20-30 billion dollars IF we are luck.... I am afraid of the amount our taxes will have to go up to support this so called project and where everyone is supposed to get this money from.... The article states that the Feds will pick up 85% of the cost and we will pick up the rest. The Feds are technically bankrupt so they will have to borrow even more money on the backs of our grandchildren which will probably never be able to pay. Then our taxes are going way up to pay for it. Has anyone thought about if we stop the water where it is going to go? There will be other communities that will drown because of this. We will end up building a dike from brownsville to Miami.... Can not imagine how many TRILLIONS that will cost if the enviromental groups and the courts even all any of it to be built....

Gary Miller

Able to borrow limitless funds has progressives proposing big spending projects.
The feds would fund 85 % with borrowed money, local taxpayers would fund 15 % with real out of pocket earnings.
If costs estimates run the same course as other big Federal projects $20 to $30 billion will only be seed money. After the seed money is spent more will be required to finish.
The often used, but successful, claim that money already spent will be wasted if enough more to finish isn't approved.
$20 or $30 billion can escalate to $200 billion or $1 trillion between elections.

Steve Fouga

To me this story's most important takeaway is that an organized effort is forming to pursue storm surge mitigation for the Galveston Bay area.

Personally I think the effort is somewhat off-course, but no matter. It's going to take a full-up campaign to create any momentum, and this is a beginning.

As for the actual project, I have the same concerns Paul list below, plus a few more.

George Croix

"$20 or $30 billion can escalate to $200 billion or $1 trillion between elections."
Easily. Predictably. Invariably.
BUt, any deception in cost hiding on a)how the politicians word their 'promises', and b) how many people have the mentally capacity it takes to believe them.
Recall the promise by our voluminously prevaricating President that the ACA would NOT cost taxpayers 'a single dime'.
He was right. At a current guesstimate of some 1.7 trillion, and counting, that would NOT be a SINGLE dime. It will be about 17,000,000,000,000 dimes...so far.
Makes one shudder to think what the end result of starting at 20 to 30 billion might be...[wink]
At least people are thinking. At some point, perhaps reality will enter the thinking...

George Croix

...in cost hiding DEPENDS on a) ...

I forgot my depends...something I hope I never have a need to say again...
[beam]

William Ferrary

I'm confused.
Previous news on the Ike Dike indicated the current studies by Rice U. and Texas A&M were supported by various surrounding communities passing an approval resolution over the course of the past year. I reviewed Jamaica Beach's city council minutes as well as a couple of others. The resolution approved stated costs beginning at 3 billion and stretching to possibly 30 billion; and this was astoundingly for a clay and sand seawall 17 ft. high, 50 ft. wide. I wonder if these folks have actually been through a hurricane? I believe the flag on my flagpole would outlast that structure in a storm. And the seawall according to that news splash could not be built on private property. Just do a search to confuse yourself.

Now, according to the latest news splash U of H and Jackson U are doing studies on the economic impact and some other poppycock. Plus this Ike Dike version is concrete with no mention of potential dimensions. Of course the political kicker here that just makes you want to pee pins is the name change so no nothings can latch on to a set of Emperor's new clothes. This garnered support if effective could shove the Ike Dike into a boondoggle of excessively spent dollars that are only available from our wallets regardless of the fictionalized amount supplied by the Feds which also comes from our wallets.

You can bet I'll be studying that so called economic study and I'll continue to use the term IKE DIKE and hope you all do the same.

From the Bermuda Beach beachfront - out.

Steve Fouga

Here's something that would make the Feds, the State, and all the local communities take notice: If the petrochemical biz were to say, "We gotta have it."

But they're not saying it, are they? I've never heard them say it, and they've been here for decades. Why don't they think they need storm-surge protection? Or do they, and I just haven't heard about it. gecroix, IHOG, etc., any ideas? I'm asking sincerely.

Ironically, they're the one entity in this discussion who easily has the bankroll to hire the engineers and scientists and lawyers, do the studies, and make a recommendation. Any takers?
[whistling]

George Croix

The TC petrochem complex already has a levee. It works...so far.
Up the channel, the Houston folks have proposed a swing gate type surge protection device for their petrochem/docks area, have they not.. It set up an
uproar by anyone not protected by that plan.
The folks in freeport aren't part of any of the existing notions...
In the cold light of day, the petrochems are WAY more important to the nation than local property and business owners are...a bitter pill, but it needs wallowing, because SOME protection of critical assets beats all heck out of NONE for anything.
Still, the logic is small comfort for anyone losing everything they have...

George Croix

wallowing...swallowing....close enough.....[wink]

William Ferrary

Mr. Buckner I suspect the minds in the petrochemical industry realize that a storm surge rush into the Galveston Bay could be somewhat minimized, However, I also suspect those same minds realize there is no entity on this planet that could bottle up and hold a surge at bay until convenient, that water will go somewhere per Mother Nature regardless of an Ike Dike, flood gates, levees, 3 - 30 billion, or whatever. So, points east and west will most likely get a surge plus what Galveston Bay doesn't.

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.