The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership should get credit for trying to build consensus on the need for a system that protects the region from catastrophic storms.
An investment in some kind of protective system makes sense. Hurricane Ike, which struck on Sept. 13, 2008, did about $35 billion in damage.
As the region continues to develop — and build industries that are vital to the nation’s economy and security — the idea that we can just continue to clean up and rebuild after every storm is less and less tenable.
If you are convinced that storm protection makes sense, you have to agree that a regional system makes more sense than the “every community for itself” approach.
Galveston Bay is one big system. You can’t build a hard wall that protects one community without sending the rising water elsewhere, likely toward a neighbor. Whatever system is put in place should be planned — and planned regionally.
The Bay Area Partnership’s efforts at uniting public opinion behind that idea are laudable. Galveston folks who have been lobbying on their own for the Ike Dike, the concept outlined by Professor William Merrell, a scientist at Texas A&M University at Galveston, would do well to support the larger effort.
Since some confusion has resulted from those lobbying efforts, supporters of a regional protection plan ought to remind themselves of three points:
First, Galveston is not driving this. The proposed system is too big and too expensive for Galveston to go it alone. It’s going to take the combined efforts of influential people, governments and industries throughout the region to make it happen.
A system such as the Ike Dike, which might cost $5 billion, isn’t going to fly without the support of Houston’s industrial leaders and congressional delegation.
Second, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can’t be — and shouldn’t be — bypassed. There’s been some rash talk in Galveston about a “political solution” to the funding problem, meaning that supporters would go directly to Washington with money and slick lobbyists.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a system for grading proposals for these large public works projects. Does anyone really want a system that can be outflanked by money and lobbyists? As badly as people in this region want a protective system, we ought to agree to play by the rules.
Finally, it would help to acknowledge that there are different views about the best way to protect the region. Some people contend that it’s unfair to talk of “competing” plans or visions. But that kind of rhetoric isn’t helpful.
The proposed Centennial Gate, a project that would be built by the Fred Hartman Bridge, does not come from the same vision that proposed the Ike Dike, a system that would cover the Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island.
We do have competing visions — and powerful people and powerful institutions already behind them. We ought to acknowledge that — and still try to get everyone in the same room.
The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership is right on two vital points.
It’s going to take a consensus over a large area to make anything meaningful work.
Trying to build that consensus is worth the effort.