What’s an informed citizen to make of the discussion Monday at the Texas Legislature’s Joint Committee on Coastal Barrier Systems?
First, communities around Galveston Bay will never get far with competing plans.
Supporters of the proposed Ike Dike concept — a massive system that would protect the whole bay — have received endorsements from local governments and chambers of commerce surrounding the bay. They’ve received support from institutions such as The Daily News.
But Monday’s meeting showed that there are competing ideas about how to go about protecting the region. At least some of those ideas are backed by organizations with influence and money.
So, it’s a bit early to declare there’s a consensus. And consensus is badly needed.
Second, everyone agrees federal help is essential for building a massive system to protect residents and property from storm surge. It’s just too big a project for state and local governments. However, coastal residents sometime talk as if they believe there is a fixed process for getting that aid — and sometimes they talk as if they don’t. They talk, in other words, as if they intend to follow the rules in trying to get federal help until the moment that doesn’t seem practical, at which point they’ll pursue a way around that process — a “political solution.”
People who followed news of Monday’s meeting ought to wonder whether the notion of a “political solution” makes sense.
During the meeting, Col. Richard P. Pannell, commander of the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said: “Texas is the only coastal state without a comprehensive coastal plan. It will take millions of dollars just to get to the place where you can compare options, and know how to proceed.”
People concerned about protecting lives and property along Galveston Bay ought to take those words to heart. Getting a consensus is going to be important. But getting a better grasp on the process — what exactly it would take to get to that place where options can be compared — is also going to be important.
• Heber Taylor