A proponent and a critic of the proposed Ike Dike recently said the same thing. They said the oil spill near the Texas City Dike ought to be a wake-up call.

The spill, which resulted in a collision between a barge and a cargo ship, was relatively minor. But it still shut down the Houston Ship Channel for days, with repercussions to the nation’s supply of fuels and petrochemicals.

If that was a minor problem, what would a real disaster look like?

What would happen if a hurricane toppled the tanks that store the really toxic stuff at plants along the bay?

How long would major ports, refineries and plants be shut down? Months? A year? How long would it take to clean up? Would the bay ever recover?

Such concerns led to the proposed Centennial Gate, a storm barrier near the Hartman Bridge at La Porte and Baytown. That project was relatively inexpensive and could be built quickly. It would protect an area where those large tanks, refineries and plants are concentrated.

The project would offer some assurance that those facilities wouldn’t pollute the whole bay if a hurricane struck.

However, five communities, worried the proposed protection of the upper ship channel would flood them, passed resolutions against the Centennial Gate. Other communities along Galveston Bay complained that the Centennial Gate concept would do nothing for them.

Eighteen local governments have passed resolutions in favor of the Ike Dike, which envisions a barrier along Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula. Massive gates would close Bolivar Roads if a hurricane struck. It’s a plan to protect the whole bay.

But critics ask good questions:

• Some models suggest that a residual surge could be devastating. After the eye of a hurricane passed over the Ike Dike, the storm would produce surge in the bay, pushing water back toward Galveston. What protection would the Ike Dike provide?

• Many of the houses on Galveston’s West End are elevated to 15 feet. Is there going to be enough benefit to justify the cost of a wall in front of those homes? And if so, how high would that wall have to be?

• The flood control systems in The Netherlands are more complicated than a single dike, and Bolivar Roads is formidable.

Is a floodgate across that entrance to the bay even possible? And if it is, how do you justify the cost?

There are many questions — and they ought to be treated as questions, rather than as criticisms.

Somehow, it ought to be possible to get those who have high hopes for the Ike Dike and those opposed to come together for a discussion, rather than a fight.

Both groups have something in common. The common ground is a belief that something should be done to prevent the kind of environmental disaster all parties can foresee.

(8) comments

PD Hyatt

Herb, my question continues to be the same. Where are we going to get the 20-30 billion dollars that it will take to do this? And once you start building it, then everyone from Brownville to Miami will want to be included and now we are talking trillions of dollars.... Washington D.C. has spent so much money they are actually bankrupt and probably have to borrow .60 out of every dollar that they wastefully spend. Even if Washington could find the so called 85% of the money has anyone around here ever thought about how high our taxes are going to have to go to pay for this monster wall that everyone is calling the Ike Dike? And even if it is built, does anyone really think that our flood insurance is going to go down 1 penny? I know our wind storm insurance costs will never go down and will only continue to go up.

David Smith

Anybody that knows anything about how we flood knows it.comes from the bay...not the gulf...the Ike Dike does not address this...you better be glad Ike was NOT a rain event...or it would have been much worse

Chula Ross Sanchez

I am glad to see you have written about varying strategies for protecting Galveston, other than the Ike Dike. Seems I've seen you call for a open dialogue on the subject more than three times in the last few months.

University of Texas modeling has shown an event similar to Hurricane Ike WITH an Ike Dike type structure would not protect the island, because of the volume of water in Galveston Bay itself. Coupled with rain coming down the bayous and the Houston area watershed, it might even prove to be worse with a dike in place.

Myriad strategies are on the table, some working together in tandem, like the Lone Star Coastal National Recreational Area (LSCNRA) and levee systems in specific areas, and some in opposition, or at least, not seemingly complimentary.

Seems the Chamber of Commerce or the Port or the County would call for an open forum on the subject to hear all the research from SSPEED to A&M and in between.

Also, it would seem the City of Galveston should ask what our money is going to A & M for Ike Dike research for, until we have more information about where the Dike is located.
Modeling has been performed by some of the most powerful computer simulations in the world for different flooding scenarios with and without the dike, the Centennial Gate, levees, etc.
Shouldn't we be seeing those images here in Galveston?
Where does the proposed dike go? along the beach? along FM 3005? How tall is it? How will that effect the beaches? Those are some pretty fundamental questions.
Seems we could get some answers for our money.

Who knows? maybe the different strategies could work together, instead of at odds to one another. But we'd have to know what those ideas are, now wouldn't we?

George Croix

Even the best designs and the best quality can prove no match for Ma Nature.
When I built my home and before bringing the Shepherds here to live I had a 6' high light commercial quality hurricane fence put up.
Despite great cost and care in installation with premium materials, hurricane Ike came right through the darn thing...

Steve Fouga

I wonder what the nomenclature is for the event the system is designed to protect against. Maybe the "Design Event," similar to the "design condition" in a typical engineering problem.

So then I wonder what the Design Event is. Ike? Ike was one of the highest-energy Atlantic Basin storms ever, but as we've all heard so many times, a worst-case scenario would have been a landfall further west. So is the Design Event a storm with Ike's energy, landfalling at the worst possible location? Or is it an even more energetic storm landfalling at the worst possible location?

Is the existing seawall a "boundary condition" in the design? That is, will the new structure be built to be no more effective than the seawall -- because if it were, the seawall itself would limit its effectiveness? If Ike had struck further west, the seawall would have been overtopped, since it was almost overtopped anyway (someone correct me if I'm wrong). But I haven't heard anyone say we should build the seawall higher, so why build any of the rest of it higher? If the rest were built higher, the seawall would then become a spillway in the event of a particularly high surge.

I agree with chula. I want to see what's actually being proposed. I want to read the results of the computer modeling -- which I fear is not nearly as sophisticated as it could be (again, I might be wrong). I want DATA and INFORMATION! I wonder how an ordinary citizen can get it...

Mike Leahy

1983, Alicia. Category 3. Eye crossed West as compared with Ike, if I recall correctly.

Looking at those big power poles snapped off at the base all down Stewart Road from Campeche westward the next morning, I sure thought it crossed the West end.

Steve Fouga

Re-reading what I wrote on Tuesday, it's so confusing it almost sounds like I was posting drunk. I'm probably the only one who could understand it...

This is what I was trying to say: What type of storm and what landfall location is the Dike being designed to protect us from? How will the existing seawall be used as part of that design? Will the existing seawall be raised? Is there any actual design data or detailed description available to the public? If so, why haven't we seen it? If not, why hasn't it been generated?

There, that's better.

Jose' Boix

A Houston Chronicle, Monday, July 7, 2014 Edition, article “Aid needed for Texas Gulf Coast,“ by William Merrell, is the George P. Mitchell Chair of Marine Sciences and Col. Len Waterworth the executive professor of Maritime Administration at Texas A&M University at Galveston stated some interesting points – some of which I quote.

• It has been six years after the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Ike, storm surge remains a critical threat to the Galveston Bay region.
• Special legislation was passed for states affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy that have them on a fast track, while we who were hit by Ike received no special consideration.
• Galveston Bay surge protection studies are in a process that is mired with excessive policy and procedure and insufficient funding that at its very best would have construction start about 2025 and require millions of dollars in state or regional matching monies.
• Other sections of the country, after a storm-induced surge disaster, have sought legislative action for three successful congressionally driven projects that differed significantly from the previously mentioned process being used to fund the Houston/Galveston surge protection project.
• The most ambitious was the Greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System barrier. Fifteen billion dollars was provided with no local matching funds. An ambitious timeline for completion was used and the Corps of Engineers was allowed to relax many rules.
• If the Galveston Bay region had, after Ike, moved as fast as the Greater New Orleans region after Katrina, we would have Corps of Engineers-built surge protection now. Instead, we don’t even have a Corps study underway that looks at Galveston Bay surge protection.
• The legislative path in Congress requiring aggressive Corps’ studies and construction is the best and fastest approach to protect the Galveston Bay region.

Our local congressional delegation needs to begin working on this now, stressing that we are only asking for equal treatment with other hard-hit states. It has only been 6 years.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
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.