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Storm protection paramount for region - The Galveston County Daily News: Guest Columns

July 24, 2016

Storm protection paramount for region

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Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 12:00 am

No dike, no gate in sight. Some will be predisposed to write this off as political. It is not. It transcends party lines, or at least it should. So, please wear your Galveston County glasses.

Without comprehensive storm and flood protection, this region is not and will not be experiencing the economic upswing it could.

No reasonably acting business, other than distributors and retailers, will locate in an unprotected area prone to a major hurricane hit. Already suppressed property values and, consequently, public funds will experience no or slow growth because of looming flood insurance cost increases.

Economically, it is the most pressing issue, not only for Galveston, but the region. Even for Texas and the country, considering recovery cost will come from everyone’s pockets and the national disruption of gasoline and petrochemical products.

The recent Committee on Coastal Barrier Systems meeting filled the Texas A&M University at Galveston hall.

However, absent were a number of committee members, and no federal representatives attended, most notably Randy Weber, the U.S. representative for this area. Despite the congressional recess, he chose to send an assistant, rather than invest his own time.

Not too surprising, remembering how he had to get dragged into supporting the delay of the unbearable flood insurance cost. No surprise there either; his campaigning relied heavily on contributions from the insurance industry, for which higher flood insurance premiums mean larger commissions. The Ike Dike would cut into that. It would be sad if that were a factor for some of the committee members as well.

Absent also was U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. Many of her constituents are exposed to higher flood insurance cost and disastrous damages, should we suffer a direct hurricane hit without the protection being contemplated.

The absence of our U.S. senators was expected, as ideological battles waged on our behalf leave them, as for Rep. Weber, little time for local, practical issues. But, can we not expect both? You, and I need to tell them so.

It was disappointing to see some Galveston commissioners not interested in the public’s comments, leaving before that. Three of them stayed, including the judge, but the Harris County judge’s absence was quite notable. Heading, with Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, a regional storm protection district, he should have participated and they should have shared their progress.

Apparently, the proponents of the alternatives will not manage to arrive at a joint solution. Either choice will meet too much opposition to get decided by a political group.

In Texas, there is no apolitical organization. Therefore, and because this will require federal funding, the generally respected U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to make that decision. The corps speaker’s remark about Texas being the only region without a coastal plan indicates the agency’s frustration.

The corps needs a mandate and a budget, along with a removal of the $3 million project cap for this. Regional and state leadership’s effort needs to get our U.S. senators and representatives, from both sides, to spare time from their lofty wars with each other and get us protected.