GALVESTON

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush called Thursday for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to go back to the drawing board on some parts of its plan for a coastal barrier.

Bush called a proposed ring levee around Galveston a “non-starter.” He said a proposed seagate at Bolivar Roads, between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, must not harm the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico or Galveston Bay and should not affect private properties on Bolivar Peninsula or Galveston Island.

“I believe we can strike a balance between protecting lives, jobs, environment and maintaining the lifestyle that makes Bolivar and Galveston so unique,” Bush said.

Bush made the announcement during a meeting with reporters and local officials in Galveston on Thursday.

He also reiterated calls to the corps he made earlier in the week for an extended comment period time during which the public can offer opinions about the project. The public comment period on the corps’ tentatively selected plan is scheduled to end Jan. 9.

After that comment period ends, Bush said the corps should add a second public comment period so the public can see how the corps had “digested” the public feedback it had received during the first public comment period.

A corps spokesman confirmed Thursday that the agency has received Bush’s requests, and was considering them. No decisions had been made as of Thursday afternoon.

Bush said he believed he had at least a verbal commitment to extend the current comment period.

“We believe that they will and that they will open up the process for a few more meetings, we don’t know how many,” he said. He expected an answer in coming weeks, he said.

The call for adjustments to the plan came after the corps completed seven public hearings on the coastal barrier. Hearings in Galveston and on Bolivar Peninsula showed that people in the areas have deep reservations about the plan, Bush said.

“The consensus has been pretty clear on this issue,” he said.

As Bush sat down in a conference room at the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce offices, he was also presented with a copy of a full-page advertisement published in Thursday’s edition of The Daily News.

The chamber ad denounced the idea of a ring levee around parts of Galveston Island and supported placing a barrier on the Gulf dune line, rather than along and mostly north of FM 3005.

The corps released its tentatively selected plan for a coastal barrier Oct. 26. The plan proposes 70 miles of levees and seawalls along Galveston Island, Bolivar Peninsula and the west side Galveston Bay, as well as a seagate across the entrance of the Houston Ship Channel.

The system is meant to protect cities around Galveston Bay from storm surge damage like Hurricane Ike caused in 2008.

The plan would cost between $23 billion and $32 billion, according to the corps.

It remains to be seen how much the corps can or will respond to Bush’s requests. The General Land Office is the corps’ partner in the coastal Texas study and contributed 35 percent of the funding for the study. The partnership began in 2015.

The changes that Bush called for, if heeded, could drastically change the scope and cost of the coastal barrier plan.

“There would be environmental and engineering consequences,” he said.

As an alternative to the ring levee, Bush said the corps should study placing a second gate across the San Luis Pass.

Corps officials have said its possible for barriers and levees to be placed along dune lines, rather than along highways, a decision that would potentially protect hundreds of seaside properties in Galveston County.

But other changes, such as a flood gate at the San Luis Pass, have already been dismissed as unfeasible — or contradictory to calls to protect the environment. In the report released on Oct. 26, the corps wrote the benefits from closing the pass at the west end of Galveston Island do not outweigh the negative environmental effects.

The corps report already acknowledges that a seagate system at Bolivar Roads would have massive ecological effects on Galveston Bay, including lowering the level of salinity in the bay. Bush said those effects needed to be better understood.

“We would like to see more details about what a gate of this magnitude would do,” Bush said. “The public has a right to know a little more about what the potential impact would be.”

The corps has insisted that many of the exact details of the plan — including size and placement or barriers — are still being determined.

Bush acknowledged that but said to help avoid confusion, the corps should label all of its future documents with the word “draft” until a final is determined.

Despite the changes to the plan that he asked for, Bush said he hoped the corps could still produce a final report on the barrier by 2021.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

Senior Reporter

(11) comments

Steve Fouga

The Galveston Ring Levee is one of the parts of the plan that I'm okay with. I wonder what the Chamber dislikes about providing flood protection for the Galveston Business District... 🤔

Steve Fouga

I do think it's funny that I've heard "Bitch, bitch, bitch" since Dr. Merrell proposed the Ike Dike, and nothing was done about it. "Have to have it! Can't do without it." Now that the Corps puts out a report, it's, "No way! Can't have it," or, "I've got a better idea." Predictable, but still funny.

Rusty Schroeder

The costs just got higher, what a joke this is becoming. Not even through with the public comment meetings and the Texas Land Commissioner is telling the Corps of Engineers to go back to the drawing board. More studies, more maps, and more public meetings are the future now. Then when the new plans are put out for review, another group is not going to like them and the process will repeat itself. As I have said from Day 1, JUST SAY NO to this whole boondoggle of a plan. Last I checked it still has no funding and probably never will in most of our lifetimes.

Allison Buchtien

Totally agree, Rusty!

Susan Fennewald

Looking at the report, and the cost-benefits -
50% of the benefit (savings from damage) is from the ring levee around Galveston. Even with a ring levee around Galveston, the system will cost more than it benefits -what it saves by defending current structures from damage is less than the cost of building and maintaining it.
(They do get a slightly "positive" benefit if they factor in potential future growth in the flooded area and indirect loss to businesses.)

If the ring levee around Galveston is NOT built - then there is no positive benefit to building the rest of the system. It will cost more to build than the value of the property it protects from damage.

I personally am not in favor of any massive effort - not even a ring levee -since it will involve building 12 foot concrete walls around much of Galveston.

Some people may want the ring levee and that makes some sense- but the rest of the system is financially irresponsible. (And building the west end barrier along the dune line will just increase the already high cost of maintenance and construction and diminish the safety.

Ron Greenwade

$32 billion for a wall around Galveston when we can't get Congress to approve $5 billion for a wall at the border?

George Croix

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Gary Miller

Ron. Our Democrats and Chamber of Commerce want unlimited illegal emigration for loyal voters or cheap labor. As far as I know no one wants coastal storm surge damage.

Steve Fouga

Let's just save the $37B.

I do believe we should do something to protect the petrochemical industry and the Port of Houston.

Bill Broussard

One way to protect the port and the petrochemical plants would be to enact legislation that requires them to protect themselves. My guess is that every single one of them have higher paid engineers than the ACOE and the CASH FLOW to build whatever they design. Besides, the reduced insurance premiums would most likely be a payback even absent any storm savings.

Look, You folks are right in your exclamations . 32 billion is a leap over 5 billion for a wall and the government had to be shut down to get the 5 billion.

Did you know that about 11 billion in that price tag would go to environmental repair? That's the first cost estimate as to just how much damage is expected by building this thing. 100 MM a year in maintenance? Do we really think Harris and Galveston counties want that bill? Have we thought through just what will happen with a wall that size under constantly deferred maintenance? Galveston itself is the Poster Child for deferred maintenance.

If they succumb to Mr. Bush and our Chamber and build a gate at San Luise Pass (both of which are fine engineers with a lifetime of experience? I bet there isn't an engineer in that room except the ACOE...just hands in the soup) every Environmental group in the world will file any suite they can to hold up this thing simply on what the ACOE has already put in print from their current study.

The push back you see is the Stage 1 of the Chamber, the legislators and the City beginning to realize that this whole scheme was a mistake. It took until now for them to see this is destructive to the very fabric of Galveston's economy. Who wants to climb a 12 foot wall to get to their cruise ship? Who wants to block downtown from cruise passengers? Who wants to hide our gulf view from tourists?
The port makes most of its profit from cruise parking. Parking lots near the north shore will be the first thing to be condemned property for the circular levee...the front row lots now held by the Sealy trust will be the second. Why do you think the Chamber of Commerce suddenly jumped in? They woke up to the massive impact on the city revenue sources.

Here is an idea: Ask yourself "while we are building a wall to protect the Port of Houston, just exactly what is in the deal for Galveston?" Not much! I know the folks who started this only too well. They jumped on the idea of protecting the Houston Port and ship channel becasue that was the only way they could see anyone getting interested in a cost this big. Never could I see any real benefit to Galveston but then they never could have sold it to anyone on just helping Galveston out.

One last thing: On those hardened dunes on the West end beachfront: They talk about just put harden dune there instead of a wall and then all you have to do is cover them with sand and then more sand to keep what little remains of the public beach as it washes away every 5-7 years.

The ACOE gives its sand dredged from the ship channel every year to Galveston: all of its sand. Every year the transport ticket is 5-10MM raised in grants and taxes. To date, we've gotten as far as 61st with ACOE sand.

Other than what the ACOE provides each year, where is the sandlot cover the dunes and re-build a pub lic beach going to come from? The nearest sand deposit is 30 miles offshore south west of Galveston. There just isn't any sand other than the ACOE. So, if you thought people will sell their beach homes if the wall is wild on 3005, I predict they will sell their beach homes staring at a bald clay/concrete dune also.

George Mitchell when he opened and built Pirates Beach said publicly, "no one should buy a home out here that cannot afford to loose it completely." He was a wise Man

Paul Hyatt

When first talked about the Ike Dike was 3-7 billion dollars, and now it is up to 32-35 billion dollars and nary a brick has been laid....I can not fathom how much it will truly cost nor the cost of maintaining it......

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.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.