Public hearings about a massive coastal storm-surge barrier proposed for the Galveston area are scheduled to start in November, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Corps officials said they were finalizing plans for what a coastal spine in Galveston area would look like and groups involved in the corps process said they expect the chosen design to be a barrier along the coast, rather than inland.

The corps is completing the Coastal Texas Study, a multi-million dollar project that includes developing plans for a coastal barrier meant to protect some areas around Galveston Bay from storm surge flooding such as caused by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

The corps has not yet revealed what that barrier should look like. In May, the agency released four drawings of potential alternatives for the barrier project.

The alternatives vary widely from a barrier that runs the length of Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula, with gates across the mouth of the Galveston Ship Channel, to a system of levees that would be built along the west side of Galveston Bay.

In coming months, the corps will choose one of the four alternatives as its preferred design, said Sharon Tirpak, deputy chief of project management for the Army Corps of Engineer’s Galveston District.

Tirpak would not say which of the four alternatives was the most likely to be recommended. But for nearly 10 years, the most consistent and loud local support has been for a barrier and gate system that runs along the coast.

A recommendation of one of the alternatives other than a barrier along the coast would be surprising, said Bob Mitchell, the president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.

“I’m confident that’s going to be the choice,” Mitchell said. “That’s based on conversations and based on common sense.”

The partnership has been among the leading advocates for the coastal barrier. It has recruited local governments to pass resolutions in favor of the concept, and produced slick movies arguing for the concept.

Environmental advocates also have heard the corps is leaning toward the coastal alternative, said Bob Stokes, president of the Galveston Bay Foundation. If that’s proposed, the foundation will have concerns, Stokes said.

“Our biggest concern still revolves around the proposed floodgates between Galveston and Bolivar,” he said. “The corps has said very little about the details on the proposed gates. Restricting flow will slow down circulation in the bay. Slowing circulation will mean the bay flushes less frequently, which could lead to more algal blooms and poor water quality.”

Stokes expected the corps would explain how a coastal gate might affect fish, shrimp and crabs when it reveals its preferred design in October, he said.

After that plan is revealed, the corps plans to give people about a month to analyze the proposal before starting public hearings, Tirpak said.

Even after the public hearings are completed, the corps’ final report on the Coastal Texas Plan isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2021.

After the plan is completed, the barrier would still needed to be funded. Estimates for the coastal barrier have placed its cost anywhere from $6 billion to $15 billion.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.


Senior Reporter

(16) comments

Donna Kearney

Where can I find the proposed map and more information on the plan?

michaelsmith Staff
Michael A. Smith

You can find them here now. They should have posted with the story but the night crew failed to click all the right boxes. Sorry about that.

Scott Jones

George Croix

"Stokes expected the corps would explain how a coastal gate might affect fish, shrimp and crabs when it reveals its preferred design in October, he said."
If there is no approaching storm and the gate is open, no effect.
If the gate is closed due to approaching storm, the priority is people, not fish, shrimp, and crabs.
What am I missing here.....?

Steve Fouga

George, as I understand the the different possible gate designs, they constrict the flow through Bolivar roads even when open.

George Croix

Then the choices are at least three:
1) UNrestrict them by design (that would be one heckuva gate system...)
2) Decide whether occasional use for storm protection damage outweighs daily interference in bay mechanics and resulting income and recreation issues
3) Forget the whole thing about protecting people and private property, as there are just too many fingers in the rice bowl, and build to do what the Texas City Levee PRIMARILY was built for and does - protect major industry of nationally strategic importance as a first priority, and any inside housing and businesses luck out by association

In the harsh world of reality, shutting down Chevron, et al, up the ship channel is a LOT more important and damaging for the nation, and thus it's prevention a priority use of federal monies, than keeping Gulf waterfront or even water-close properties from damage or destruction. To get BOTH, somebody's ox IS going to get gored....

Steve Fouga

I'd be for forgetting everything except local levees, and a channel gate upstream of Bolivar Roads. I say that without any knowledge of engineering, cost, environmental, and legal issues of any of the candidate designs -- just gut feel.

Scott Jones

You are right that the gates would be open almost all the time, but that doesn't tell the whole story. In fact, the structures needed to house the navigation gates and environmental lift gates would permanently effectively reduce the width of Bolivar Roads by about half, which would reduce tidal volume, tidal range, increase scour in some areas of the Bay and increase sedimentation in other areas of the Bay. Water velocities at the pass would increase due to the restriction and one knows what effects the increased velocity and turbulence would have on the fish, shrimp and crab as they move through the pass - both adult and larval forms. Could have a big impact on recreational and commercial fishing. These items need to be addressed.

George Croix

That's exactly in line with #2 above.

Gary Miller

Before any vote to approve any plan we should know who's property will be required and if there will be any beachfront properties permitted. Also what effect on local tax base is acceptable.

Rusty Schroeder

I would rather see a levee type system explored along the coast, part of that $5 Billion is going to make that a reality from Beaumont to High Island. None of these plans do anything for San Luis Pass entrance, thus mainland communities will see the same surge if not more. Like water going around a dam, Hitchcock, Santa Fe, and Alvin will be flooded. I would rather see studies on Global Warming from Santa Claus than this waste of time and money, which both have already been spent.

Scott Jones

Just FYI - the $3.9B out of the $5B I believe you are referencing (the Corps' Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay project) will be used for levee work in Pt. Arthur area and the Freeport area, but not anywhere in between. The name of that Corps study understandably throws people off.

Steve Fouga

"Estimates for the coastal barrier have placed its cost anywhere from $6 billion to $15 billion."

That doesn't include my estimate, which is closer to $30B.

Rusty Schroeder

I bet you are spot on Steve, just like the filling of Rollover Pass.

Jose' Boix

September 2008 - July 2018; just about 10 years since Ike ($38B damages). We are still in the debating, discussing, evaluating mode. What is the urgency.

George Croix

That 30 BILLION is a LOT closer when the x3 factor for all government projects is figured, and even then doesn't include all the money spent fighting the environmentalists for a decade or more ...real or wannabe.....

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