It’s clear a fairly large, loud and politically connected faction of Galveston’s business community opposes a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to encircle the island’s eastern reaches with a storm-surge barrier.

It’s not clear, however, what those business leaders think would be a viable alternative to that small part of a much larger storm-surge system, for which many of the same people have been lobbying since just after Hurricane Ike.

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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(27) comments

Michelle Aycoth

I don’t think the Ike Dike or inner ring will ever get built because there is too much opposition from residents ,old money Galveston goof old Galveston politicians.

I think in the end portion will be built and Galveston will cease to exist in 100 years.



Andrew Aycoth

Patricia C Newsom

Question: how would a Levee around Galveston or the historical strand district prevent the flooding that occurred this past week during the tropical event, Imelda?

Gary Miller

Patricia> Rain flooding is more frequent and as costly as storm surge. Fix that first and most of the storm surge problem will be improved.

Jeff Patterson

As you allude to, there are two threats to Galveston - flooding from storm surge from the bay due to a hurricane event, and flooding due to heavy rains. The ring barrier will protect us from the storm surge; It will be the pumping stations and associated systems that will protect us from rainwaters. My argument continues to be that regardless of whether we build a ring barrier or not, at some point in the near future Galveston is going to have to move from a gravity drain storm system to a system of pumps. You may be aware, but Galveston has received a $30 million grant to build a pumping station at 14th St. There are three large pumping stations proposed as part of the ring barrier, and it would seem to make a lot of sense to design those to handle both normal and deluge type rain falls. For me, it’s a win-win - Galveston gets protection from Bay side storm surge, and also an acceleration of the needed move to pumping stations. Keep in mind that the gravity flow option is still there, it’s just that when the rainfall gets too heavy and/or the tides are too high to allow gravity outflow, the pumps kick on and pump the water out over the ring barrier into the bay. I mentioned in a previous comment that I have a very similar system set up at my house on 16th and Ball. It works great, and will also work great on a larger scale for Galveston

Randy Chapman

No matter what is done, it will not be finished in our lifetimes. But that doesn't mean something shouldn't be done. If nothing is done, Texas will have it's very own version of Venice. Galvenice.

Don Schlessinger

Galvenice, I like that.

Bill Broussard

Thank you michael. Once again you’ve said it better than I’ve said it

Paul Hyatt

Galveston already has a huge issue with draining during a major rain storm so how is putting a ring levee around the island going to help that issue? Wouldn't that just make the flooding issue even worse or is there going to be somewhere that they put in large pumps to pump the water off of the island and back into the bay. A ring levee just sounds like a very expensive boondoggle that our federal government really does not have the money as they are technically bankrupt....

Bailey Jones

The island is sinking. Seas are rising. "500 year" storms are occurring with greater frequency. Those are the facts of Galveston. I don't see how anything short of raising the island (again) is going to keep it habitable. But I expect we will have to wait until the next Great Storm destroys enough of the island to make a massive civil engineering effort (or abandonment) politically palatable.

Jeff Patterson

As Bailey points out, rising sea levels, a sinking island and more frequent and more intense rains means that Galveston has two choices for its future - 1) raise the island again, or 2) design and install pumping systems to remove rainwater, both from normal rains and hurricane generated rains. Our current gravity drainage systems will become increasingly inadequate as time goes by. And to protect Galveston from bay side storm surge flooding, we need the ring barrier to protect the north side of the island. All of the studies that have been done show that installing gates across Bolivar Roads and the coastal barrier extending the seawall to the east and to the west are not sufficient to protect Galveston from storm surge from the Bay…the ring barrier is required as well due to the large volume of water north of us. And for those that think the status quo is OK, there is always a third option....abandon the Island since rising sea levels and constant flooding will make it uninhabitable at some point in the future.

Steve Fouga

I was about to lecture on ring levees, rain, and storm surge, but Jeff has said it all nicely in this well-written paragraph. I wish people would take the time to understand that a perfectly legitimate way to drain a surface, and sometimes the only way, is to enclose it first, then pump the water out of the enclosure.

Jeff Patterson

Thanks Steve. I have appreciated reading your comments about the ring barrier as well. I think we both look at this from a very logical data driven perspective; we don’t have to like what the numbers and the models tell us, but the math is the math. Back in my engineering days, when folks would start opining about what they would “like” to happen versus what the laws of nature would invariably make happen, I would hold up my cell phone and say, gosh, I would really “like” for this to go up when I drop it, but I have a strong feeling that the laws of gravity don’t care. Regarding the ring barrier, I would really like to see the Corps now focus on developing some innovative ways to provide the Bay side storm surge protection that Galveston so desperately needs. There are ways to do it that are not ugly and intrusive. To quote a line from one of my favorite engineering solutions stories, let’s work the problem people, and let’s don’t make it worse by guessing

Gary Miller

Steve> You get it.

Gary Miller

Jeff> Uninhabitable is not an option. Humans have been coping with rising sea levels for 12,000 years, Over 320 ft. Galveston was once a inland high ground but keeps coming up ways to live on a barrior Island as they will continue to do. Increasing the population density, with higher construction, on raised portions of the Island will likely be one choice. Old sections were raised once and can be raised again.

Jeff Patterson

I agree with your basic premise, but I think our ancestors had a much easier time of picking up and moving when the conditions changed. Us modern folks have way too much stuff to do that quickly. I don’t know if you’ve read recently about the exodus from the Florida Keys due to rising waters; unfortunately the impact of climate change is very real, and it will continue to affect all of us, and I’m afraid a lot faster than most of us are anticipating, particularly shortsighted political leaders. So for Galveston, we do have the two classic choices - raise the bridge, or lower the water, which is our specific case are, 1) raise the island again, or 2) build some barriers and pumping systems that are designed to remove normal rain water and that from events like Harvey and Imelda. The “do nothing” option is also available, but it’s not very attractive for the long run. Unfortunately it is also the easiest one

Don Schlessinger

I'm sure I missed it, but I haven't seen any mention of the EPA. Nothing will happen, ring levee, dunes, or raising the island till they buy off. What no one knows is there is probably a worm or a special species of mosquito that will be annihilated if anything is built so forget about flood mitigation until you get a thumbs up from the EPA.

Wayne Holt

The comments shared all are valuable in facing what appears to be a problem that is only going to get worse. What we are discussing is mitigating damage, not finding ways to avoid it altogether. No matter how you believe it's being caused, it doesn't appear that flood levels are receding.

Which leads me to a question: While we are discussing NASA-project levels of funding to protect downtown, shouldn't there be some effort to develop better low tech ways to protect what is in place on a business by business and residence by residence basis? How much damage could be stopped by passing an ordinance that prescribes a mandatory arrest, detention and impounding of vehicles violating the wake ordinance? One idiot in a pickup can do damage that the flood waters would never cause absent the imbecile behind the wheel. Is there some reason we should be ignoring that or treating those drivers with kid gloves? Why am I paying a flood deductible for our building that is thousands of dollars before insurance even kicks in due to this behavior? Make the violation fine fit the damage they are causing.

There are alternatives to sandbags that are easy to deploy and effective. Wouldn't they be more likely to be used than the heavy, hard to store and painful to remove sandbags that we see so often? There are tubes that can help soak up rainwater leaks that can be laid down in seconds, dried out and re-used. Towels are so 19th century. Go to https://dpraware.site123.me and take some of the links on flood prevention to see what is available in modern flood control.

If we are talking about tens of billions of dollars of cost, and the physical alteration of the island's face, shouldn't we be putting some effort into seeing what can be done short of that Herculean effort now to lessen damage from weather events like Imelda? There is little that can reasonably be done for a monster that can sweep over us. Bailey is likely correct: at some point, it will probably not be viable to live here. But in the meantime we should be considering small ways to make a difference, while we're waiting for those billions to come rolling in...any day now.

Jeff Patterson

Those are very good questions and comments Wayne. From my perspective, I think the ring barrier is that really good first "small" step to providing substantial hurricane storm surge and flood mitigation for Galveston. And I know it sounds crazy to call something like that "small", but when you consider that the ring barrier may cost half a billion to $1 billion to build versus the $30+ billion of the entire coastal barrier, it is relatively small. I also think that it is something that could be built relatively quickly if it had the right support.........and yes Chamber of Commerce, I'm talking to you. A project like that can be managed locally by the Corps and is a much smaller undertaking then the massive navigation gates and barrier across Bolivar Roads and the large engineered dunes on the west end of Galveston and across Bolivar Peninsula. And as Don Schlessinger rightfully pointed out, the EPA is definitely a key player in all of this, and I believe that building the ring barrier is a lot less environmentally challenging and invasive then the navigation gates and engineered dunes. I have to believe that the approvals for those would take much longer, which is why it would seem to make sense to approve and build the ring barrier first. For the Corps, that would also allow them to capture a large chunk of the economic benefit for the project earlier, which is important for the overall financials of the project. Regarding the pumping, as I've stated previously, that is in Galveston's near future regardless.......assuming that future is to remain as a habitable island......so the sooner we begin the process of designing and installing those systems, the better off we are. Those systems need to be designed to handle the range of rainfalls from "normal" rains to deluges like we experienced with Harvey and Imelda. The City has now received a $30 million grant to design and install the first pumping station on 14th Street near the harbor. And building a pump system does not preclude the use of gravity drainage in normal situations; you simply design the system to gravity drain until it becomes inundated due to rising tides and/or large volumes of water, and then the pumps take over. Anyone who wants to see a real live example of this on a small scale, please come by my house at 16th and Ball and I will be happy to show my ring barrier and pumping system. It has worked great during Harvey and now Imelda to keep my house from flooding. During normal rains,the water gravity drains to the street; once the water in the street rises too high to allow for gravity drainage, I put a plumber's plug in my underground PVC drain, install the barricade across the opening in our brick wall, i.e. ring barrier, turn on the pump and voila, the pump pumps the water out of my lower patio area and out over the wall into the street, i.e. the Bay, and we stay high and dry. Very simple proven technology that works.

Wayne Holt

I may take you up on your offer to see that, Jeff, as it sounds like something worth looking at. Someone will probably notice right away that individual systems like this remove the threat from an individual's property but then it goes back into the pool of shared risk on the other side of the wall. Perhaps it will take an "arms race" like this to get larger numbers of people to try to mitigate on an individual basis rather than waiting for the mega projects to come online.

Regarding the ring barrier, I have been in the same position as Michael Smith: if not this, what is the alternative as you can't be something with nothing? It may come down to the community having to decide between risking catastrophic damage that will make living here untenable due to insurance costs and rebuilding fatigue or changing the face of the island from what we are all used to. If Historic Galveston is worth saving, something is going to have to be done. If not the ring barrier, there needs to be an alternative offered that makes better sense. So far, we haven't heard it.

Jeff Patterson

Anytime! I don’t know if this link will work here, but Galveston Daily News actually did an article about my set up last year. My 15 seconds of fame!



https://www.galvnews.com/news/article_e40080ce-429d-589f-b734-7de13d7d44c0.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share

Jeff Patterson

You can copy and paste the link into your browser

Wayne Holt

Jeff, I am going to get in touch with you to see your system; interesting read in the 2018 DN.

I would consider the viability of an adaptation of something like that for our building using our removable barriers. You can see them here: https://www.flooddefensegroup.com/our-products/noaq-boxwall/

I'll be in touch...

Don Schlessinger

Since I'm close to the seawall I haven't had a requirement to try it but I've heard you can spray insulating foam into door and window frames to stop water from interring a home. I'm sure there is a hassle involved in clean-up, but if it stops flood water from entering your home the foam would be worth the effort. I keep a couple of cans of the stuff around just in case.

Steve Fouga

I think a few sketches, paintings, or computer-generated images would go a long way toward 1) alleviating peoples' fears of a Galveston ring levee, 2) alarming people about a 75-mile-long "coastal spine." Why has this not been done already?? Back in the days when I worked, we wouldn't have considered trying to sell a design without showing artist's renderings as part of the sales pitch. My educated guess is that a ring levee would not be an obtrusive feature along most of its length. We're not talking about the Great Wall of China. A sketch or two showing the interface of the levee with the seawall on the West End, another showing the levee/wall along Harborside, and more showing a pump station and a flood gate, would let residents, Chamber members, local politicos, etc., understand what they're debating. Maybe such images exist, but I haven't seen them.

Jeff Patterson

I totally agree Steve. In the absence of information, people’s minds tend to go to the worst case scenario, particularly when it seems like we have a group of folks who are trying to play to those fears

Gary Miller

If pumps with a ring system are used the mistakes of the TC system should be investigated. Two pump stations pump water from the city into Moses lake. One station pumps to the bay. If the flood gate is shut Moses lake rises and floods some homes. If the lake rises high enough the water flows back into the city and the pumps move it back to the lake. A dumb move caused by worrying about the original cost. Doing it right would have increased costs slightly but doing it right would have saved homeowners in the long run, If you don't do it right you may be better off not doing it at all. A ring levee with a well designed pump system could add generations to Galveston's livability.

Randy Chapman

Gary, for the life of me I cannot understand why the Corps has not installed a pump system through the levee to prevent having to partially raise the gate. It's a simple fix, but again, it just reinforces that protecting homes was not the true purpose of the levee to begin with. Both of the pumps that pump into the bay, the one south of Marathon, and the one south of I45 do a great job of holding the floodwaters at bay.

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