It’s good news that advocates for the construction of a coastal barrier system seem confident that Hurricane Harvey’s flooding rains will lift, rather than drown, support for measures meant to protect the region from storm-surge flooding.
“I think it will be helpful,” Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said on Tuesday. “This is a federal project, and now we’re going to look at 13 or 14 congressional members that have been impacted directly by a hurricane in the last 30 days.”
Likewise, U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, a Friendswood Republican, said more of his colleagues have talked to him about the coastal barrier proposal since he returned to Washington last week. He said Harvey, and some of the gas shortage panic that followed it, could wake people up about protecting the Texas coast’s industrial areas.
“I believe people will see that now,” Weber said. “As fuel prices began to rise and as fuel shortages were possible, you saw people going out and buying fuel.
“The area of energy production in Southeast Texas is one of the most stable economic drivers for the American economy and produces a goodly amount of the fuel. People will notice it.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn also helped push the idea before Harvey, writing legislation that could speed approvals for the projects if it becomes reality.
The project also has traction in Houston, which was inundated by flooding from Harvey.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Tuesday reiterated his support for the project during an event at Houston’s City Hall debuting a video meant to create support for the barrier system.
Called ”Unprepared: A Nation at Risk,” the video imagines gas shortages and a national state of emergency in the aftermath of a major storm hitting the ship channel.
“I don’t think there’s a better time to have this conversation than right now,” Turner said. “As we work diligently to get back on track after the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, we are also keeping our eyes on the vital needs for storm surge protection in our region.”
It’s good that Harvey hasn’t knocked a storm-surge barrier out of the discussion.
At the same time, however, it’s clear Harvey should change the discussion to at least one extent. The discussion should include a regional plan for dealing with flooding caused by huge amounts of rainfall.
Today, people all over the region are in the early stages of putting their lives back together after flooding caused by massive rain.
On this day nine years ago, people were in the early stages of putting their lives together after flooding caused by storm-surge from Hurricane Ike.
In 2001, the disaster was caused by rain from Tropical Storm Allison.
In 1979, it was from rain caused by Tropical Storm Claudette.
For the victims, it makes very little difference what caused the flooding, the result is pretty much the same.
At the very least, Harvey demands a rethinking about who along the coast is required to carry flood insurance and about which areas along inland waterways should be considered habitable, and which should be returned to floodplain.
• Michael A. Smith