After about 12 years of talk, study and planning, the idea of building a massive storm-surge barrier system along the Texas coast is nearing the point where the rubber meets the road.

That’s the point at which plans become tangible, and where they sometimes go sideways into a ditch.

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

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(28) comments

Bailey Jones

If my math is right, this new barrier will cost me less than $100 a year in taxes. Compared to what I already pay in wind storm and flood insurance, it's a bargain. (And if it works, will pay for itself in reduced flood insurance rates.)

Carlos Ponce

So..... if this goes through, Bailey will drop his wind storm and flood insurance? Do you honestly believe flood insurance rates would be reduced?

Bailey Jones

Carlols, insurance rates are set by risk. We own homes in three counties. At one house, there is a low risk of flooding and we pay a low rate for flood insurance. In another, there is a moderate risk and we pay a moderate rate. In Galveston, there is a high risk and we pay a high rate. Homes protected by the seawall pay lower rates than homes farther away from the seawall, because the seawall has demonstrated an ability to protect those homes. It's called actuarial science. It's a branch of mathematics. Normally I'd expect a math teacher to be aware of something like this.

A modest 10% reduction in my flood insurance rate more than pays for this new tax.

Carlos Ponce

"Carlols"??? You must have been a total failure at spelling.

Doubtful any rates will be reduced. Wait and see.

Bailey Jones

Naw, Carlols - I swiped that moniker from Gary M. I'm sure it was a typo when he wrote it, but it fits you so well I continue to use it purposely. I can go back to using Trumpoodle if you prefer.

Dan Freeman

I guess Carlols is the new moniker for Carlos "Laugh Out Loud" Ponce.

Carlos Ponce

Misspelling a word once by mistyping is understandable. CONSTANTLT misspelling a word or name WHEN IT IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU shows either stupidity.

Bailey Jones

"CONSTANTLT misspelling a word or name WHEN IT IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU shows either stupidity."

Oh, Carlols, I hope you never change.

Carlos Ponce

"shows either stupidity or....." I left off that part on purpose. Some might find it offensive.[beam]

Gary Scoggin

I still have my doubts about the whole project but for this discussion that's neither here nor there. If we build this thing, the people that benefit the most should be at least partially responsible for its funding. A district such as is being proposed is as good (or maybe less bad) an idea as about any other.

I agree that theoreticaly the Coastal Barrier should result in lower flood insurance rates. Flood insurance is ridiculously cheap - actually it's too cheap as insurance rates aren't a deterrent to building in flood prone areas. Also it should be noted that while the Coastal Barrier may have been effective against Ike, it would been of little benefit during Harvey.

The most expensive insurance I buy is Windstorm Coverage. And while the Coastal Barrier may prevent a storm surge, it won't stop the wind. So I wouldn't expect any reduction in my windstorm risk nor any relief in my windstorm insurance rates due to this project.

Bailey Jones

The barrier just needs to be taller. [tongue_smile]

I think I've told this story before, but I'm old and I like to tell the same stories over and over. I had a professor at Tech, Dr. Burke, who wanted to illustrate what it meant to "think big." He proposed filling the gulf with windmills - enough to absorb all of the energy of a hurricane, and use that electricity to drive giant pumping stations that would reverse the course of the Mississippi River and fill the Great Lakes with the storm surge. Then, after the storm, you would release that stored water back to the gulf through hydroelectric plants and generate power for the grid. No more hurricanes, endless free power. Now that's a project.

Gary Scoggin

This was obviously before the days of Environmental Impact Statements! LOL

Carlos Ponce

Would the Coastal Barrier have helped in a situation like Harvey? No.

Chuck DiFalco

"That tax increase could be as much as 5 cents on each $100 of taxable property value." I'll bet 5 cents that the district's tax rate will eventually be much higher than that due to cost overruns.

"[government] debt requires ... money from somewhere ... somewhere ... always has been taxpayers" Mr. Smith, you got that right.

"The devil being in the details" Mr. Smith, you got that right.

Gary Scoggin

The legislation itself caps the new district's taxes at 5 cents/$100. So any increase beyond that would have to go to the legislature, which, of course, is possible. Also, the voters in the district must approve any an valorem taxes or the issuance of any bonds supported by ad valorem taxes.

Norman Pappous

The coastal spine is a boondoggle.

It would not have helped a single home or person during Harvey. It will not prevent a single tornado from forming.

It is being paid for by taxes which will likely offset any reduction in insurance premiums.

It is a high-cost, low-benefit project being pushed by local chambers of commerce in pursuit of the billions in tax dollars it will bring to their members.

Bailey Jones

Condemning something for not doing what it's not designed to do is kind of a specious argument, don't you think?

"Why are you spending all that money on chemo for your cancer? It won't save you from a heart attack" - is what this sounds like to me.

There are three useful questions here 1) Will it work? 2) How much will it cost? I don't believe anyone in this forum can answer those questions. The question we can all answer with certainty is, 3) What will happen if we do nothing?

Norman Pappous

What is a specious argument is that this passes the written risk/reward requirement for CoE approval. Fact: this is moving forward despite the fact that a MUCH less expensive alternative that does pass the written risk/reward rules is being ignored.

Norman Pappous

@Bilaey - if you simply ring-levy Galveston, you get the most bang for the taxpayer buck. The VAST majority of those mainland homes destroyed during Harvey will now be paying an added tax but will have no greater protection based on the last 100 years of storms.

Dan Freeman

Ring levy of Galveston would not protect the petro chemical industry of the country. Most economists would recognize the importance of maximizing benefit to the whole country, not just Galveston.

Gary Scoggin

Most of the county's refining/petrochem industries sit behind the 14-1/2' Texas City protection levee. A big question then is whether or not the proposed plan provides any meaningful flooding risk reduction. The industries are more vulnerable to a Harvey-style heavy rain event than an Ike-style storm surge event. Does incremental protection against Ike-style events pass a cost/benefit analysis.

George Laiacona

First we have to realize that until the oil companies get on board any kind of protection for the island and other coastal areas is not going to happen . I hate to introduce negative comments but take a good look at the past. Was any of the refineries affected by Ike or any of the tropical storms? The only thing I saw was that the took advantage of the situations and raised prices . Their money will be needed, but someone is going to have to convince them that the idea of protection from storms is in their best interests. I don’t expect to see anything happening in my lifetime.

Gary Scoggin

As I recall, the local refining/petrochemical industry impacts from Ike were more wind related that storm surge. With regard to "The only thing I saw was that the took advantage of the situations and raised prices," what happens is that many plants did shut down and the market did what markets do, that is increase prices when supply is reduced. After normal operations were restored, prices tended to go back to normal. The folks that were shut down didn't make any money on the deal, as they coudn't produce product and therefore couldn't sell into the higher priced market.

To the bigger question as to whether or not local industries would support the Coastal Barrier system, as I said earlier, they are already protected by the Texas City protection levee, so there's not a lot for them to gain. This may or may not change things; local industry seems quite a bit less politically potent than it was in days past.

Jose' Boix

If memory serves, (ca. 4 years ago) Hurricane Harvey, August 25, 2017 and Hurricane Ike, September 13, 2008 (ca. 13 years ago). We have discussed the issue ad nauseam and should move on to action. Perhaps we all need yet another one of these "storms"? Glad that Texas City built the levee and now is strongly considering adding the much needed Moses Lake "pump over" system. Just my thoughts!

Susan Fennewald

The Ike Dike was an idea that should've been abandoned years ago - but a small minority of influential people kept it going. It does NOT give us the best return on investment. It does NOT provide the best protection at a reasonable price.

But it does build sand dunes on the west end of Galveston Island....

I won't vote to pay $1 for sand dunes on the west end of Galveston Island, and I don't really want to live in a construction zone for the rest of my life. And I don't want to watch the natural areas left on the east end of the island turned into slabs of concrete.

Jose' Boix

It is clearly apparent that "we" can't get consensus on what is "effective storm protection." We do not seem to have a consolidated and technically based proposal. So we can continue to debate and weather the "next one" or decide individually to go our own way; i.e., Texas City, Galveston, La Marque, Bolivar, etc., etc. The Texas City levee improvements, Galveston sand dunes, and so on. Reasonable, rational, efficient, effective...? Just my thoughts!

Gary Scoggin

Jose -- I willingly and somewhat shamefully admit that I haven't read the Corps plan and I am a bit clueless as to what alternatives were discussed. My initital thought is that for $25 billion dollars the government can do a lot of buyouts. Is it feasible to build a hybrid with a stick of appropriately priced, non-subsidized flood insurance rates and a carrot of butoyuts of existing flood prone property? This would be traumatic for a lot of coastal communities (including ours) but I wonder if this is the best long-term sustainable solution. To reduce the shock, implement this program over the 10-20 years it would take to build the levee.

People that want to move can do so; those that want to stay can do so while acknowledging the risk of their decision.

Jose' Boix

Gary, you speak with the "rationality" of a scientist. My pictorial montage of the efforts in getting such project done shows a bunch of legislators pushing a huge rolling stone with "wet spaghetti." Just my thoughts again.

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