The inevitable devils, potential ones anyway, have begun to emerge in the details about how the federal government might route a massive storm-surge barrier — the coastal spine or Ike Dike — along Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston Island and areas along Galveston Bay.
While there is definitely something for everybody to love in the general idea of preventing storm surge like happened during Hurricane Ike, there’s plenty for people to hate about an alignment proposed in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ preferred plan.
It’s important to note that a lot of what people think they know about the alignment doesn’t come directly from the corps, but from maps several environmental groups created using data mined from corps documents.
The maps could be completely wrong, but corps officials have not disputed what they show. Instead, they have said the alignment, defined with a red line on the maps, is initial and subject to change.
That’s a valid point, but it’s equally valid to note that “might change” is not the same as “will change.”
It’s also true, as best as our reporters have determined, that the alignment displayed on the maps is the alignment the corps used in the scientific modeling that determined whether any sort of barrier was feasible, which would be the preferred of several alternative plans and roughly how much the preferred plan would cost.
That seems less tentative than corps officials claim.
Meanwhile, the red line on the maps doesn’t look all that general and tentative. It’s not a straight, arbitrary line that says “generally here.” It zigs and zags precisely. It looks definitive.
Among the things the red line says is that property owners on Galveston’s West End won’t get the parklike, man-made dune between their homes and Gulf of Mexico they had wanted. On the maps, the barrier mostly follows the FM 3005 right of way.
That alignment would leave virtually all beach-side property — houses in Sunny Beach, Pirates Beach, Bermuda Beach, Hershey Beach and all the rest — in front of the barrier.
That should come as no surprise. Corps officials have said from the beginning the only cost-effective path for a West End barrier would be generally along or under FM 3005.
Many people on Bolivar Peninsula, where the red line runs along the north side of state Highway 87, would be in the same situation — the Gulf in their faces and some sort of barrier at their backs.
Corps officials might be right in saying it’s too soon to know exactly where the barriers would run. The rub, however, is that the planned public meetings about the barrier project all will be next week. By the time the corps fesses up about, or changes, the red lines those meetings will have passed.
The only thing to do is to take those red lines as the Gospel and get worked up now if there’s anything about them that works you up.
• Michael A. Smith