The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should be commended for agreeing to extend the official comment period on its proposal to build a storm-surge barrier along the Texas coast.
The corps unveiled its tentatively selected plan in late October and had originally given people until today to comment on the proposal.
Because of the complexity of the issue and the fact that most of the original comment period fell during the winter holidays, that just wasn’t enough time.
Numerous people, including local-, state- and national-level elected officials, have urged the corps to extend the comment period.
The corps confirmed Tuesday the comment period has been extended until Feb. 8.
So, if you’re just now tuning into this issue, there’s still time to get informed and offer an opinion about whether and how you think the corps’ plan should be changed.
Among the things in the plan that have caused debate among locals are these:
• The idea of a ring levee around Galveston — a structure running from somewhere east of Ferry Road on the East End, roughly along the Harborside Drive right of way and bisecting the island somewhere about 103rd Street on West End to connect with the seawall — worries many island residents.
That part of the plan would include increasing the height of the seawall to 26 feet in some places, which would be by as much as 7 feet in some places.
• The idea of running some sort of barrier mostly along the north, the bayside, FM 3005 right of way also has raised concerns, including among West End residents who are afraid they’ll end up on the unprotected side of the barrier. Many people argue a West End barrier should run along the beach, where a public easement already exists.
• The same worry also exists among people on Bolivar Peninsula, where the corps’ barrier might run along the north, the bayside, right of way of state Highway 87.
• The great construction cost — estimated at somewhere between $23 billion and more than $32 billion for all types of projects all along the Texas coast — along with the continuing maintenance costs, which the corps estimates at about $130 million a year, also has given people pause, as have the environmental and social costs.
Corps officials have vowed to take the public comments into account as they draft a final plan, which is scheduled to be released in 2021. So, even if you think the corps’ tentatively selected plan is exactly what we need, that’s worth a comment.
• Michael A. Smith