Dr. William Merrell’s series of commentaries appearing in The Daily News is essential reading for anyone living along the Upper Gulf Coast — particularly those on Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, where a proposed Army Corps of Engineers plan to build a storm-surge barrier threatens to dramatically and forever disrupt both the landscape and life as residents know it.
Because of the complexity of both the subject matter and potential solutions, the series will be presented in six informational commentaries.
The Daily News feels strongly that with the important decisions facing our local communities about storm protection, inviting Merrell, one of the nation’s foremost experts on the subject, to present a series of explanatory pieces on the matter was appropriate.
As readers of The Daily News will recall, Merrell is the president emeritus, regents professor, and Mitchell chair for the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores at Texas A&M University at Galveston. He also is credited with the original concept of a coastal spine — the Ike Dike. His work is deep and highly respected both locally and nationally. To have him participate in this discussion is important.
Additionally, The Daily News is publishing his series in the newspaper’s digital edition — galvnews.com — free to the non-subscribing public to read. Doing so allows us to serve not only our paid subscribers, but also allows them to become part of the important educational effort by sharing with friends, relatives and on social media. Please do so.
The corps’ public presentations have drawn great attention to the tentatively selected plan. And as The Daily News is reporting, opinions and emotions of the public are highly elevated. The plan appears to be overly large, dramatic and crazy expensive. And that opinion is not limited to the pages of The Daily News. Add to the fact the plan’s ring levee and setback surge protection built along the primary state highways would protect some but not others, and you can quickly see why residents are voicing their opposition and asking the corps to hit the reset button.
The Daily News agrees. We also agree that to doing nothing — as some may be arguing in frustration with the plan — is not the wisest solution. We need a plan that carefully balances the needs of the communities for moderating storm damage, yet does not require a hard solution that dramatically changes the landscape and lifestyle of the impacted communities.
Our hope is by allowing Merrell the opportunity to present his thoughts and research, readers can better understand potential alternatives. Understanding both the risks and potential solutions will be key in the coming dialogues. We understand everyone will not agree in the end. But hopefully, through thoughtful and productive discussions, we can arrive at a place of mutual agreement.
But if the plan as presented by the corps is intended to be dynamic and responsive to feedback from the community, then the corps must already know it is facing an angry storm surge of opposition.
• Leonard Woolsey