The preliminary results of the Port of Galveston’s study leading to a master plan seem quite positive, particularly the potential public/private cruise ship expansions. So, it’s unfortunate that there’s a factor facing us all that would probably make any of that expansion impossible.

The factor is the Army Corps of Engineers presently proposed ring levee through the island, which is still its preferred plan despite any wishful thinking to the contrary.

Why? Well, the present levee plan calls for a gated barrier ranging from 10 feet to 18 feet running east from 103rd Street down Harborside Drive and right through the area served by the port.

This means that all present and future port facilities are, and will be, on the “wrong” (north) side of the barrier as proposed. This in turn means that during a hurricane as the gates close and the levee does its seawall thing, all present and proposed port facilities will suffer a rebound effect when the winds shift to the north, which will multiply the effect of winds and waves. Destruction will be compounded.

Would any cruise company or anyone else partner in building port facilities in the face of certain compounding of tidal destruction? As a business person, it doesn’t seem likely to me. Instead, most probably, they will look to move elsewhere.

This is a clear, specific example for us all showing how ruinous the presently proposed ring levee is likely to be both while it’s being built, and also to many future plans for the growth and economic survival of Galveston Island. Its calamitous effect on the University of Texas Medical Branch plans will be another case in point, by the way.

In the face of this, and as we might expect, the port has written a letter to the corps on Feb. 7 opposing the ring levee as presently constituted for just the reasons we’ve been talking about. And city council has issued a letter on Jan. 24 to the corps requesting an “investigation of alternative placement of the ring levee” and “an evaluation of the gate at San Luis Pass.” The medical branch has written a similar request.

Despite this community reaction, I’m skeptical that corps officials actually will pay any attention to the requests of Galveston’s local and statewide officials for non-invasive protection alternatives to the ring levee. Case in point: They’ve done hundreds of the necessary storm simulations, but, as of this January, they hadn’t done one single storm simulation testing the effectiveness of a San Luis Pass gate, or, to my knowledge, of any of the other alternatives to the present ring levee concept. Inertia rules?

And yet, as we can now see more clearly from the Port example, their ring levee of 10 feet to 18 feet through town will likely make it near impossible to build for our future wherever it lies.

I think it will take all of our persistent efforts to move the corps to actively contemplate better alternatives.

Saddle up citizens.

Harris L. “Shrub” Kempner Jr. lives in Galveston.

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(8) comments

Steve Fouga

I've been wondering why there is so much opposition to a ring levee. Now I understand that protecting the Port is more important than protecting the city from flooding. I figured it was something like that.

Here's a better, more elegant, possibly more expensive idea: A more ambitious barrier that would enclose the harbor with a gate at each end. The gate on the west end would be incorporated into a land bridge that would allow rail traffic to Pelican Island. The levee itself would be an extension of the land bridge onto Pelican Island, and would enclose the A&M campus and the Port facilities there. It would then extend east to Seawolf Park, and a new Seawolf Pkwy would be built on top of it. The gate on the east end of the harbor would cross the channel from the vicinity of Seawolf Park to the vicinity of Ft. Point on Galveston Island. From there, the existing levee on the far east end could be used, or re-engineered if necessary. It already connects to the seawall at Boddeker. There would be no levee along Harborside at all.

Such a levee system would avoid the rebound issue that Mr Kempner fears, it would protect the Port of Galveston, the A&M campus, UTMB, the entire Galveston business district, and any residence within the ring. It would bring rail to Pelican Island.

A project like this would require combining the proposed Pelican Island Bridge with the proposed Galveston Ring Levee. Maybe that would make both efforts easier to fund. Or maybe make them impossible, which might already be the case anyhow. [cool]

Randy Chapman

Sounds like a very sensible plan.

Dan Freeman

Vox clamantis in deserto

Steve Fouga

[whistling]

Jarvis Buckley

Whether you agree with Shrub or not you have to agree he is very articulate & speaks with a great deal of knowledge . It's apparent that hehas put a great deal of time studying the coastal barrier / ring levee.
I don't expect a barrier of any kind will ever be built, not that it's not needed. In my opinion just a case of
too many chiefs & not enough Indians . A pie in the sky.

Randy Chapman

I think a barrier will be built, driven by dependence on this areas importance to the entire nation. Will it be finished in my lifetime? Doubtful.

Jarvis Buckley

Randy the proposed coastal barrier goings all the way to Louisiana line on the Sabine River . Not just Galveston. It's a pipe dream. Not gonna happen in 100 years.

Paul Sivon

Port number - number 1, Galveston - other than the port number 2. At least it’s a clear priority. The author supports the barrier but not the levee, even though, if a barrier is built, the same rebound issues he is concerned with would impact the entire island.

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