William Merrell’s commentary series published in The Daily News on the Ike Dike highlights a fact that community groups, environmental organizations and politicians have all been saying: the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is woefully inadequate.
Many viable options for protecting the Galveston Bay area are little consideration by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since January 2018, the Corps has proposed and presented only a $31 billion levee behind the island highway that will take decades to complete.
It is unacceptable to spend $31 billion to actively flood thousands of Texans with a levee when cheaper, more effective and faster protection alternatives exist. Texans need protection from flooding now, not 30 years from now. Texans need multiple lines of defense against flooding, not one giant boondoggle. Let’s restore oyster reefs. Let’s provide funding to elevate homes that are in harm’s way. Let’s restore existing dunes.
While Merrell is correct that the corps fails to address alternatives, he’s wrong to trade the Ike Dike boondoggle for another boondoggle.
Merrell’s request for the “corps to carefully consider” his proposed changes is too late. The corps’ levee plan doesn’t seriously consider any of these ideas. For the corps to consider new alternatives, they would have to start over completely and prepare a new environmental impact statement.
I agree that this is what the corps should do (albeit for different alternatives), and this is what Merrell should be pushing for. Otherwise, his plans remain an academic’s dream.
The inadequacies of the corps’ Tentatively Selected Plan go beyond simple changes. It needs to be abandoned. While Gulf Restoration Network may not agree with many of the aspects of Merrell’s Ike Dike plan, we do agree that a completely engineered system of levees and seawalls will not best serve the island or the bay.
Across the Gulf Coast, other states have rejected large gates on the Gulf in favor of a “lines of defense” approach, using ecological restoration to distribute flood risk reduction across the entire watershed. Speaking as a New Orleanian, I guarantee that it’s foolish to put all your coastal hopes in one levee that will upend the lives of thousands of Texans, even if built correctly.
Levees aren’t enough. And it’s unspeakable to punish those coastal Texans who have done the right thing and built back stronger, more elevated communities since 2008. In order to talk about any alternative plans, it’s urgent that we all reject the corps’ Tentatively Selected Plan. The current deadline for comments is Feb. 8.
The corps is an ultra-large ship, and it will take a long time to turn them toward any new way of thinking, toward natural or resilient solutions. Let’s stop the ship now before it runs aground. Let’s demand they abandon this $31 billion boondoggle that will leave Texans at risk for decades and devise a new plan that can be funded and constructed now.