Bolivar coastal barrier meeting

Mary Beth Stump listens as Travis Creel with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explains the mechanics of the potential upper coastal barrier that will span between High Island and the San Luis Pass at Crenshaw Elementary in Crystal Beach on Dec. 15, 2018.

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.

Matt Rota is the senior policy director of the Gulf Restoration Network.

(8) comments

Randy Chapman

I love it! All the people that don't want the Ike Dike have no idea what they do want or how it should be constructed. And mostly they are worried about Galveston. They fail to realize that Galveston is low on the protection priority list. The Corps tried to include them into a workable solution, but alas, true to Galveston history nothing can be done due to make them happy.

Build the ring levee in Galveston to protect the older areas. Let the west end have their views and do nothing there. Build the levee to protect the rest of the infrastructure and national interest from higher elevation in Chambers County to Bolivar to the TC Dike, and continue west to north of Freeport. Most of the building will not affect turtles or views in Galveston. It will also be built in mostly rural, unimproved areas.

Doing nothing is not an option, and planting grass on dunes is not going to help as some have suggested. It has to be an impenetrable barrier of some sort, with height. That's the only viable solution, and it has to built in someone's back yard. The NIMBY crowd has to be ignored at some point.

George Croix

"Let’s provide funding to elevate homes that are in harm’s way.'


Pete Nanos

The project would be easy for Bolivar. The highway needs to be raised anyway. Raise the highway and those along the beaches can keep their beaches, those on the other side of the road had no beaches anyway. As for Galveston, I don't see a ring serving any real purpose. If you keep the water out of the bay you have accomplished the main goal. Galveston was flooded when water was pushed into the bay. We have a sea wall and the proposed gates at the ship channel will protect the bay from surge that may enter that way. For the west end same as on Bolivar, raise 3005 by extending the sea wall and those on the beach side will still be on the beach and those on the other side will be protected. You will never be able to make everyone happy, but this is the best way to cut costs and get the job done. No ones property is taken through eminent domain and you have protected all the towns beyond the coast who were affected by Ike. The cost of Ike was twice what it would cost to get this project done. Time to get off the dime. All the squeaky wheels have had their say.

Randy Chapman

Mr. Nanos, with the size of Galveston Bay, there will be significant water piling up on the north shore of Galveston Island as winds come from the north with a landfalling hurricane. This is the what the ring levee is supposed to prevent.

Pete Nanos

Mr Chapman, it won't make any difference if the bay is kept from filling up due to tidal surge. Nothing will completely address all problems. We still have damage even though we have a seawall. The idea is to minimize the damage and the proposal I put forward does just that with less inconvenience and cost.

Randy Chapman

You do understand that Galveston Bay is large enough that waves exceeding 10ft can be generated, and that water will pile up in one end of the bay by hurricane winds? The bay doesn't remain flat and level across its width when high winds are present, so yes, Galveston can indeed be flooded by wind and waves, even though the storm surge was kept out of the bay.

Robert Braeking

Here's a novel thought........only build expendable housing on the beach. That's the way it was before insurance and mortgages became available. The rest of us should not be obligated to share the risk of building on the beach with the fools who do so.

Randy Chapman

Works for me!

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