It starts with spikes in our heat index, rolling into early storm predictions, and suddenly it’s June 1 and it’s official — we’re in hurricane season. For the next several months, residents of the Gulf Coast, particularly communities that live on our warm waters’ edge, brace themselves for summer rains and the possibility of a hurricane making landfall.
Last August, Hurricane Harvey caused record flooding in the Greater Houston area. Today, those of us living throughout the Galveston Bay watershed fear what the next storm might bring. Since Hurricane Ike in 2008, it has been clear that residents living along Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula want protections that will protect people and property. One step that must be taken to make our communities and region safer and more resilient in the face of flooding, storm surge, and sea-level rise is to reverse the loss of natural storm protections.
Our coastal marshes, dune systems, and preserved open-land add up to a very real “coastal line of defense” that helps protect our families, homes and communities. This line of defense on our barrier island and bayfront helps keeps people out of harm’s way and provides a buffer zone to naturally absorb storm surge.
The current assurances made by decision-makers in our region about a coastal spine reducing the symptoms of “hurricane season stress syndrome,” or whatever you’d like to call the anxiety-ridden cycle that occurs every summer, is not enough. The Corps of Engineers is considering a Coastal Feasibility Study, due in September, primarily focused on hard infrastructure around, along and between Galveston Island and Bolivar.
With little consideration for nature-based solutions, the protections they promise will not protect many of us and will significantly change the island — not just the aesthetics of our sandy beaches and waterfront properties, but also affect our productive ecosystem that provides bountiful seafood to our families and the nation.
To date, comprehensive information has not been provided to the public. However, through a Freedom of Information Act request, several organizations obtained information regarding their preferred design for coastal construction and the proposed placement.
Please join us for one of two public forums, which will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Wortham Auditorium at Rosenberg Library at 2310 Sealy St. in Galveston, or at 6 p.m. June 21 in the community room at the Crystal Beach Fire Station at 930 Noble Drive on Bolivar Peninsula.
In addition to Bayou City Waterkeeper and Turtle Island Restoration Network, representatives from Galveston Bay Foundation and Gulf Restoration Network will be present to discuss the proposed alternatives for coastal barrier protection and the potential impacts of these structures. Working with — rather than against — nature can keep people out of harm’s way and help create sustainable, thriving communities for generations to come.