The gridlocked traffic before Hurricane Rita. The lasting power outages after Hurricane Ike. The catastrophic floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey. We’ll never forget the storms that pummeled the Gulf Coast, and we won’t stop preparing for the next one.

When it comes to preparing for hurricane season, the best offense is a good defense. Fortunately for Texas, two defensive systems are on the way.

One of these systems is the Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay project — a massive endeavor created years ago to mitigate flooding along a portion of Texas’ Gulf Coast. The project spans nearly 4,000 square miles from Brazoria County to Orange County and includes fortifying aging levee systems, building new ones, replacing bridges, renovating dams and widening channels to keep our communities safe from heavy rain and storm surge.

Despite the clear need and ongoing work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and federal, state and local leaders to get this project under construction, one critical hurdle remained: funding. Three years ago, I helped change that.

Following Hurricane Harvey, I fought to ensure Texas had the funding for both response and recovery efforts, as well as resources to invest in projects for future disasters. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 made a huge investment in flood and storm surge mitigation projects along our Gulf Coast, including the Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay project.

The Texas congressional delegation teamed up to ensure this legislation included the $3.9 billion needed to complete the project.

The Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay project is now in the final phase before construction and estimated to be completed by 2026. Last year, Orange County voted to move into the design phase with the corps, bringing it one step closer.

This will be critical to our flood and storm surge mitigation efforts, but it’s not the only plan in the works. The corps recently completed the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Feasibility Study with the Texas General Land Office to provide a comprehensive strategy for additional flood mitigation and coastal protection along the Gulf.

The project includes everything from surge gates at the mouth of Galveston Bay to beach restoration on South Padre Island.

This study has been years in the making, and I’ve successfully fought to expedite the process and provide much-needed funding to keep it on track. I’m glad to say the Coastal Texas Study was finalized by the corps last month.

In the coming years, we will face a number of hurdles as we advance to the construction phase. The first step is authorization, followed by a multi-year effort to secure the necessary funding. Both the federal and local government will share the cost for this project. The corps estimates it will take as long as 20 years to complete if everything runs seamlessly.

Given Texas’ critical role in powering our country and facilitating trade, protecting our coast isn’t just a state or local priority — it’s a national imperative.

Texas has fared better than expected this hurricane season, but we can’t bank on luck to protect our coastal communities.

With these projects, Texas will be stronger, safer and more resilient. The work that comes next is critical to mitigating widespread storm surge and flooding. I’ll continue doing everything in my power to bolster our defenses and keep Texans safe.

Republican John Cornyn represents Texas in the U.S. Senate.

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