The most disastrous decision ever made by Galveston’s leaders was their refusal to accept the 1972 offer by the Corps of Engineers to encircle half the island with a levee. The corps had found that it could protect 8,000 acres in Galveston for $94 million.

County commissioners instead insisted on a 5-mile extension of the seawall. The extension failed the federal cost/benefit test because, among other problems, “waves up to 9 feet can redevelop over the large bay areas behind the barrier island and travel inland causing significant damage.”

Meanwhile, Texas City proceeded with its levee/pump system, which protected the city during Hurricane Ike, just as it would have protected Galveston.

“We had none [flooding], not at all,” Texas City’s emergency management coordinator told journalists in November 2008. “Thank God for the folks that were smart enough to build that levee,” said the Texas City mayor. “It saved our citizens, thank God.”

Engineers at the corps, the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District, and the Severe Storm Prediction, Education, & Evacuation Center have all modeled numerous storms, unanimously concluding that the Ike Dike’s coastal spine will not protect Galveston from flooding from the 600 square miles of water in the bay.

We are in a race against time before the next big storm. The spine may protect other communities, but without a levee or other barrier from the bay, it will not protect Galveston. A levee, on the other hand, will fully protect the enclosed parts of the city, whether or not a spine is ever built. And it could be completed decades earlier.

The city council should ask the corps to model various configurations of the ring levee and other bay protection systems and provide the public with the costs and benefits of the levee as a separate component of the Ike Dike project.

Elizabeth Beeton lives in Galveston.

(17) comments

Bill Broussard

But if they do build a. Levee, they may not be able to pay the cost of moving the 3005 wall over to what little remains of a public beach a make a beautiful set of concrete and clay dunes to protect homes (or should I say short term rentals) Elizabeth. How selfish of you to suggest no protection for 23’ elevated empty houses over where people actually live!

Rusty Schroeder

Since there are those that want to encircle Galveston with a barrier, of who knows what materials. Here's my suggestion to gain countywide support, let Galveston taxpayers fund it, use the HOT funds dedicated to the Park Board, throw in Seawall and Downtown parking fees as well. But leave the mainland taxpayers out of the equation, Galveston wants a barrier around the city, let Galveston and Galvestonians pay for it. Then people can quit discussing and it can be 100 % a Galveston issue, put that up for a vote and see how the #'s fall. My bet would be on a lopsided defeat, the people that don't want garbage rates increased sure aren't going to support their property taxes increasing for an eyesore. So there's an alternative, Galveston leaders, feel free to endorse it. :) :) :)

Steve Fouga

Exactly, Rusty. I personally believe a ring levee is the best possible solution for the Island, but I can't imagine taxpayers outside of Galveston agreeing to help pay for it. And Galvestonians, who might otherwise vote for it, aren't rich enough to pay for it themselves. Galveston simply isn't wealthy enough, and doesn't generate enough revenue.

I'd love for someone to tell me why I'm wrong.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Maybe we can get Mexico to pay for it??

George Croix

The TC levee was built NOT for homeowners and business owners, but to protect the nationally strategic and VITAL refineries and chem plants, and those other parties of interest benefit by association withing the contained geographic area.
It's quite possible we'd eventually see something similar happen to protect the same type nationally important industries up the bay at Houston.....just that area.
Same for Freeport area refineries / chem plants. More likely to localize protection.
If Galveston can convince the feds they have anything of nationally strategic importance then they will get a leg up on coastal areas that do not for funding.
May be wrong, but about the only thing that comes to mind is a Level 4 Bio Lab.
BUT, presented correctly, that could be a selling point to protect that area with a government money project that incidentally covers other folks/homes/business, too.
All there, imo, are much more likely to ever happen than a mega project specifically designed to include beach houses in a matter of national importance.....
But, may be wrong....the folks in charge of funding now are a LOT more likely to dole out bucks to win voter favor, so, better get to lobbying........

Brian Maxwell

But yet each and every Galvestonian as well as each and every Galveston County resident pays for the Texas City Levee. 🤔

Rusty Schroeder

Is Galveston making gasoline Brian, for the country as well as county? Slowly UTMB is moving north, but those big white boats that take people on rides are pretty. :)

George Croix

Well, Brian, that's EXACTLY what I was making a point of.
The TC levee was built precisely BECAUSE the MAIN things it protects, refineries and chem plants, are NATIONALLY strategically important, not just locally, or for just one or two towns.
The folks in Galveston DO use gasoline and diesel and, oh, plastic products and such, huh?
EVERYBODY benefits from refineries and chem plants.
That's why everybody SHOULD pay to protect them.

Personally, I figure a Level 4 Bio Lab IS important enough to the nation for ALL to foot the bill to protect I mentioned..........but I suspect a little self promotion focusing ON THAT would help, as also mentioned.
Is there anything else in Galveston that the whole nation benefits from?
If so, promote that, too.

Take yes for an answer.............

Brian Maxwell

Shore does protect a whole lotta La Marque and a whole lotta residential in Texas City. Seems the little ring around the refineries would have been a whole lot cheaper if that was the only goal eh?

Randy Chapman

All residents of the United States that actually pay taxes pay for the levee. [yawn]

George Croix

I didn't design it, Brian, but no doubt geography, railroad lines, the silly decision to NOT allow pumping water directly into the bay from inside the levee (meaning Moses Lake had to be included, itself clear across town from the nearest refinery), the 'wetlands' surrounding the area, the actual locations of the refineries/chem plants in such close proximity to each other and the needs associated with providing pipeline routing (quite a bit above grade) and docks access, etc., all had parts in the designing.

Pretty easy reasoning, eh?

George Croix

All there...??
All THREE.....

Not close enough....

David Smith

Right now.. they are reinforcing the base of the TC levee..
This is being done with federal money. As always..
Corp of Engineers

Steve Fouga

Really?? This is good to know, and I didn't know it. I read that flood-prevention systems are maintained with funds from the COUNTY in which they are located, not with federal, state, or city funds.

It's really important that we all know who would pay for what, in perpetuity, for structures like engineered dunes, a Bolivar Gate, a Galveston Ring Levee, numerous pumps and gates, etc., that are parts of a surge protection system. Otherwise, how can citizens decide how to respond to something like the Corps's Ike Dike report?

Cost, now and forever, is a HUGE factor in deciding what we want and what we can stand.

Randy Chapman

Ike's cost to the U.S. was $35 billion, with most due to flooding as the wind speed wasn't all that great. And protecting against flooding is what the Ike Dike is about.

Brian Maxwell

I would have believed that to be a FEMA project that the county is the sponsor of. That’s how it worked after Ike and the work done then.

Randy Chapman

Those projects were mostly community development block grants...all the new homes given away, and money for certain municipal infrastructure.

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