Anyone who remembers the time from September 2008 until now would understand what a remarkable and almost impossible job it has been to get the Ike Dike to the point where it is today.
It’s been questioned, assaulted and had bold attempts to marginalize the construction in an environment of controversy and yet, the Ike Dike persists.
The coastal spine survived multiple iterations and stands today with basically the same design features it’s had from inception. Whether you want it or don’t care about it, the Ike Dike has all of the components of a genuine accomplishment.
The Ike Dike began after the hurricane as Bill Merrell’s grand idea, and was quickly supported by leaders of the West End. It was advertised, talked about, lobbied and pushed for over a year before there was any noticeable traction.
At the beginning, the Port of Houston and many of the communities around the ship channel were neutral, if not opposed to, such a contraption. No parades were held in honor of the concept; communities ducked for cover and distanced themselves. Still, the proponents continued to advocate in the face of considerable resistance. Resistance continues even today (“Harris County begins planning in-bay storm surge barrier system,” The Daily News, Sept. 4).
How the sponsors have gotten this far is probably a more valuable civic lesson than the Ike Dike might be as a reality. It’s taken conviction and determination to bring the coastal spine to where it is today. Merrell’s journey is a textbook case of leadership, individual persistence and resilience.
Two knowledgeable sources offer that the coastal spine requires a Galveston north-side levee. While the spine and gates are proven in Holland, the Dutch have never been hit with a Gulf Category 5. While the Dutch design is resilient to the North Sea, it’s never been hurricane-tested on a barrier island against nature’s worst.
Yet, the same leaders who brought the coastal spine to the approval/funding phase constantly mutter in public that the north-side levee is just not needed. I can only guess what they say in private conversations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or to our land commissioner.
If they say it with the same conviction with which they spoke about the Ike Dike since its inception, people like Army Corps of Engineers and our land office executives just might believe them. They might overlook that behind the bluster and enthusiasm, no one knows for sure that any of the design will work during a real event.
The sponsors of the Ike Dike have influenced the corps on two expensive changes thus far: putting the dike on the public west beach using dunes, plus closing San Luis Pass with a gate. My hope is that the professionals who will remain accountable long after it’s built will look past bravado and think with safety foremost in mind.
My plea to the corps: Please don’t end up a spear-carrier in someone else’s opera. The leaders of this effort are excellent pitch-men and tireless missionaries. Not many — if any, are engineers.