Reports after Ike Dike meetings sounded like people don’t want it. But the issues are with barrier placement, not the Army Corps of Engineers’ strategy. The strategy is sound — create a coastal spine to protect against storm surge and increased water levels in the bay.

Estimates are a Category 3-plus hurricane in the Houston Ship Channel means 80 percent of the military-grade aviation fuel will be off-line for 18 months to three years. The national petroleum reserve could be threatened, and gasoline and diesel fuel would be in short supply. This makes this a national security issue.

Meanwhile the economic impact on the entire nation would be horrific. It’s estimated 60 percent of the commercial-grade aviation fuel will be unavailable. Commercial airlines will curtail flight operations and airline travel costs will skyrocket.

The auto industry will be impacted because the polymers used to make vehicles will be unavailable. Pipelines could be threatened. Heating oil for the northeast, food and medical supplies to consumers and hospitals — all would be directly impacted. Food prices and other products will increase dramatically. This won’t be a local/regional economic disaster; it’ll be a national one, one we shouldn’t ignore.

It’s estimated that over 200,000 people who work along the ship channel will be unemployed. But there’s a potential for an even greater personal cost — 75 percent of the damage caused by a hurricane is caused by storm surge, storm surge that will put lives in danger. Typically evacuations are ordered 36 hours before landfall. There are over 4 million people living in the Houston-Galveston area. How do you evacuate that many people in such a short time? You don’t! This has a high probability for loss of life and medical emergencies.

It cost over $30 billion to recover from Ike. It’s estimated the recovery from Harvey will be over $100,000 billion. It costs a lot more to deal with the aftermath of a storm than to be proactive. It makes sense to take action to mitigate against damages before a storm hits.

Suggested modifications?

A ring levee isn’t needed if you build a coastal spine. If a levee is built, neighborhoods will be split up, businesses affected, and over 50 gates through the levee would be needed, creating weak points in the system. Not building a ring levee will also reduce costs.

The corps strategy is to keep water out of the bay. Great! However, failing to put a gate across San Luis Pass provides a “backdoor” for incoming surge and water. It will be critical to include this in the final plan.

It’s easier and cheaper to build the barrier along state Highway 87 and FM 3005, but doing so means the people living on the south side of the barrier will be unprotected. I’d suggest this is the primary reason many residents opposed the plan. Building along the beach is a better alternative. Holland did this and it worked; so why not here?

Bill Sargent lives in Galveston.


(11) comments

Susan Fennewald

According to the Corps study/report - the core of the city of Galveston, protected by a ring levee, is where 50% of the "benefit" is. The protection of the whole ship channel/ petro chemical industry accounts for much less of the benefit and doesn't justify the expense of the coastal spine. It would cost more to build the coastal spine than would be saved from damage - even with effects on the GDP calculated in. (according to the Corps report).

Patricia C Newsom

Back in the late 40s or early 50s, the city of Bellaire experienced a city wide flood after a rain event. My dad was Chief of The Fire Department. He received first hand knowledge that the city would not have flooded if the gates of Addicks Levee/dam had not been opened to save the property behind it. So, the city of Bellaire was sacrificed.

David Smith

I dont know who you refer to when you use the term Estimates.. but I use to work in an oil refinery making gasoline propane and diesel.. and after Ike we were only down until the power come on.. week / 10 days or so.. The esimate you are being told is incorrect.. someone is trying to sell you a fresh batch of wolf cookies...

Gary Miller

33 years employment at a TC petro chem plant we experienced several hurricanes. Some required total shutdown but all were back on line soon after the storm was over.
Product that would cause a shortage was pumped or trucked out of storm area when possible.

George Croix

$100,000 billion is 100 TRILLION dollars....!!!!!!!
We won't be anywhere near 100 trillion bucks in the hole for anything unless 'The Green New Deal' gets passed.....

Aviation fuel is pretty much treated kerosene, so you need crude distillation and desulfurization units and in some specialized cases blending units. Eighteen months downtime IS possible IF major structural and distribution damage were incurred to such facilities. If, as can happen, wind force strips vessel insulation, for instance, that's big job/time consuming replacement measured in weeks, not days.
Our own refinery, sans major damage, could be going again as soon as power and steam were fully restored, and a visual safety check for any storm caused hazards made - couple weeks, give or take, with no startup problems, but that's WITHOUT big damage.
It is, imo, 'possible' if major pipeline (the above grade lines and pumping facilities) and also production facilities damage occurred to be down over a year. Some of the 'grandfathering' associated with the environmental regs can come into play, too, when the issue is one where existing facilities get treated differently than modified ones.
It DOES stand to reason that any figures, well, figured with the goal of pumping up support for one's agenda would tend to err, if erring, on the side that makes that point....

Rusty Schroeder

Comparing Harvey and Ike is like the difference in a dog and a cat. Using cost repair estimates on Harvey have absolutely nothing to do with storm surge or coastal barriers. I wonder if Bill has a vested interest in seeing some sort of barrier built or a continued debate over it ? My prediction is still alive though, this Ike Dike Coastal Spine Barrier Wall Dream Catcher made it another week of being talked about in the GCDN.

Steve Fouga

Call me cynical, but I have to wonder what Mr. Sargent's stake in the Ike Dike is. Same with other politicos. Sure, we all have the right to state our opinion, but these folks with little engineering or scientific background -- but somewhat of a public persona -- posting the same recycled hogwash in article after article, is getting annoying.

It smacks of entertainers and athletes spewing political opinions: yes, it's their right, but that's no reason to give them any particular credence.

Carol Dean

It has been my experience in the past that "Sarge" likes to "talk the talk", but no way will you be finding him "walking the walk".

Jarvis Buckley

Everyone's heart is the right place. The goal is to save lives & protect property & contain pollution.
I sure hope it happens. But honestly
It's very doubtful that it ever will.

Jeff Patterson

Not sure where Mr. Sargent gets his information, but every study that I have reviewed says that even with the “Ike Dke”, Galveston is still vulnerable to bay side surge flooding, and hence the need for some type of protection. A ring wall on the north side of Galveston, however inelegant, is one solution. And this is true even if you close off San Luis Pass. What’s the expression, you are entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.

Jarvis Buckley

I think we need fewer opinions , I say this with the thought that absolutely
Nothing is ever going to be built.

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