As a full-time Galveston resident since 2013, and a retired engineer, the topics of drainage and flood protection are interesting and personal to me.
Last November, The Daily News did an article on our “ring barrier and pumping system” at 16th and Ball streets; when heavy rains and/or rising tides prevent rainwater from draining and it begins to pond in the street and then run back through the opening in our brick wall, we put a barricade in place to close off our “ring barrier” and activate our pumps to move the water out from our porch area over the wall to the “bay” until the water begins to drain by gravity again (“Islanders learn to adjust amid frequent street flooding,” The Daily News, Nov. 30, 2019).
Simple proven technology that works, which has prevented our lower floor from flooding during Hurricane Harvey, Tropical Storm Imelda and several heavy rains in between.
The reality is that, on a larger scale, Galveston is in exactly the same situation. We can choose to either raise the bridge, i.e. do another grade raising, or lower the water, i.e. install pumps to supplement our current gravity stormwater drainage system during periods of heavy rains/high tides.
Or we can choose to do nothing and accept our fate as a subsiding barrier island surrounded by rising seas and beset by ever increasing storms. I think those that decided to fight the status quo and build the seawall and raise the island would be very disappointed if that is our choice.
In addition to a system of pumps to supplement our gravity drainage system, all of the studies that I’m aware of show that some type of bayside surge protection is required, even with the coastal spine and gates across Bolivar Roads, and even if you were to install gates across San Luis Pass.
There are some extremely positive things going on in these two critical areas; Galveston is in the process of receiving a $30-plus million grant to install its first pumping station, and the U.S. Corps of Engineers is designing a coastal barrier to protect the upper Texas coast from future hurricanes, which will include some type of bayside surge protection for Galveston, as well as three pumping stations.
So, just like in 1900, what’s needed now is vision and leadership. The big opportunity is to determine and agree on the “how” — what is desperately needed are innovative solutions backed by peer reviewed data presented in a way so that the general public, key community stakeholders and our elected leaders can understand what bayside surge protection would look like. What we don’t need are more opinions or vague generalities.
I’ve always adhered to the philosophy that you’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution, and it’s disappointing to see that some of our so-called experts appear to still be part of the problem. Time to put up, or shut up ... or as this generation would say, go big, or go home. Shame on us if we miss this opportunity.