Texas is planning for a coastal barrier system prompted by Hurricane Ike’s $30 billion in damages eight years ago. One proposed barrier is a “coastal spine” based on technology from the Netherlands and would span 60 miles from the Bolivar peninsula to Galveston Island.
The “Ike Dike” coastal spine is a 17-foot high sand dune along the coast, either near the beach or by elevating highways close to the sea. The coastal barrier that would protect people and industry from most of the devastating storm surges that follow hurricanes and tropical storms.
- The proposed barrier a miles-long reinforced sand dune along the coast and could reduce property damage by as much as 85 percent in all but the most severe storms.
- Priority is on the heavily populated and industry-rich Houston-Galveston region because it has been repeatedly battered by major storms over the decades.
- Hurricane Ike prompted discussion of an “Ike Dike,” a proposed 17-foot high sand dune along the coast, either near the beach or by elevating highways close to the sea.
- The dune would be part of the natural landscape with sea grasses and wildlife habitats and cover a heavily reinforced dike able to withstand hurricane winds and storm surges.
- The plan would be to persuade the federal government pay for the Ike Dike.
A six-county coalition studying how best to proceed now says a 56-mile, mostly mainland levee system would provide a nearly equivalent level of protection while costing several billion dollars less. The catch: several Houston-area communities on the west side of Galveston Bay, including Kemah, La Porte, Seabrook, Morgan’s Point and San Leon, would be left outside the dike. Officials from those communities say that is unacceptable.
The $3.5 billion proposal by the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District calls for expanding and extending an existing levee around Texas City northward along State Highway 146 and westward to the community of Santa Fe. The recovery district’s plan also calls for placing a “ring” levee around the entire city of Galveston to protect it from storm surge.
- During hurricanes, the island gets hit by surge once from the front and a second time from the back when surge that reaches the mainland recedes.
- The part of the proposed levee closest to Texas City (three major refineries) sits right on Galveston Bay, but most of it is set back from the water, meaning the communities between it and the bay are left unprotected.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a hurricane research center headquartered at Rice University also have proposed raising or building a levee along SH-146 and installing a bayside levee to protect Galveston, but the concepts have never gained much public support. The SH-146 proposal, in particular, has met staunch opposition from the communities located between the highway and the bay — a sentiment that’s not lost on the recovery district.
“It’s not the best — we know that,” said Col. Chris Sallese, coastal programs manager at Dannenbaum Engineering, of the proposed levee system. The recovery district hired the local firm with a $4 million state grant to study how best to protect the greater Houston area from hurricanes.
The Corps of Engineers is partnering with the Texas General Land Office to study how best to protect the entire coast and is expected to take at least five years to complete. Texas is one of the few states that does not have a coastal master plan.
The Center for Texas Beaches and Shores (CTBS) at Texas A&M University at Galveston was established in 1993 by the Texas Legislature to address beach erosion and wetlands loss throughout the state. We seek to become the gateway for research on coastal sustainability and resiliency. Dedicated to the conservation and protection of the Texas shoreline, bays and waterways through innovative research in cooperation with government and private sector agencies. http://www.tamug.edu/ctbs/
The Texas Coast is one of the most productive and ecologically distinctive shorelines in the World. It is dynamically being reshaped by both natural and man-made forces. The Center for Texas Beaches and Shores aims to gain further understanding and educate the Texans living in this 18-county coastal region.
- Watch a video about the Texas Coastal Atlas http://vimeo.com/channels/ctbs/
- Ike Dike http://www.tamug.edu/ikedike/index.html
- Texas Coast Interactive Mapping: http://www.glo.texas.gov/land/land-management/gis/