The Gulf Coast Ike Dike is a large, often controversial topic throughout Texas. But given the longstanding confusion around the project, its plans, timeline and funding, many no longer understand everything it entails.
In broad terms, the “Ike Dike” refers to a longstanding proposal to shore up dunes on Galveston and High islands, raise the seawall and construct a large, moveable gate at the mouth of Galveston Bay to protect the Texas coastline from the worst swells and storms. Proponents of the project say it’s a vitally important piece of infrastructure for Texas, one that could curb the billions of dollars in damage and lost wages anticipated when the next catastrophic hurricane forms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know:
Why it’s called the “Ike Dike”
One favored ” Ike Dike ” concept was developed by Bill Merrell, a marine sciences expert at Texas A&M University at Galveston. Merrell began crafting his plans for the protective barrier in 2008 after Hurricane Ike slammed into the East Texas coast, narrowly sparing the Houston Ship Channel and greater region from widespread disaster. Popular grassroots support for Merrell’s Ike Dike grew in the following years, making him a important voice for the project.
But will it work?
That depends on what you mean by “work.”
While Merrell’s Ike Dike plan is merely conceptual, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is pushing its own detailed plan for the barrier through official channels in Washington, D.C. Dubbed the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Study (or Texas Coastal Study for short), the fruits of this survey will form the concept most likely to be implemented if Congress offers approval.
The Texas Coastal Study’s dike design, however, could fall short of total protection of the coastline. As the plans stands, the gate between Galveston and Bolivar is only designed to withstand 22 feet of storm surge. Army Corps project manager Kelly Burks-Cope told the Houston Chronicle’s Emily Foxhall earlier this month that this level of defense could still lead to “over-topping” and “spillage” into Galveston Bay in extreme instances. Not exactly words you want to hear associated with a levee.
“We have to assess and trade off the return on investment for building bigger and bigger and bigger,” Burks-Copes said.
Merrell echoed beliefs that the Corps’ plans need be improved in a letter written in the Galveston Daily News, in which he advocated for a gate with specifications large enough to hold back waves higher than 22 feet, as well as another equally impenetrable barrier at Sabine Pass. Foxhall’s story outlines several other officials skeptical of how well the Corps’ plan will work .
The Texas Coastal Study is currently under Congressional review. It could receive approval and funding any time between now and 2023, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Projected costs put the price tag of the Galveston barrier around $23 billion, according to Foxhall, of which 65 percent would be footed by the federal government. For the rest, the state of Texas has commissioned a board under the moniker ” Gulf Coast Protection District ” to levy local taxes dedicated to its construction, according to reporters Savannah Kuchar and Jake Magee at Community Impact.
Once funding for the Ike Dike is secured, it will take up to five years to design and another 15 years to build, according to the Corps. Now is as good of time as ever to shore up the coast and protect Houston and its port from destruction. Let’s just hope there isn’t a major hurricane in the next two decades.
What are your thoughts on the project? Do plans go too far, or not far enough? Let me know on Twitter: @jayrjordan
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