Why Texas's $29 Billion Coastal Protection Plan Is Needed

The Houston Chronicle editorial board argues for the construction of the so-called 'Ike Dike,' but warns that more investment is needed to protect the South Texas coast from future storms.

September 24, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of Houston Ship Channel with container ships

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / Houston Ship Channel Barbours Cut

If a major hurricane hits Houston, the predictions go, it could trigger a series of disastrous effects that would wreak havoc on the city and its infrastructure. After Hurricane Ike devastated the region in 2008, writes the Houston Chronicle's editorial board, "there was a collective epiphany." Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a plan to protect the Texas coast from future damage. The $29 billion plan, dubbed the Ike Dike, "includes projects up and down the Texas Gulf Coast, but the bulk of the work will be south of Houston. A series of gates designed to protect against a surge of up to 22 feet would stretch from the east end of Galveston Island across the mouth of Galveston Bay to Bolivar Peninsula. Other coastal protections include 43 miles of 14- and 12-foot dunes on Galveston’s west end and on the peninsula. Gates are also planned on the western bank of Galveston Bay for Clear Lake and Dickinson Bayou."

Yet according to the Corps' own calculations, the project would only withstand a Category 3 storm surge. "Given the limitations of the current plan, and the questions still lingering, it’s time for our political leaders championing this project to acknowledge that the Ike Dike alone is not enough. It is surely not the panacea that many, including this editorial board, hoped it would be." 

However, the board writes, the project is still worth it. "Our congressional leaders should vote to fund the project with the understanding that we will likely need even more than the $29 billion Ike Dike to build out other defenses." The board concludes that, while the project should be completed, "[b]uilding the Ike Dike cannot become an excuse for complacency, nor can it be a one-time alignment of stars where all the levels of government unite behind a common goal."

Sunday, September 19, 2021 in Houston Chronicle

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