Houston’s ‘Ike Dike’ Won’t Adequately Protect the City

The largest project ever undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers may not be enough to protect Houston-area communities from flooding during the most severe hurricanes, according to the Corps’ own analysis.

2 minute read

April 27, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

A $31 billion flood control project known as the ‘Ike Dike,’ “a chain of sea walls and artificial dunes along the 50-mile-length of Galveston Bay, anchored by a two-mile-wide concrete gate system at the mouth of the ship channel” designed after Hurricane Ike struck the city in 2008, could still leave Houston and surrounding communities vulnerable to flooding during major storms.

As Jake Bittle explains in Grist, “Experts say the Ike Dike won’t reliably protect Houston from major storms. The barriers may not actually be tall or strong enough to handle extreme storm surge, especially as climate change makes the rapid intensification of hurricanes more likely.”

According to the Corps itself, the project “would reduce damage from medium-size hurricanes by as much as 77 percent and prevent an average of $2 billion in damages each year,” but “The Corps’ own analysis found that even with the project, the bay would still suffer an average of more than $1 billion in annual storm damage” and “the Corps’ own designs suggest it might not be able to handle storm surge from Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.”

Houston’s inland neighborhoods also face flooding risks when the city’s network of bayous swell during storms, Bittle points out. “Even as it moves forward with the Ike Dike, the Corps is looking for a way to control this urban flooding as well, but it doesn’t have many good options.” 

Activists like Susan Chadwick, director of the nonprofit Save Buffalo Bayou, say “the agency should spend money on grasslands and green spaces that can soak up water across the city before it ends up in the bayous in the first place, rather than trying to control those waterways with engineered ‘gray infrastructure’,” the Corps’ preferred mode of flood mitigation.

Sunday, April 23, 2023 in Grist

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