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It is time to build
the Coastal Barrier !
Three Musketeers - Bill Sargent, Mark Mansius, and John Gay

September 16, 2017

As the “Three Musketeers” over three years ago we wrote about the need for a coastal barrier system, or Ike Dike.  We even laid out a road map for how to get the federal government to fund it.  It’s indeed unfortunate that it may have taken another hurricane (Harvey) in order to get Congress to finally take action!

At a recent media event Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner made an astute observation.  He said mitigation needs to start before we have another hurricane and not afterwards.  In other words, we need to build an “Ike Dike” before it’s needed.  Good leaders – statesmen, if you will – assess risks and prepare ahead of time how to deal with them.  They’re proactive, not reactive.

Our approach three years ago was to enact legislation that mandates the Army Corps of Engineers build the coastal spine, build it in “X” number of years, and then authorize, and subsequently appropriate, up to $15 billion to pay for the project.  To date, this hasn’t happened. 

However, with Hurricane Harvey causing so much damage there’s an alternative.  As funds are appropriated to help rebuild from Harvey, we could include $15 billion to specifically construct the coastal barrier system and mandate that those funds may not be used for anything else.  Then add to this a timeline for completion of the project.  This would accomplish what we set out to do three years ago.  Again, it is sad that it may have taken another major hurricane to get Congress to actually do something about this!

Some have said that a coastal barrier system wouldn’t have helped protect against a storm like Hurricane Harvey and to some extent they are correct.  However, consider this:  When water flowing through rivers, bayous, and creeks meet high tides coming in from the Gulf the runoff has nowhere to go except to rise and subsequently cause flooding.   If we had a coastal barrier system in place we could close the gates across the Bolivar Roads entrance to Galveston Bay as the high tides approached and then opened the gates at low tide.  Doing this could conceivably reduce some of the flooding and provide a pathway for the flood waters to flow out to the Gulf during low tide.

We have seen a spike in gas prices caused by refineries going off line for about a week or so.  If another Hurricane Ike were to hit our region, and damage the refineries and chemical plants on the Houston Ship Channel, we would be looking at more like 18-36 months to recover.  Gas prices in the $7-8 range could be expected, not just here but across our entire nation.  Meanwhile it will impact jobs, people wouldn’t be able to get to work, potential customers could curtail their shopping, and many businesses could either close or find an alternative way of doing business.  This is a serious national economic issue and should not be ignored!   The time for talk is over.  The time for accomplishing the task is at hand.  Let’s get it done!