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We need a Coastal Spine
but with some modifications
Need to make Pelican Island a force to be reckoned with

January 19, 2019
Galveston County Daily News

The reports after the Ike Dike public hearings sounded like people don’t want it.  But the issues are with the placement of the barrier and not the strategy of the Corps of Engineers has put forward.  The USACE strategy is sound – create a coastal spine that will protect against storm surge and increased water levels in the bay.

Estimates are that a category 3+ hurricane in the Houston Ship Channel means 80% of the military-grade aviation fuel will be off-line for one-and-a-half years up to three years.  The national petroleum reserve could be threatened and gasoline and diesel fuel would be in short supply.  This makes this a national security issue. 

Meanwhile the economic impact on the entire nation would be horrific.  It’s estimated 60% of the commercial-grade aviation fuel will be unavailable.  Commercial airlines will curtail flight operations and airline travel costs will skyrocket.  The auto industry will be impacted because the polymers used to make vehicles will be unavailable.  Pipelines could be threatened.  Heating oil for the northeast, food and medical supplies to consumers and hospitals; all would be directly impacted.  Food prices and other common-day products will increase dramatically.  This won’t be a local/regional economic disaster; it’ll be a national one; one we shouldn’t ignore.

It’s estimated that over 200,000 people who work along the ship channel will be without employment. But there’s a potential for an even greater personal cost.  75% of the damage caused by a hurricane is caused by storm surge; storm surge that will put lives in danger.  Typically evacuations are ordered 36 hours before landfall.  There are over 4 million people living in the Houston-Galveston area.  How do you evacuate that many people in such a short time?  You don’t!  This has a high probability for loss of life and medical emergencies. 

It cost over $30 billion to recover from Ike.  It’s estimated the recovery from Harvey will be over $100,000 billion. It costs a lot more to deal with the aftermath of a storm than to be proactive.  It makes sense to take action to mitigate against damages BEFORE a storm hits. 

Suggested modifications?

Ring Levee: A ring levee isn’t needed if you build a coastal spine. If a levee is built, neighborhoods will be split up, businesses affected, and over 50 gates through the levee would be needed – creating weak points in system.  Not building a ring levee will also reduce costs.

Add gate at San Luis pass:  The USACE strategy is to keep water out of the bay, great!  However failing to put a gate across San Luis pass provides a “backdoor” for incoming surge and water.  It will be critical to include this in the final plan.

Barrier Placement: It’s easier and cheaper to build the barrier along Routes 87 and 3005, but doing so means the people living on the south side of the barrier will be unprotected. I’d suggest this is the primary reason many residents opposed the plan.   Building along the beach is a better alternative.  Holland did this and it worked; so why not here?

We need the coastal spine, but with some modifications.

Author and Columnist
Photo of Bill (Sarge) Sargent
January 19, 2019