Seawall extension plan picks up steam

November 10, 2008 3:53:57 PM PST
Afraid of more flooding and a storm surge powerful enough to rip away buildings, people who live on Galveston's west end say something must be done to protect their homes. ROAD TO RECOVERY: How you can help | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim

It's been almost two months since Hurricane Ike hit the southeast Texas coast, but the damage is still fresh in everyone's mind. One possibility is extending the seawall. It would start where the current seawall ends and follow FM 3005 all the way to San Luis Pass. But some homeowners worry it's not enough.

With repairs ongoing after Hurricane Ike, Galveston residents Ron Parrow can see some need for something to protect his home, but he's not fully convinced extending the Galveston Seawall west is the way to go.

"I'm less enthusiastic about a Seawall than I am about doing something permanent to stop our erosion," he said. "Our beach policy is really a mess."

But others see a huge potential. The West Galveston Island Property Owners Association is appealing to the Texas General Land Office for permission to build the seawall along 18 miles of the island's unprotected beach front.

"We need to think outside the box," said Jerry Mohn with the West Galveston Island Property Owners Association. "We really need some kind of protection for the west end."

The project would, in essence, double the length of the existing seawall, continuing where the Seawall ends right at West Beach all the way down to the San Luis Pass. It's a plan the Corps of Engineers is familiar with. It examined a similar proposal in 1979, but no action was taken.

"One of the things the Corps of Engineers pointed out to the county commissioners who asked for that alternative to be looked at is that it does not protect from the back bay tides, which is what flooded Galveston from Ike," said Galveston County Engineer Michael Fitzgerald.

Under current estimates, the project could cost upwards of $70 million, money proponents say they seek from the federal government. The city and the county would inevitably have to front some of the cost. It's a cost Parrow still isn't convinced will solve all the problems.

"The deciding factor will be whether or not there's some commitment or we can have a mechanism to keep the beach in front of whatever seawall we have," he said. "If we can't do that, then I really wouldn't support it."

We're told city leaders are also working on a proclamation to lend support to extending the seawall, but ultimately it will be up to state officials to approve the proposal.

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