Would 'Ike Dike' prevent storm surge?

July 14, 2009 3:06:31 AM PDT
There's a new plan to keep a storm surge from pouring into Galveston Bay, like what happened during Hurricane Ike. Right now, it's just a design, but the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership is taking a close look at it.

The idea for the "Ike Dike" as it's being called started as a suggestion by a professor at Texas A&M University, William Merrill. He essentially called for the extension of the Galveston Seawall in both directions, along with adding flood gates at the mouth of Galveston Bay.

After Hurricane Ike surged ashore on September 13, 2008, FEMA estimates more than $30 billion dollars in damage was done. The seawall did its job, but water simply went around its edges.

That has some at the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership wondering if most of the damage could have been prevented with a storm surge suppression system. It would protect a much larger area including the Houston Ship Channel and petrochemical industry.

"We can only imagine what would happen if those facilities were shut down six months to a year at a time," said Bob Mitchell of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. "We think this is a national security issue, not just a Houston-Galveston issue."

The Ike Dike is actually a concept borrowed from the Netherlands. It would take a decade to build, starting with adding miles of seawall.

The idea of the Ike Dike concept would be to extend the existing Galveston Seawall down to the south and west all the way down to San Luis Pass, and also to the north and east up to High Island," said Dan Seal of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.

That would create a 17-foot high seawall. The flood gates would be installed just about where the Bolivar Ferry runs to protect Galveston from another storm surge.

Each gate is about the size of the Eiffel Tower turned on its side. Once they close, they drop to the sea floor bed, sealing off the bay.

"As a major storm begins to approach, somewhere between 24 and 36 hours, we would close those gates to keep that water from ever entering Galveston Bay," said Seal.

We're told the idea has been forwarded to the Army Corps of Engineers at a price tag of $2.5 billion, but no funding has been established yet.

You can read more about the Ike Dike plan in our Houston Community Partner, the Bay Area Citizen.

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