Gov. Perry to look at 'Ike Dike'

October 30, 2009 5:11:56 PM PDT
A year after Hurricane Ike, Governor Rick Perry is inching closer to his suggestions for strengthening the Texas coast. Later this week, he is expected to recommend a serious look at the Ike Dike, a move that could lead to more than 100 miles of coastal barrier construction.

After one year, Shirley Christy is finally getting ready to move back home to Seabrook.

"The water was five, six feet inside the house," said Christy.

She is a lifelong resident here and even though the storm took nearly everything from her, she isn't leaving.

"The high water went in, washed it all around, broke out the walls and then when it went out, it took most of my furniture and everything with it," said Christy.

Seabrook is one of several communities along Galveston Bay.

Storm surge didn't just damage the coast, but spread its devastating water up into bayside communities. It's estimated 1.5 million people live in areas endangered by storm surge near Houston and as they rebuild they need some protection.

"We looked at how do you protect those people, how do you protect the strategic national assets that you have in place, things like the refining capacity?" said Robert Eckels, a former Harris County judge.

Gov. Perry asked Eckels to find the best protection coastal protection options after Ike. When they present the findings later this month, they will include stricter building codes to both strengthen and elevate coastal homes. But they will also include a recommendation to look more closely at the so-called Ike Dike, proposed by a Texas A&M Galveston professor.

"We think there is merit to his ideas," said Eckels.

Eckels and the governor will recommend more study to make sure that a wall from High Island to Freeport would really help. There are concerns it could trap water already in the bay or damage the environment. And then there's the question of cost. Miles of Ike Dike are estimated to cost $3 billion. It's a lot of money, but a fraction of the $15 billion in damages caused by Ike.

That makes it in Eckels words, "a very good investment."

Shirley Christy agrees. She is hoping to spend the first night in her rebuilt bayside home later this month.

"If they could do it for $3 billion and save all the homes that we lost this time, I would think it would probably be worth it," she said.

There is the outstanding question of a floodgate across Galveston Bay which has been proposed and will be studied as well. It's a huge mechanical gate that could seal off the bay in the event of rising water. It's also expensive but under consideration.

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