Massive dike proposal not new for Galveston

March 19, 2010 9:18:15 AM PDT
Recovery efforts from Hurricane Ike in 2008 led to the discovery of a dike proposal drawn up in 1902, two years after the nation's worst natural disaster. The 1900 hurricane that walloped Galveston claimed at least 6,000 lives.

The nearly century-old blueprint outlined a sprawling dike proposal that never became a reality, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday. The plan would have put Galveston behind a seawall that extended to the bay side of the island.

Galveston is still recovering from Ike, which swamped parts of the city and left more than three dozen people dead in southeast Texas.

Clerks stumbled across the blueprint two months after Ike hit on Sept. 13, 2008, while sifting through documents at a warehouse. The blueprint was taken to Assistant Deputy Clerk Valerie Millican.

"We spread it out on the floor and we all gaped," Millican said. "We looked at it and we knew there was a variance in the way it was finally built."

The original seawall, extending more than three miles, was completed in July 1904. Modifications over the years pushed the seawall length to more than 10 miles.

The blueprint was an exhibit in a 1903 lawsuit against seawall contractors by a property owner who objected to a railroad being built across his property to haul construction materials.

John A. Johnston sued the contractors, accusing them of using "force and arms" to compel him to accept the tracks across his property.

The blueprint and the lawsuit do not indicate why the plan was abandoned or if it was ever seriously considered.

The post-Ike proposal, from Texas A&M-Galveston professor William Merrell, features a 55-mile barrier, 17 feet high, to be built along the Gulf Coast at a cost of up to $4 billion.

Merrell's suggestion includes a series of walls and retractable floodgates.


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