Researchers get grant to study options to protect Houston area from next big storm

They're looking at options that range from protecting grasslands in low-lying areas to building massive gates to stop storm surge
March 11, 2014 4:19:10 PM PDT
Could a multimillion dollar grant bring us closer to acquiring storm surge protection that could withstand likes of Hurricane Ike? Some local researchers hope it could at least be a step in the right direction.

It's been five and a half years since Hurricane Ike and experts are still debating what to do to help protect us from the next big storm. Now that debate is taking some big steps forward.

The Houston Endowment announced a $3 million grant to experts at Rice University who are studying options of how to protect everything from Galveston to the Ship Channel.

The options range from protecting grasslands in low-lying areas to building massive gates to turn storm surge back.

The Ike dike option is to build a gate at the mouth of the Galveston Bay. It's being studied by a professor at A&M Galveston.

The second option, and the one studied at Rice, is to build it at the mouth of the ship channel, underneath the Fred Hartman Bridge and on to Baytown.

The Rice study joins another $4 million state funded effort.

"Two years from now, I hope we will have a plan that will show significant reduction of surge," said Jim Blackburn with the Rice University Speed Center. "If we could get a consensus on a plan within the community, and if God forbid disaster did strike, we would be ready to respond with a plan of action if federal funds become available."

Experts acknowledge that this really is a waiting game and it's unlikely a project of this size would get funded without massive disaster on the coast.

They would cost anywhere between $1.5 billion and $6 billion.

The studies announced recently wouldn't get close to construction but they do keep the effort alive.

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