TX announces $135M coastal protection plan

HOUSTON The $135.4 million plan comes just a year after Hurricane Ike's powerful storm surge damaged thousands of homes in Galveston, the neighboring Bolivar Peninsula and other communities across southeast Texas. The Sept. 13, 2008 hurricane also scoured away beaches, submerged marshes in seawater and ruined thousands of acres of vegetation.

"We've been trying to do large scale projects like this for quite some time but (Hurricane) Ike has accelerated our efforts and created a greater sense of urgency," Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a telephone interview shortly after announcing the plan in Galveston. "It's the largest commitment to coastal protection in the history of Texas."

Work will begin immediately on 26 projects from South Padre Island in South Texas to McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge on the upper Texas Coast, Patterson said. The projects have different timelines for being completed.

The biggest project will be a more than $46 million beach renourishment that will replace sand over a stretch of six miles from the west end of Galveston's famed seawall.

Another stretch of Galveston's beaches, which are a big tourist attraction but also fortify the seawall, were replenished earlier this year after being eroded by Ike. The 10-mile long seawall has protected the island city since it was built after the Great Storm of 1900, which killed 6,000 people.

Other projects include:

-- a $32 million project that will restore dunes along 20 miles of beaches that protect the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge. The 55,000 acre refuge protects one of the largest remaining freshwater marshes on the Texas Coast.

-- an $18.3 million project to rebuild dunes on Bolivar Peninsula. Ike's storm surge overwhelmed this thin strip of land along the Gulf of Mexico, washing away or damaging 3,600 homes and other structures.

-- a $1 million test project in South Padre Island that will place low profile stabilizers, or concrete filled tubes, underwater in beaches on the north end. The stabilizers will slow down erosion by retaining sand usually lost to waves and currents.

Patterson said these projects will protect not just the state's physical assets but also the economy.

"It's going to protect the dollars that are generated in the coast," he said. "Without a beach in front of the seawall in Galveston, there are no tourists. Without tourists, no hotel motel taxes, no sales taxes generated."

Patterson said the state is allocating $25 million for the effort. Matching funds from local communities and the federal government is increasing the total to more than $135 million.

A telephone message left Monday with the Gulf Restoration Network was not immediately returned.

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