'Ike Dike' proposal aims to become coastal barrier to increase protection from future hurricanes

Nick Natario Image
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Residents debate if coastal barrier will help in hurricane protection
Those who live along the coast are fearful of storm damage, but hopeful a new proposal will help them stay safe during the next hurricane.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Storm survivors are breathing a sigh of relief after a study was released aimed to mitigate hurricane damage. However, some people say they have frustrations knowing it could take years to construct.

Texas coastal project study released 13 years after Hurricane Ike hit southeast Texas

Talks of a coastal barrier continue to linger over southeast Texas after Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 hurricane, caused billions of dollars worth of destruction in 2008.

The proposal was known as the 'Ike Dike.' The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had the proposal pick up steam six years ago with an official study.

A total of $20.63 million later, the proposal was released this Friday.

It's something Hurricane Ike survivor Brenda Flanagan has been waiting for. "I'm just glad that at this point it is moving forward to provide some type of protection along the Gulf Coast," Flanagan said.

The proposal is now called the Texas Coastal Protection Project. If approved, it would cost $29 billion total.

"People often say we don't have money for these things," climate data scientist Dr. Hal Needham explained. "The projects are in the billions of dollars, but research has shown for every dollar of flood resiliency, we save about $6 on flood recovery."

What would the proposal do to mitigate hurricane damage?

The project would add protections to the entire Texas coast. In southeast Texas, there are several projects.

The most controversial project would add gates at the Bolivar Roads, which leads into the Galveston Bay. Experts say this would protect against storm surge.

There would also be more than 40 miles of new dunes constructed from Bolivar to Galveston.

"I feel it will help with some of the high tides coming in to protect some of the homes," Flanagan said. "Right now, we have some areas where we have no dunes whatsoever."

The proposal would also complete a ring levy around the entire city of Galveston. Additionally, there would be storm surge gates to protect the Dickinson Bayou and Clear Lake.

Environmental concerns

The study shows there would be environmental issues with the projects. In fact, there were nearly 1,800 comments made about the proposal, some of which related to environmental concerns.

The study shows it would impact the wetlands in the Galveston Bay. One proposal is to construct new wetlands in another part of the bay.

The plans show there could be positive impacts to the environment as well. There would be ecosystem restoration, which includes reduced erosion, habitat creation and protection of existing habitat.

Now what?

The final study now heads to Washington D.C. Ultimately, it will need congressional approval.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers said the final report will be available for review through Oct. 21.

"I would tell them to look at the plan," he said. "Review the plan, and let's get some funding."

Once approved, documents show it could take upwards of five years for design and 10 years for construction to be completed.

"In 15 more years, I probably won't be here," Flanagan said. "I probably won't be here to see the coastal spine be put into place. Hopefully, I will."

Experts said it won't take 15 years to see results and that certain projects that could be done quicker.

"Some of this local protection, protecting communities along the Galveston Bay, and finishing off the ring levy around the city of Galveston, those I think are lower hanging fruit that we could do quicker, easier, and cheaper," Needham explained.

Once complete, officials said the project would provide protection from hurricanes for the next 50 years.

For more on the 'Ike Dike' proposal, follow Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.