Experts share concerns, alternatives for proposed Texas coastal barrier

Area experts on March 7 spoke at length about the proposed Texas coastal barrier plan.

Area experts on March 7 spoke at length about the proposed Texas coastal barrier plan.

The Army Corps of Engineers is taking steps to adjust its Coastal Texas Study based on public feedback, but experts still have a myriad of concerns about the multi-billion-dollar plan.

Local experts and leaders gathered in Seabrook on March 7 for a forum to discuss the proposed plan to build along Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula a 76-mile coastal barrier, which makes up the majority of the Corps and Texas General Land Office’s $23 billion-$32 billion plan to make the Bay Area more resilient to storm surge during hurricanes.

Project Manager Kelly Burks-Copes led the discussion by saying the Corps is considering adjusting its plan according to public feedback.

“We are now taking in that info, digesting it,” she said.

The Corps and GLO have started evaluating moving the proposed barrier toward the front of Galveston Island and changing its construction from engineered structures, such as walls, to natural solutions, such as dunes and beaches, Burks-Copes said.

The organizations in a couple weeks will host a gate design workshop that will include experts from around the world flying in to review the Texas coastal barrier plan and propose ways to efficiently design the massive navigable gate proposed between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula and reduce construction costs. The Corps hopes to find ways to save at least 10 percent on estimated costs of the barrier’s construction, she said.

Once the Corps comes up with a final plan, it may hold a second series of public information meetings and again accept public comment, Burks-Copes said.

“We are always trying to be more and more transparent and not a black box,” she said.

Galveston Bay Foundation President Bob Stokes shared several concerns about the Corps’ plan.

The proposed barrier between both islands would be 10,000 feet wide, and its many walls and gates would restrict daily flow in and out of the bay by 27 percent, Stoke said.

“That’s a pretty big impact, we believe,” he said.

The Corps’ plan inadequately analyzes effects to water quality and bay wildlife. A gate between the islands would lead to shoreline erosion, hydrology changes, algae blooms, loss of wetlands and other problems the Corps needs to investigate further before action is taken, Stokes said.

“Our position is let’s make informed decisions here,” he said.

Experts also proposed alternatives to the Corps’ plan.

Jim Blackburn is co-director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education, & Evacuation from Disasters Center at Rice University. He presented a Galveston Bay Park plan that would include building structured barriers from the Houston Ship Channel down through Galveston Bay to Galveston Island.

Without protection, a Category 3 storm surge could flood the Houston Ship Channel 25 feet, which would spill an estimated 90 million gallons of oil, Blackburn said.

“It’s a huge spill. In my opinion, that would wipe out Galveston Bay for decades,” he said.

The Galveston Bay Park plan could help prevent such a catastrophe, he said. It would cost an estimated $3 billion-$6 billion and be completed by 2025-27, and the Houston Ship Channel could pay for its share of the project, Blackburn said.

“We can work together. We can figure this out,” he said.
By

<

MOST RECENT

money
Houston residents can apply for $1,200 in direct cash assistance

Applications will be evaluated based on need rather than a first-come, first-served basis.

Gwen Sims first joined Harris County Public Health in 1997. (Courtesy Harris County Public Health)
Deputy Director Gwen Sims appointed interim executive director of Harris County Public Health

Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously appointed Gwen Sims to serve as the interim executive director of Harris County Public Health in anticipation of Executive Director Umair Shah's departure Dec. 18.

(Courtesy city of League City)
League City City Council approves incentive program to promote capital projects

Having invested over $60 million in capital improvement projects in fiscal year 2019-20, League City employees now have a greater incentive to invest even more in FY 2020-21.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has launched a campaign to address declining college enrollment numbers across the state since the pandemic started. (Courtesy Pexels)
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board launches campaign to boost college enrollment

The decline in college enrollment across the state of Texas has prompted several agencies to partner up and create online resources for students and counselors.

The new Macaroni penguin chicks at Moody Gardens can be seen virtually through the Penguin Webcam, according to a media release. (Courtesy of Moody Gardens)
IMPACTS ROUNDUP: 3 new Bay Area businesses, plus penguins at Moody Gardens

Here is a roundup of local business news in the Bay Area.

Downtown Houston Streetscape at dusk
Mayor Sylvester Turner considering curfew as 'last resort' to curb bar and club crowding

Houston fire chief Sam Peña, whose department is responsible for monitoring occupancy violations, said fire marshals have responded to over 20,000 complaints since March 18.

(Courtesy Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership)
Hwy. 146 widening expected to finish a year early

Despite major delays and challenges, an “aggressive” approach to construction means the widening of Hwy. 146 will likely finish over a year ahead of schedule, an official working on the project said.

College of the Mainland unveiled its new League City location Nov. 12. (Courtesy College of the Mainland)
College of the Mainland, San Jacinto College leaders talk community college education amid COVID-19

Leaders from both institutions detailed how the educational experience at their respective colleges has been adapted to meet the challenges of the pandemic.

(Courtesy Pat Hallisey)
League City officials: Mayor on the mend from COVID-19

League City Mayor Pat Hallisey, who tested positive for COVID-19 nearly two weeks ago Nov. 17, is on the mend, City Manager John Baumgartner said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for the state Nov. 23 for a vaccine he said could be available as soon as December. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Galveston County up nearly 300% since late October

A total of 14,465 county residents have tested positive for the coronavirus since mid-March; of the total cases, 89% are considered to have recovered.A total of 14,465 county residents have tested positive for the coronavirus since mid-March; of the total cases, 89% are considered to have recovered.

Dozens of clinics throughout the county offer COVID-19 testing services. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)
COVID-19 testing locations remain open in Montgomery County and more local news

Read the latest Houston-area business and community news.