Experts alter Texas coastal barrier plan, will hold second public comment period in 2020

Experts discussed the Army Corps of Engineers' Texas coastal study and other storm surge-preventing plans at San Jacinto College on May 15.

Experts discussed the Army Corps of Engineers' Texas coastal study and other storm surge-preventing plans at San Jacinto College on May 15.

After receiving more than 6,000 public comments over months of sharing its Texas coastal barrier study with residents, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has altered its tentative plan.

The Corps has decided to hold a second public comment period in late summer 2020 to gather feedback once the study is more refined, project manager Kelly Burks-Copes said.

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, along with other offices and organizations, held a public meeting May 15 at San Jacinto College to discuss the Texas coastal study that the Corps and Texas General Land Office are conducting. The study aims to come up with a way to protect Galveston Bay and its industries and communities from storm surge flooding during catastrophic storms.

“Hurricane Ike came to visit us in 2008, and what do we have to show for it? That is the No. 1 reason for hosting this particular event,” Garcia said. “It’s about time we get something done, don’t you agree?”

The Corps’ tentative $23 billion-$32 billion plan calls for building a 76-mile coastal barrier of floodwalls and levees along Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula. A massive storm gate is proposed for the channel between the islands that would close during storms to hold back water that would otherwise flood the area.

“We are likely to experience large surges along the coast," Burks-Copes said. "That is a threat now, but it also a threat in the future.”

Burks-Copes said the Corps is now examining a new possibility of replacing the miles of floodwalls and levees with sand dunes and other natural types of barriers. The plan will be refined over the coming months, she said.

On March 17-19, the Corps hosted experts from around the world—including the Netherlands, Venice and St. Petersburg—who have helped developed navigable storm gates. The Corps will refine its own storm gate plan using the experts’ feedback and input, Burks-Copes said.

Col. Len Waterworth with Texas A&M Galveston urged residents to contact their congressional representatives. He said it will be the public, not Congress, that gets this project underway.

“I’m not willing to wait,” he said. “We have to carry the message.”
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.


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