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'Ike Dike' Proposal Raises Concerns

Thursday, November 15, 2018

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Rice University researchers recently voiced concerns over plans for the $31 billion, 70-mile-long Ike Dike project, citing worry over the completeness of the study used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria were more powerful than 2008’s Hurricane Ike, and according to Rice University professor Jim Blackburn, the storms being studied by the Corps are too small.

Ike Dike History

After a three-year study into ways to protect Texas’ coast from hurricanes and other similar storm surges, the Corps announced late last month that the Ike Dike barrier was the preferred choice for the job.

Plans for the coastal barrier, similar to the one originally proposed by Texas A&M University marine science professor Bill Merrell, were developed in a partnership between the Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas General Land Office. The barrier could cost as much as $31 billion.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush noted that the Texas coast is home to one in four Texans, as well as 30 percent of the American oil refining sector. The Ike Dike barrier would consist of a system of levees and sea gates beginning north of High Island, running along Bolivar Peninsula. The coastal barrier would also wind its way across the entrance of Galveston Bay and run the length of Galveston Island, eventually including the pre-existing seawall, ending at San Luis Pass.

At the bay’s entrance a series of storm surge gates would accommodate navigation to a few ports, namely Galveston’s, Texas City’s and Houston’s. A navigation gate, located along the Houston Ship Channel, would close during storms. Galveston would be protected with a ring levee shielding the rear of the island. 

Concerns Raised                                                                                               

The Corps’ study has reportedly not considered the worst storm surges that could hit the Houston area. Larry Dunbar, a project manager at the university's Severe Storm Prediction, Education & Evacuation from Disasters Center, noted that the modeling system used to predict the outcomes of storms was also outdated.

In turn, SSPEED is proposing a 25-foot, mid-bay barrier system that could protect Galveston Bay as well as the industrial complexes and populated areas in the bay's northwest and west regions. Blackburn noted that this suggestion is part of a bifurcated system that would include an internal barrier and a coastal barrier. SSPEED’s proposal could also work in conjunction with the Corps’ tentative plan; it could also be built in less time and at a fraction of the cost—$3 billion o $5 billion in comparison.  

In response to this proposal, the Corps remains concerned over the potential impact over oyster beds in the area.

"I think we need options," Blackburn said. "If all of our eggs are in a $30 billion federal appropriation, that just sounds too risky to me."

   

Tagged categories: Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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