The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s International Maritime Advisory Committee (IMAC) endorses a regional coastal barrier concept for storm surge protection. A storm surge protection system is essential to safeguard the industries, citizens, and communities in the Houston/Galveston region and to preserve the region’s coastal ecosystem.
A new coastal barrier concept for storm surge protection could be developed using manmade sand dunes (revetments covered with sand and natural grasses) along the length of the coast connecting to the existing Galveston Seawall. Bolivar Roads and San Luis Pass could be protected by large moveable flood gates that would be closed in the hours before landfall of the storm but would not impact shipping or the ecology of the bay when open. A coastal barrier stops the ocean surge at the coast where it is smallest (about 17 ft.). If left unchecked, the storm surge would fill up Galveston Bay with a massive amount of water and the wind and water behind it would push the surge to slosh up to 24 ft. or higher causing significant damage to property, sensitive ecosystems, and the loss of human life.
A coastal barrier concept for storm surge protection is currently under serious study. Originally called the “Ike Dike,” an informal name derived from Hurricane Ike, which made landfall in Galveston, Texas, on September 13, 2008, the system is now referred to as a coastal barrier concept. This reflects the fact that it's a more inclusive system, which protects a larger region. The coastal barrier concept was developed by Texas A&M University at Galveston’s Dr. Bill Merrell. This concept is directly modeled from other technologies successfully installed around the world -- including in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, St. Petersburg, Russia, along the Thames River in London, England, and in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The coastal barrier system could be built using existing, proven technology such as the gates and barriers currently used in the Delta Works project located in the Netherlands. Texas A&M University at Galveston is working closely with experts in the Netherlands who are the world leaders in storm surge suppression.
In late September 2014, a 42-member delegation from southeast Texas embarked on a fact-finding trip to the Netherlands in order to gain a better understanding of how a system such as the Netherlands’ Delta Works project could protect the people and vital industries of the region. The delegation included two state senators, four state representatives, four mayors and two members of Houston City Council. Two members of the delegation, Sen. Larry Taylor and Rep. Joe Deshotel, co-chair Texas’ Joint Interim Committee on Coastal Barrier Systems. BAHEP members Jim and Lynda Guidry of Guidry News Service joined the delegation and provided in-depth coverage of the trip. Visit their website to learn more about how the Dutch deal with storm surge suppression and to view trip photos.
The delegation on the late September 2014 fact-finding trip to the Netherlands included (l to r) front row: David Robinson, council member, City of Houston; State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, Dist. 6; State Rep. Bill Callegari, Dist. 132; Mayor Jon Keeney, City of Taylor Lake Village; State Rep. Ana Hernandez, Dist. 143; State Rep. Mary Ann Perez, Dist. 144; Dave Martin, council member, City of Houston; State Sen. Larry Taylor, Dist. 11. Back row: Bob Mitchell, president, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership; Mayor Mark Denman, City of Nassau Bay; Mayor Michel Bechtel, City of Morgan’s Point; Len Waterworth, executive professor, Texas A&M University at Galveston; State Rep. Joe Deshotel, Dist. 22; and Mayor Glenn Royal, City of Seabrook. The Texas delegation was comprised of 42 travelers in all. (Photo by Dan Seal)
The Houston/Galveston area is home to the largest and most important concentration of petroleum refining and petrochemical processing plants in the United States, and the Port of Houston is the second-busiest port in the nation. The region is hit by a major hurricane about every 15 years. Hurricane Ike caused approximately $35 billion in damages, loss of life and considerable damage to the natural environment, yet it was not nearly as destructive as future hurricanes could be.
The Perryman Report estimates that a “Katrina-like” storm would cause aggregate losses to the Texas economy of $73 billion in gross product, $61.3 billion in income and 863,000 jobs while causing an enormous amount of damage to the economy of the United States, as well.
The federal government provided $15 billion to entirely fund the restoration and improvements to the New Orleans levee and dam barrier systems after Hurricane Katrina. It is estimated that a coastal barrier solution for Galveston Bay would cost about $4-6 billion to construct, of which the federal government would pick up 85 percent of the cost.
A world-class research team led by Texas A&M University at Galveston is conducting studies to evaluate the technical details of the coastal barrier concept to ensure the proper analysis and homework is completed to determine the proper storm surge protection system to propose going forward. The economics of the project showing the cost-benefit ratio is led by University of Houston/Dr. Bill Gilmer from the Institute for Regional Forecasting. Storm Surge modeling is being conducted by Dr. Robert Whalin from the Homeland Security Center of Excellence at Jackson State and Dr. Ty Wamsley from USACE/Eng Research & Development Center. The barrier design is being assisted by Dr. Bas Jonkman and Dr. Mathjis van Ledden from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands. Overall Flood Risk Reduction and project coordination is being led by Dr. Bill Merrell and Dr. Sam Brody from Texas A&M University at Galveston.
The Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance, or BACPA, a recently chartered, volunteer-led, nonprofit organization, is championing the effort to build the coastal barrier system for storm surge protection. Volunteers include area scientists, industry leaders, elected officials and citizens concerned with protecting the whole of the Houston-Galveston region.
Presentation given by Texas A&M-Galveston/Dr. Bill Merrell to a Community Advisory Council Meeting for Texas City and La Marque on March 21, 2013.
Presentation on Ike Dike. This version has some modeling conducted by University of Texas showing the surge resulting from Ike and predicting the reduction in surge that would have resulted by Ike if the Ike Dike had been in place.
Presentation on Ike Dike. This version has additional information on the number of chemical plants that were shut down during Ike and the percentage of the U.S. capacity that they provide.
This presentation documents the visit by the Texas Delegation to the Netherlands in September 2012. The various forms of coastal protection utilized by the Netherlands are shown as is the way they are incorporated into the natural landscape.
This presentation documents the visit by the Texas Delegation to the New Orleans in March 2012. The forms of coastal protection put in place in New Orleans is reviewed.