Update on Coastal Protection

Kyle Beam, GHPB

Texas’ Upper Gulf Coast residents recently received a tiny Christmas present from President Obama. On December 16, 2016 Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act into law.

The main focus of the WIIN authorizes $170 million for communities, such as Flint, Mich, facing drinking water emergencies to recover from lead contamination, and provides long- and short-term provisions for the drought crises in California. But, because of the work of Senator John Cornyn, a provision was added to speed up feasibility studies for a coastal storm protection system for Galveston Bay.

“[The law] authorizes vital water projects across the country to restore watersheds, improve waterways and flood control and improve drinking water infrastructure,” said President Obama, in a statement.
Senator Cornyn, in a statement, added, “The folks who live along Texas’ upper gulf coast are seeking certainty in the face of natural disasters, and this law takes a big step toward that. I’m thankful the President has signed this bill into law so we can help streamline the Army Corps’ study as we continue working to protect Texans living along our coast.”

While the residents of the Upper Texas Gulf Coast will not see any immediate benefits from WIIN, the law clears the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin forming a plan to better protect the Houston/Galveston area and its infrastructure.

As the Port Bureau News has covered, since Hurricane Ike there has been very little action on coastal protection for the region. Studies conducted by Rice University, Texas A&M University and others have shown the potential of a hurricane, similar in strength to Ike, causing major damage to the infrastructure of the port and chemical industries along Galveston Bay.

Currently, there are three different proposals that offer a potential remedy to lessen the impact a major hurricane would have on the Upper Texas Coast (the details of the proposals are on page 27). While no specific proposal has been commissioned to be built, the “Ike Dike,” or Coastal Spine, is the most widely known of the proposals to the public.

The consensus of the majority of the businesses and citizens, as well as the Port Bureau, is something should be done to prevent a catastrophe from occurring. With many different ideas on how this should be done, progress has stalled. Hopefully, with the work of Senator Cornyn, and the passage of WIIN, progress will start again and a concrete proposal will move forward ensuring the safety and security of the people and infrastructure along the Upper Texas Gulf Coast.

  • Date January 13, 2017
  • Tags January 2017