Just build the effing Ike Dike already

Enough waiting around.

As twin hurricanes converge on the Gulf Coast this week, including one with a decent chance of affecting the Houston-Galveston region, a highly ambitious proposal for protecting the area from a massive storm continues to slowly grind its way through the federal approval process.

Twelve years after Hurricane Ike leveled much of the Upper Texas Coast, federal officials are still studying the effects of a proposed coastal barrier and looking for ways to pay for a project now estimated to cost $31 billion. The next draft of a plan is due out in October.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ current plan to build a 71-mile barrier system to protect the southeast Texas coast has changed significantly since the Corps’ first proposal in October 2018. That proposal — a system of levees and gates stretching from High Island to San Luis Pass — was a close approximation of the “Ike Dike” concept first touted by William Merrell, a professor of marine sciences at Texas A&M University at Galveston, more than a decade ago.

That original plan called for the construction of levees that would run parallel to FM 3005 on Galveston Island and Texas 87 on Bolivar Peninsula but behind the dune line. This plan for harder barrier would have left thousands of homes adjacent to the beach exposed to flooding and likely required extensive eminent domain buyouts.

The backlash to that original proposal sent the Corps back to the drawing board. By late 2019, the Corps had settled on a double dune system — a field of 12- and 14-foot dunes, approximately 185 feet wide, with a runway of 250 feet of renourished beach leading to the Gulf of Mexico.


Kelly Burks-Copes, the Army Corps’ project manager for the coastal barrier proposal, emphasized the agency is working with the data that the federal budget allows for at this time. She noted the Army Corps is still studying how ship traffic would navigate proposed sea gates crossing Galveston Bay and whether the gates would allow for minimal tidal flow between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico. All of that information will be in the next draft of the barrier plan.

“We still have to finish the environmental impact analysis, and the (barrier) footprints are gonna change slightly as the real estate gross appraisal finishes,” Burks-Copes said in February, referring to eminent domain buyouts that could be required to build the dunes.

See here for the background. I agree there has been a long debate about how to build an Ike Dike, with a number of possible variations and some passionate advocacy on all sides. I do want to make sure we do not have a negative effect on the environment in building it. But at some point we gotta start building. And for crying out loud, don’t come at me with concerns about cost, not after the Republicans spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for the rich and however many trillions on (very necessary and still insufficient) COVID recovery. The Ike Dike is peanuts next to that, and it’s vitally necessary. When the draft plan is submitted to Congress next May, there needs to be a funding bill attached to it. Get this done.

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14 Responses to Just build the effing Ike Dike already

  1. Flypusher says:

    One thing we need to address at the local /state level are the building codes. If Laura had landed around Freeport and roared into Houston, how many of us could have safely hid from the wind? If you want to say that for something this bad forget the old adage and RUN! we have the problem of storms that explode from a cat1 to a cat4 in less than 2 days, because the Gulf waters are so bloody hot. People talk about the Rita evacuation being bad, but what if you tried to move everyone out in just one day?

    This should be a wake up call at all levels of government.

  2. mollusk says:

    @ Flypusher – You’ll be a bit relieved to know that the building codes have had a windstorm component for quite a while now. That said, there is no requirement to upgrade existing structures unless one undertakes significant structural alterations (IIRC 50% of value), so older structures are still very much at risk. Also, some of the greatest wind damage is done by tornadoes that the main storm spins off – all bets are off for those.

  3. C.L. says:

    It’ll never get built in any of our lifetimes.

    And look how badly the ACoE f’ed up the lower Mississippi basin – these are the folks you want responsible for coming up with a plan to save H-Town ?

  4. Flypusher says:

    There are multiple options:


    A nice park on Galveston Bay for everyone to enjoy AND it helps protect the Houston Ship Channel? Yes, please.

  5. Jen says:

    One of the very worse effects will be all of the tank farms being destroyed and their nasty contents being liberally strewn all over everything, an almost unimaginable ecological and public health disaster. The companies responsible for these materials and the manner of their storage need to secure these facilities immediately. But of course that costs money, so forget it. Maybe a state law? Can counties enact ordinances? It is obvious this will be a terrible consequence. Why isn’t this a priority?

  6. Flypusher says:

    But regulations are bad, and being able to dump your externalities on others is an acceptable business model under our current government.

  7. Jen says:

    Most of these facilities are located in Harris County, so perhaps some accountability might be possible, at least until the Republican State of Texas steps in. You know if the county doesn’t do everything they can then Abbott will blame them when the time comes, if it comes before he countermands their rules.

  8. Bill Daniels says:


    Let’s say lightning hits your house, and your house burns down during a storm. The inferno that is now your house, and the flying embers from it, burn down a few of your neighbors’ homes. You are dumping your externalities on your neighbors, and that’s an acceptable business model under our current system.

    What are you going to do to protect your neighbors from your negligence?

  9. Jen says:

    Building just one giant tank full of thousands of gallons of a harmful chemical just a few feet above sea level in a place where big hurricanes happen is a really stupid idea and most people would never do it. Someone did do this and there are many of these giant tanks, they made a big bet to make money and we will all pay the price. For some silly reason I think this should be illegal, and these people should be held to account.

  10. Flypusher says:

    Bill you suck so bad at analogies. Really, you should quit while you are so far behind. If you can’t see the difference between your pitiful example and something like a company lobbying to avoid disclosing hazardous chemicals stored on site, you are hopeless.

  11. Jen says:

    In Texas ‘Open for Business’ means the citizens pay the health penalty for scant business regulation, along with their property taxes. Heads they win, tails we all lose.
    The hurricane risk I have described is very real. If you don’t believe it just bring up google maps and check the satellite view of all the tank farms along the Ship Channel. If Laura had hit here Downtown and all of the surrounding neighborhoods would be awash with unknown chemicals, one big Superfund site that would take a very long time to clean up, if that was even possible. And of course much of it would have washed back into Galveston Bay, killing it for a long time to come. Will that be good for business? For anyone?


  12. Ross says:

    Bill, that’s one of the stupidest comparisons you’ve ever come up with. There is a vast difference between flying embers from my house and 200,000 barrels of crude oil that spread everywhere because the containment structures were inadequate. The latter can be mitigated up front, the former cannot. Trumpism has apparently destroyed your brain.

  13. Jeff says:

    Parroting others… worrying about environmental impacts of building is pointless in comparison to the toxic chemical spills that will ruin everything. Too bad we can’t levy a tax on all these companies near the water to pay for cleanup and building infrastructure to mitigate a surge.

  14. David Wukoson says:

    This plan has an annual cost to maintain which: 1) the AC of E has yet to determine and 2) requires an entity i.e. the state of Texas to agree to fund. That entity has not yet been determined. Further the restrictions on the flow of water from the gulf to the bay in unknown, thus the ecological impact is unknow. Yet, the plan will be pushed through this year. This is a wreck in the making.

    Alternatively, Rice Univ. came up with a plan to protect the energy industry from flooding which is really the driving concern. This has been deadpanned by the AC of E as it is not “their” plan and does not satisfy their egos. The Rice plan can be done in less than a third of the time, for a fraction of the cost and is pennies on the dollar to maintain compared to the Ike Dike.

    The Ike Dike will be an albatross for any politician who supports this absurd plan. Are you listening Mr. Bush?

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