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Who cares how much it will cost to build the Ike Dike?

Imagine how much it will cost to recover from a catastrophic hurricane whose storm surge could have been mitigated by the Ike Dike. You know, like that hurricane from earlier this year that would have done exactly that had it hit 150 miles or so west of where it did hit.

The Army Corps of Engineers has revised its plan for a coastal barrier that would fundamentally alter the southeast Texas coastline, with massive sea gates across the Houston Ship Channel and 43 miles of dunes and renourished beaches spanning Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston.

The newest version of the coastal barrier, once known as the “Ike Dike,” was released Tuesday by the Corps and Texas General Land Office. While initial estimates said the project would cost as much as $32 billion, officials now peg the cost as $26.2 billion.

The plan incorporates feedback received during a contentious round of public meetings after the original plan was released in October 2018. Many coastal residents and environmentalists balked at a structure that they said could harm ecology and wildlife and tank property values.

But with three major hurricanes narrowly skirting the Houston-Galveston region this year during a particularly active season — 27 named storms — state officials noted that a project on the scale of the coastal barrier would protect the region for decades to come as the climate gets warmer and more volatile.

“The Corps of Engineers recognizes the coast as a extremely vibrant place to live and recognizes, and our metrics in the army show, that the Texas coast is leading economic growth for the nation,” said Mark Havens, deputy land commissioner for the General Land Office. “This hurricane season has given us pause because it’s given us too many close calls not to heed this warning.”

The Corps plans to convene three days of virtual public meetings, beginning Nov. 16. The public comment period will end on Dec. 14, and feedback will be incorporated into the final feasibility report, which the Corps plans to publish in May 2021. The Corps also emphasized interactive web features for the public such as 3-D virtual tours of some of the project’s features and flood impact maps.

Once the study is complete it will be proposed for congressional authorization and funding. If approved, it is expected to take 12 to 20 years to design and construct.

See here for the previous update. We are virtually certain to get a big honking infrastructure/stimulus bill from the Biden administration in its early days, and this project would fit nicely within it. All we need is for the Texas Congressional delegation to do its part. This will take a long time to build, as noted, so the less screwing around we do, the sooner we can get it started. In conclusion:

Indeed.

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14 Comments

  1. David Fagan says:

    “Who Cares How Much It Will Cost To Build The Ike Dike?”

    Not nature, b/c there could, and would be, a storm that blows that away no matter how big you build it.

  2. C.L. says:

    Yeah, we get it, David – build a 20 ft wall and someone will invent a 21 ft ladder.

    I’m guessing the naysayers don’t (1) live within a dozen miles of Galveston or Galveston Bay shoreline, and (2) don’t rely somehow on the hundreds of Bay complex O&G/petrochemical refineries that would be inundated should a Cat 3-5 hurricane come ashore in Jamaica Beach and push 20′ of water up into Galveston Bay.

    Can’t be about the cost, ’cause it ain’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. We’ve been crazy fortunate the last 15 years (since Katrina).

  3. Andrew Lynch says:

    Many people care about how much it costs. Balancing the budget is boring work but financial stability is important to the county’s long term health.

  4. Flypusher says:

    We absolutely could pay for this. It’s a matter of priorities and risk assessment. Sooner or later, a big one will head right for us. The cost of that (economic, environmental) will make the cost of the Ike Dike (or the Galveston Bay levee parks or any other project) look like peanuts. To be fair, there should be a substantial contribution on the Federal end, as anyone who uses products of the petrochemical industry (IOW everyone) has skin in the game here. But those of us who own property that would be protected from storm surge should also be willing to pony up our share, as we have even more skin at risk.

    One of my biggest expenditures each year is windstorm coverage. It sucks to pay it, but not having it should a hurricane hit would far worse.

  5. Jules says:

    If you don’t care how much a $30 billion dollar project costs, you’re gonna get a $100 billion plus project.

  6. Manny says:

    Too busy worrying about today to care about tomorrow.

  7. David Fagan says:

    This is more about this areas’ patterns of planning. I’m sure the area being looked at has been dredged for the ship channel, and now fill it in? Add that cost to the overall cost. The Houston/ Galveston area’s entire history is replete with flood mitigation costs. Now, what used to be unpopulated land is built up and the cities are running together, making a larger flooding problem to mitigate.

    The truth if the matter is, this area was sold to businesses and its a swamp. People try to change it and keep realizing they are too close to sea level. For that reason, no, I wouldn’t want anything to do within a dozen, even more, miles of that area. People who do should realize what they’re getting into. This dyke will create problems elsewhere, b/c if mother nature sends the water, it’s gotta go somewhere, and mother nature don’t give a fuck.

  8. Ken says:

    Spot on, Manny

  9. C.L. says:

    If I had my choice, $7B to reroute I-45 through Houston or $7B towards the cost of preventing a calamitous gillion-dollar environmental disaster should a hurricane churn up through Galveston Bay, I’d take the Ike Dike series of islands all day long, regardless of the present and future cost. Imagine if Texas City, Pasadena, LaPorte, Baytown, and/or the Ship Channel sat under 15′ of water and 100mph winds for 24 hours*. It’d make Chernobyl and Three Mile Island and Prince William Sound and Bhopal and Deep Water Horizon look like child’s play. While Ch. 2 would have a field deal with !!Breaking News!!, life (both on land and in the sea) as we know it would suck hard for decades.

    So yeah, let’s bitch about the upfront cost.

    *It’s #2020, baby. Anything could happen.

  10. David Fagan says:

    How about $7B to relocate the people in the coastal land that would be effected and return the cost to its natural state, declare it a federal nature reserve to secure funds to maintain it and the Harris county area could market itself as the natural place it could be without building all of this out in the gulf. That’s some nature loving Progressive Democrat green deal type stuff, but who wants to be “progressive”.

  11. Manny says:

    Actually David it may be more economical to move the people and companies, and build a channel out to where the plants are relocated. At least that is the theory of buyouts.

  12. Ross says:

    David, the Ship Channel will not be filled in. The barriers would be build near the Ship Channel, not on it.

  13. David Fagan says:

    Thanks for clearing everything up ross.

    It doesn’t matter to me what $7B is spent on, but thinking this dyke solves everything, it won’t. The fact is extreme economic development has been made in one of the worst areas for flooding, and everyone knows it. Trying to solve the issue with a bunch of construction has been going on since the birth if Houston. If there is one thing to learn from this is that it may solve one problem while creating more. Water has to go somewhere and throwing money at it will float away with the water under the bridge.

  14. David Fagan says:

    Here’s a description of Atkinson Island WMA:

    “Wildlife includes shore and wading birds, raccoons, and rattlesnakes. There is 40 acres of woodlot composed of mainly hackberry and yaupon.”

    “Another 90 acres segment is brackish marsh and then 20 acres is a spoils site left from dredging the channel.”

    Starting to sound like the Ship Channel could be deferring costs of dredging the channel, two birds one stone, right?

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