More than one way to fund the Ike Dike

As long as it gets funded, that’s what matters.

When President Joe Biden proposed a nearly $2 trillion infrastructure bill, some Texas officials had high hopes that it might include funding for the long-awaited “Ike Dike” project to protect the Houston-Galveston region from catastrophic storm surge.

However, the Army Corps of Engineers is pursuing another funding route for the $26 billion project.

Col. Timothy Vail, commander for the Corps’ Galveston district, said the agency is adhering to a methodical federal process as it works toward completing the chief engineer’s report on the massive coastal barrier, siloed from Washington’s political headwinds.

The goal, Vail said, is for that report to be ready for funding through the 2022 Water Resources Development Act, a biennial, typically bipartisan bill that helps pay for flood mitigation infrastructure across the country.

“Congress would have a substantial amount of time to review this report, potentially have hearings on this report, ask questions on their report, both formally and informally before the Water Resource Development Act (of 2022)” was drafted, Vail said in an interview at the Corps’ Galveston headquarters.

Members of Texas’ congressional delegation are exploring whether the infrastructure bill could at least partially fund the project, but time is a factor with Biden aiming to get a bill passed by this summer. The Corps is still months away from officially putting the project on the table for congressional funding.

Corps officials said they are sorting through a final round of public comments as they target late August or early September for release of the final report. The agency will first submit the project for review to the governor’s office and federal and state officials. Then it goes to Congress for consideration.


Vail did not dismiss the possibility that Congress could choose to fund the barrier through other forms of legislation, but he said “largely, Congress needs a (chief engineer’s) report to authorize” funding.

“The important thing is the due process,” Vail said. “It’s not for me to tell Congress what they can or can’t do. Clearly, it’s within their authority to authorize (funding for the coastal barrier) outside of a Water Resource Development Act.”

Rocio Cruz, a spokeswoman for [Rep. Lizzie] Fletcher, clarified that she is pushing to create a funding stream for coastal resiliency projects such as the Ike Dike.

“She’s aware that the (Ike Dike) final report isn’t going to be ready for the American Jobs Plan, but we wanted to make sure that there’s a federal funding mechanism in place for when that is available,” Cruz said.

See here for some background. The reference to Rep. Fletcher is about her statement that she will push for Ike Dike funding in the infrastructure bill. I will admit, I did not know about the Water Resource Development Act, and I do not know why there was no action to leverage that before now. Maybe the plan just wasn’t ready yet, I don’t know. Whatever the case, it makes sense to pursue both options. We’ve come this far, let’s not leave anything on the table.

Which reminds me, there’s also a third option:

SB1660 is noted in that first link above. Like I said, pursue every option.

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6 Responses to More than one way to fund the Ike Dike

  1. Flypusher says:

    Nice to see actual bipartisanship on this one:

    Unless you don’t use any petroleum products, you most definitely have some skin in this game.

  2. C.L. says:

    Unless you wall off the entire ship channel and put in place a series of locks or gates, an Ike Dike ain’t gonna do much to prevent a 20′ wall of water from sweeping across Galveston Island or Bolivar Peninsula, up thru San Luis Pass or up the ship channel, an inundating Texas City, the Clear Lake area, LaPorte, Baytown, etc. If Ike and Harvey taught us anything, it’s that water is going to take the path of least resistance. Build a 30′ high levee in the middle of Galveston, and the H2O is just going to go around it where it can.

  3. Flypusher says:

    And if that new path of least resistance means that the refineries don’t get flooded, then it will be $ well spent.

  4. policywonqueria says:


    C.L. has a point. Colossal waste of money. The area sought to be protected is too large. And even if technically feasible, and even if that sort of money is available, it needs to be justified in comparison to what other measures could be taken to mitigate flood risks, and their comparative effectiveness. In sum, money at that level of magnitude could be spent in much better ways.

    Also, what are we trying to protect? Human lives and residential assets, or something else? That also needs to be part of the discussion. How many people and who would be helped to justify the massive investment?

    As a general approach, it would seem to make much more sense to raise the elevation of everything worth protecting, esp. all new construction on exposed land (with only marginal additional cost), and to waterproof things such as electrical equipment at ground level, or move it up. The analogy would be with proper building codes to make buildings resilient to future earthquakes in quake-prone areas.

    As for beach housing, if it’s worth it to live on the beach as opposed to inland, it should be worth paying more to raise the minimum elevation for living space, and mitigate risk to life through mandatory and orderly vehicular evacuation from the ground-level garage, which will also take motor vehicle assets out of harm’s way. An alternative would be to build cheap, and furnish cheap, and be willing to flee and call what it’s not movable a loss in the next storm. Then rebuild cheap once more under a short-life-cycle concept for residential and/or commercial properties.


    And while we are on water damage: Don’t build or re-build a jury assembly facility underground. The tunnels connecting the courthouses have already flooded twice, and the second time it somehow happened despite the massive pivoted locks installed to block inflow from street surface level (see CL’s comment on how the H20 goes the path of least resistance). Also remember what happened in the Theater District, and how the sheer weight of the water overcame resistance in the form of what were presumably steel doors in the basement.

    Same flow dynamics apply to the replacement for currently elevated I-45 / I-69, unless the below-street-level elevation is meant to serve as emergency floodwater catchment reservoir (like 288 at the TMC in past flooding events). Under that approach we could tout a seasonal grotto lake feature for our forthcoming variant of a Klyde Warren Park hugging Downtown.


    While debating the dike down South, something needs to be done about the Addicks and Barker reservoirs upstream. We are lucky these ageing *earthen* dams didn’t give way last time; we know that the reservoir capacity is insufficient (hence, controlled water release by opening the gates, i.e. deliberate flooding of West Houston neighborhoods); and we also know that we can expect so-called 100- and even 500-year floods as often as hurricanes, i.e., every few yours if not at any time.


    Come to think of it, how will the bay dike help with the water that comes down from the erstwhile-now-concreted Katy Prairie?

    Shouldn’t the threat from upstream be a bigger concern than the threat from the sea, given the much larger number of people at risk in neighborhoods on the banks of Buffalo Bayou? Galveston residents can at least be evacuated to higher ground.

  5. Ed Emmett says:

    The graphic accompanying the story doesn’t show the Ike Dike. It shows the design by the Rice SSPEED Center. Which one is being funded? Do the members of Congress know the difference?

  6. Flypusher says:

    I agree 100% that we need much better and stricter building codes that actually take this region’s environment into account. Also agree 100% about dealing with those reservoirs to the west.

    “ Also, what are we trying to protect? Human lives and residential assets, or something else? ”

    Consider what just happened on the East Coast as the result of that ransomware attack that shut down that pipeline. This wasn’t even an actual shortage of gasoline, just an issue of distribution. The Big One roaring up the Ship Channel is going to cause a shortage which will last longer if you have unchecked storm surge, and you’ll have the added catastrophe of widespread pollution of the area. I’m all for finding alternatives to oil and gas but that is not the current reality. We’re dependent on it, and I can’t see us getting significantly less dependent on it before the next big hurricane comes. Laura was the warning shot. This is about the whole country, not just the Houston region.

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