Ike Dike authorization officially passed

Took a roundabout route to get there, but here we are.

With the stroke of a pen, President Joe Biden authorized a $34 billion proposal to build a massive storm surge protection system on the Texas coast and around Galveston Bay.

Biden on Friday signed the National Defense Authorization Act, a $858 billion spending package that includes raises for troops and aid to Ukraine.

Buried deep in the bill was a single line that opens the door for one of the largest public infrastructure projects in U.S. history to be built in Texas. The defense act authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Texas Coastal Protection and Restoration project, which has locally become better known as the Ike Dike.

The $34 billion plan is a proposal to build a system of seagate, levees and dunes in an around Galveston Bay to block storm surge from rushing in from the Gulf of Mexico and into the bay and Houston Ship Channel.


Once fully constructed, the Army Corps estimates the project will save $2.2 billion in storm damages every year, though how useful the gates will be when they are complete — or over the half-century or more that the structure is expected to operate — remains to be seen. Like any other levees or dams, the barrier could fall short or fail to hold back the biggest storm surges. The project doesn’t address the kind of the rain-caused flooding that happened during Hurricane Harvey.

The defense bill doesn’t authorize funding of the project. Congress will need to separately authorize $21.4 billion for the project sometime in the future, while a new state-created taxing entity, the Gulf Coast Protection District, will have to contribute about $13 billion to the project, according to estimates published in the defense act.

“Federal authorization of the Coastal Texas Program represents a momentous step forward for this critical effort, over a decade in the making, to protect the communities, economy, and vital ecosystems of the Texas coast from the devastating effects of coastal storm surge,” said Michel Bechtel, president of the protection district’s board of directors.

As noted in an earlier story, a standalone version of the Ike Dike bill had passed both the House and the Senate earlier in the year, but there were differences between the two that were not reconciled in time for that bill to pass. So this is what we get, basically the same thing just done in a weird way. I feel confident that funding will follow – the state has already created one funding mechanism, but federal dollars will be needed – and from there it’s just a matter of how long it takes to actually build something. Which, to be clear, is probably on a 20-year timeline even if everything goes more or less as planned. So while one door is finally closed, there’s still a long way to go.

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7 Responses to Ike Dike authorization officially passed

  1. Flypusher says:

    20 years is a long time to hope the hurricanes go elsewhere. But at least they’re finally getting serious about the problem.

  2. C.L. says:

    $5 says some local developer will propose a stucco-covered townhouse development be constructed on the ‘barrier island’ chain made from Bay bottom sludge, because, you know, ‘Location location location and amazing views !

  3. Flypusher says:

    Aren’t those designated as public parks?

  4. C.L. says:

    @Fly… Yup, just like the Barker Cypress/Addicks Reservoir’s ‘greenspace’ that the developers have slowly infringed upon and carved out.

  5. voter_worker says:

    One element of the plan, a 4 ft. high “extension” of the seawall to be placed on the land side of Seawall Blvd seems potentially controversial to me. It’s noted in a paper issued by Texas A&M on page 7.

    “The USACE plans to raise the Galveston Seawall and incorporate measures to reduce the rate of overtopping into the raising. A 4ft additional vertical wall on the landward side of Seawall Blvd. has been proposed to raise the Seawall. This addition would be quite disruptive to businesses along the seawall. Alternatives could be attractive such as small berms. Also, the structural integrity of the
    Galveston Seawall in the (new) design condition has to be verified. ”


  6. Paul Kubosh says:

    Maybe they build a bridge from Galveston to bolivar. If they did that and cut out the ferry then that land value would blow up.

  7. Ross says:

    Paul, no, just no. No bridge to Bolivar. Can’t we have one place that’s not over developed?

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