In conjunction with the opening of hurricane season, volunteer members of the Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance (BACPA), along with government, community and industry leaders, recently introduced a storm surge protection concept designed to save the entire Houston-Galveston region from a direct hit by a hurricane.
“In 2008, Hurricane Ike caused loss of life and more than $35 billion (to date) in property and environmental damage, even without a direct hit,” said Vic Pierson, vice president of BACPA.
“The original forecast predicted 25-foot storm surges that could have killed hundreds, left thousands homeless and jobless, and caused economic damage around $100 billion. Science proves that major hurricanes hit the upper Texas Gulf Coast approximately every 15 years. So, it’s not a matter of if a hurricane will directly hit us in the future, it’s when. We dodged a bullet with Ike. But, we won’t dodge it forever in our current unprotected state.”
The coastal barrier concept for storm surge protection is based on proven technology that has been successfully used for decades in The Netherlands and other parts of the world. The concept features a levee-and-gate system that would extend from High Island westward to San Luis Pass.
– Sand-covered dunes with hardened cores would be placed on the Island’s west end and on Bolivar Peninsula, thereby extending the protection offered by the Galveston Seawall;
– The dunes would connect to surge barriers at San Luis Pass and Bolivar Road – the inlet access into the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay. The barriers allow sea water from the Gulf of Mexico to flow naturally through and into the bay, thereby maintaining the healthy, diverse ecosystem;
– There would be a large gate in the middle of each barrier that would remain open to allow ship passage. In the event of a hurricane, this gate would close, thus stopping storm surge from entering Galveston Bay through the inlet.
“The combination of the sand-covered dunes and the barrier gates would stop storm surge at the coast, preventing it from flowing into the bay,” said Dr. William Merrell, professor, marine scientist and George P. Mitchell Chair of Marine Sciences at Texas A&M University-Galveston, who conceptualized and began championing the concept. “Coastal mitigation, which is what lies at the core of this concept, is the only solution that protects the entire region.”
Press Release, June 13, 2014