New structural and nonstructural solutions could better protect the Houston-Galveston region from the impact of hurricanes and severe storms, according to a research paper by energy, engineering and environmental law experts at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.
The paper, “Legal Issues in Hurricane Damage Risk Abatement,” examines various alternatives for mitigating floods and storm damage and analyzes the federal regulations that could apply in seeking funding for the proposals.
Past discussions of hurricane-protection options for the Houston-Galveston region have focused on constructing a floodgate at the mouth of either Galveston Bay or the Houston Ship Channel.
In the latest analysis of options that federal, state and local officials might consider, SSPEED experts this summer issued a report offering a third alternative: a mid-bay gate halfway between the previously discussed sites.
The authors said that the vulnerability of the U.S. coastline to severe storms is clear in wake of hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Ike and Wilma, which collectively amounted to more than $200 billion in economic loss, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Houston-Galveston region alone experienced more than $25 billion in economic loss from Hurricane Ike in 2008, despite the fact that the greatest impact missed the region and instead hit east of Galveston Bay, according to SSPEED.
“The paper presents the Texas Coastal Exchange, a nonstructural, ecological services-based flood-damage mitigation concept that has great potential not only for Galveston Bay but across the U.S.,” Jim Blackburn, a co-author of the paper, said.
“This ecological services orientation of the federal government has only recently emerged under the Obama administration and is a major refocusing of flood-damage reduction policy at the federal level. The creation of a market-based ecological services transaction system is an excellent way to integrate emerging federal policy creatively with market forces to achieve long-term surge protection as well as a response to sea-level rise, which is not emphasized in the paper,” Blackburn concluded.