HURRICANE LAURA BRINGS RENEWED PITCH FOR IKE DIKE
As thousands fled southeast Texas ahead of Hurricane Laura, Texas A&M promoted an Ike Dike as a critical way to protect the region from devastating damage.
Texas escaped a direct hit from Laura, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, just east of Port Arthur. Despite the state’s luck this time, Texas A&M marine scientists urged action on their proposal to build a series of barriers, levees and gates that would close off Galveston Bay from storm surge.
William Merrell, a professor at Texas A&M-Galveston and a former president of the school, helped develop the plan after Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston in 2008, resulting in $30 billion in damages and killing more than 50 people.
Cost estimates for the Ike Dike range from $10 billion to $20 billion. The Army Corps of Engineers and Texas General Land Office are finishing a major feasibility study for the Texas Coast that includes a coastal surge protection plan that incorporates many features of the Ike Dike. The plan is expected to be available for public comment starting in late October and in final form by next spring.
The forecast for the massive project is a lot farther off than the next hurricane during an active season. Congressional approval and matching local funds are still needed.
A&M officials say the investment is well worth it to protect about 6 million people and prevent $100 billion in damages from a direct hit.
“The Ike Dike would work, I am sure of it,” Merrell said in a news release. “If you stop the storm surge at the coast, you protect everyone – Galveston, Houston, everybody.
“Obviously this is a very busy and probably record-breaking season – I believe it’s the fifth above-average season in a row. There are theories that suggest that in the future, we might get more major hurricanes and that there are now many more intense rainfall events. Also, there is evidence that many storms are slowing down as they approach the coast – more flooding and longer duration surges. The flooding threat is getting worse and worse.”