Plans to Build Massive Wall to Protect Texas Move Forward

A conceptual plan for the storm barrier near Galveston, Texas that can be closed off ahead of a major hurricane.

A conceptual plan for the storm barrier near Galveston, Texas that can be closed off ahead of a major hurricane. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / Texas General Land Office

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

But it’s probably not the wall you’re thinking of.

Plans are moving forward to construct a massive seawall and other coastal barriers to protect the Houston Ship Canal, Galveston Bay and port facilities that support that nation’s largest petrochemical hub from hurricane-driven storm surge.

On Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Texas General Land Office announced the release of the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Study Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement, which the Corps described as “a first-of-its-kind feasibility study formulating risk reduction solutions to address coastal storm risks to the vast and important Texas coastline.”

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said in a statement that the ”Coastal Texas Study is about protecting our people, our economy and our national security. The options selected are proven to be effective in mitigating the deadly effects of storm surge on our state. I thank the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and look forward to continuing this vital cooperative effort.”

The release of the draft feasibility study and environmental impact statement, which includes a Tentatively Selected Plan, or TSP, doesn’t mean construction will start anytime soon. There are many steps in the process ahead. A finalized feasibility study and environmental impact statement are expected in 2021, which would then go to Congress for consideration for authorization, funding and final approval.

Following a deadly hurricane in 1900, a massive seawall was constructed to protect Galveston, Texas. (Shutterstock)

Much of the city of Galveston, which sits on a barrier island separating the Gulf of Mexico from Galveston Bay, is already protected by a seawall. It was built more than a century ago to protect the city from the Gulf’s waters following the nation’s deadliest natural disaster, the September 1900 hurricane that inundated the island, killing between 6,000 and 12,000 people.

Under the plan, Galveston’s existing seawall would be strengthened and additional levees would be built to protect parts of the city. Coastal flood barriers would also be built along the Bolivar Peninsula and in the channel separating it from Galveston. A movable barrier would be built to allow ships to travel between the Gulf of Mexico and the protected waters behind the wall.  

While the coastal protection plan does not come with a specific price tag, the Texas Tribune reported that it’s expected that it won’t come cheap:

Combined with the recommended non-structural improvements—including 2.2 miles of dune and beach restoration along South Padre Island—the agencies estimate the plan would cost anywhere from $23 billion to $31 billion, according to a news release. An Army Corps project manager told the Tribune earlier this month that the coastal spine may cost as much as $17 billion, meaning it may make up slightly more than half the cost.

While Hurricane Harvey in 2017 very much became a nightmare disaster for the greater Houston area due to its record-setting rainfall over many days, the storm wasn’t necessarily the worst-case scenario many emergency managers and officials have long feared in southeastern Texas.

Harvey’s eye came ashore well to the south of the Houston area, near Corpus Christi, meaning that the hurricane’s strongest winds did not drive the worst of the storm surge into Galveston Bay. Hurricanes with centers that track just to the south of Galveston are at greater risk of sending significant surge into the bay and the Houston Ship Canal beyond.

Hurricane Ike in 2008, as ProPublica reported in 2016, came close to being such a nightmare storm for the Houston Ship Canal, but its track changed before landfall, sparing the area a far greater disaster. If Ike’s center had tracked 30 miles south of where it made landfall and had winds been 15 percent stronger, according to one scenario, Galveston would have seen an 11-foot storm surge; an ExxonMobil refining complex on Galveston Bay would have seen 4-foot storm surge.

The public commenting period on the Army Corps’ draft coastal protection plan ends on Jan. 9, 2019.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

NEXT STORY: The Geography of Street Resurfacing in Chicago

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.