The June 4 issue of the Wall Street Journal reports that Houston leaders are pushing a plan to protect against future hurricanes by building a giant dike with movable barriers across Galveston Bay. The dike could easily cost in excess of $4 billion.
As the Gulf Coast braces for hurricane season, Houston-area leaders are pushing a plan to build a wall stretching some 60 miles along the coast, hoping to end the annual storm threat once and for all. Dubbed the “Ike Dike” after the hurricane that ravaged the Houston area in September, the 17-foot-high wall would straddle the narrow entrance to Galveston Bay with 1,000-foot-long floodgates, allowing access to the city’s port in good weather, but swinging shut when a storm approached to block floodwaters. Most damage from hurricanes is usually caused by floodwaters. The total cost, according to project backers, would be $2 billion to $4 billion, although those numbers would almost certainly rise, experts say.
I am not ready to to take a side in this debate other than to urge that this project not become an excuse for directing funds away from helping survivors of the hurricane repair or rebuild their homes.
There are many things that can be done to individual homes to prevent them from flooding and to harden them against future hurricane winds. The “Ike Dike” proposal will do nothing to protect coastal area homes from hurricane force winds which caused most of the damages sustained to Texas homes in Hurricanes Rita, Ike, and Dolly.
The merits of any giant public infrastructure project like the so-called “Ike Dike” need to be assessed carefully. Such a project should not become an excuse to delay doing what we know needs to be done immediately: repair, rebuild and retrofit homes damaged by Hurricane Ike.