Galveston Engineer District Releases Final Reports For Texas Coastal Study

The Galveston Engineer District has released its final feasibility report and environmental impact statement as part of the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Study.

The results could prove to be of heightened interest as Texas is once again dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane with Hurricane Nicholas making landfall September 14 as a Category 1 storm. The hurricane first came ashore about 12:30 a.m. 10 miles west-southwest of Sargent Beach, Texas. It had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

Nicholas brought torrential rain, some localized flooding and high winds to Texas and parts of Louisiana still dealing with electrical grid devastation following Hurricane Ida, two weeks before.

The study is a six-year, $20.63 million comprehensive project to identify opportunities to “reduce risks to public health and the economy, restore critical ecosystems and advance coastal resiliency,” according to the Corps. The long-debated study was initiated in 2014 after widespread damage in southeast Texas from Hurricane Ike in 2008. Hurricane Ike’s massive storm surge overtopped the Galveston Seawall, and flooding trapped dozens of people, with the Bolivar Peninsula area particularly hard-hit. The hurricane also blew out windows in Houston office buildings. 

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The Galveston District reported that the study is ready for submitting to the chief of engineers. Upon approval it will be forwarded to the congressional Office of Management and Budget. The proposed massive levee system to protect Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel has sometimes been referred to by the public as the “Ike Dike.”

“The results of the engineering, economic and environmental examinations have resulted in a final recommended plan that consists of multiple coastal storm risk management and ecosystem features that together form a resilient Texas coast,” the Corps said on its webpage introducing the study.

The Corps is not currently accepting public comments on the study, but administrators said should Congress authorize and appropriate funding for the Coastal Texas Project, the public will be given numerous additional opportunities to comment during its pre-construction, design and engineering phases.

The Corps completed the study through a partnership with the Texas General Land Office to identify issues and recommend solutions.

Study Recommendations

The study recommends combining the benefits of natural landforms such as barrier islands, living shorelines and coastal marshes with man-made redundant levels of protection and restoration. Galveston Bay defenses would include the Galveston Ring Barrier System, Dickinson Bay Gate System and Pump Station and Clear Lake Gate System and Pump Station. Gulf defenses would include Galveston Seawall improvements, the Bolivar Roads Gate System and the Bolivar and West Galveston Beach and Dune System.

Ecosystem restoration measures proposed at eight locations along the coast include 114 miles of breakwaters, 15 miles of bird rookery islands, 2,000 acres of marsh, 12 miles of oyster reef and almost 20 miles of beach and dunes.

Because of feedback received during the study’s public comment periods, the final plan no longer proposes levee/floodwall segments that would have paralleled State Highway 88 on Bolivar Peninsula and FM 3005 on Galveston Island. Instead, the Corps said, the Bolivar and Galveston beach and dune systems initially proposed will be increased in size to also reduce storm surge impacts. 

In addition, among other changes at the Bolivar Roads crossing, two smaller deep-draft navigation gates are now proposed instead of a single larger gate.

The Corps estimated that, if approved by Congress, the plan would take two to five years for preconstruction engineering and design and an additional 10 to 15 years for construction, depending on funding.

For more information or to see the final draft of the feasibility study and economic impact statement, visit the study’s website at https://coastalstudy.texas.gov/draft-proposal/index.html.