The US Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would authorize federal agencies to plan an estimated $31 billion project to protect the Texas coast from hurricanes.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have already gone into studying the idea of building a system of concrete gate barriers at the mouth of Galveston Bay. The so-called Ike Dike, named after the destructive hurricane that struck Galveston Island in 2008, could be the largest civil engineering project in US history.
The project is included in the Water Resources Development Act, which includes various federal water, coastal and flooding projects that require congressional approval to move forward but do not allocate funds. The bill passed on Thursday with 93 votes in favor in the Senate; only Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, voted no.
The US House of Representatives passed its version of the law in June. Legislation will go back to the House of Representatives to allow the two chambers to iron out differences before sending it to President Joe Biden for approval. But the Texas Coastal Spine Project is authorized in both versions.
SEE PREVIOUS STORY: US House of Representatives approves massive $31 billion “Ike Dike” project to protect Texas coast from hurricanes
Republican Senator John Cornyn said the project brings Texas “one step closer” to ensuring the state’s coast is as “prepared as possible” for future hurricanes.
“Protecting the Texas coast from devastating hurricanes is a top priority in preserving the livelihoods of Texans and ensuring the massive international trade that relies on our state can resume after a storm,” he said Cornyn in a statement.
The Ike Dike is part of the larger Texas Coastal Project, designed to protect the state’s coastline from hurricane surges and rising sea levels. It includes a range of other coastal infrastructure and environmental projects, from artificial barriers to beach and dune restoration.
The Ike Dike gate project alone, the US Army Corps of Engineers estimates, would cost at least $16 billion and take 18 years to build. The gates would span a nearly 2 mile gap from the island to the Bolivar Peninsula.
The bill does not include funding for the Ike Levee and the remaining projects on the Texas coast, which require a separate application to Congress by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Congress is expected to fund the project in smaller amounts rather than all at once.
If – or if – Congress does provide the appropriate funding, state and local governments will be on the fence for a local match that could total at least $10 billion, but inflation and changes in construction costs are causing the Estimates vary widely. Typically, such projects require a 65% to 35% split between state and non-state funds.
Texas politicians have generally supported the proposal: Earlier this week, Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz introduced standalone legislation for the Coastal Spine Project. Last June, Gov. Greg Abbott said it “will go down in history” as one of the most significant coastal protection projects ever undertaken in Texas.
SEE ALSO: A Look Back at Hurricane Ike
The Ike Dike was first designed by Bill Merrell, a professor of marine sciences at the Texas A& M University at Galveston. The current plan calls for artificial islands anchoring giant floating gates more than 80 feet tall that could close if water levels rise during a storm.
On each side of the floating gates, concrete towers would rise more than 100 feet into the air to hold more vertical gates that could be lowered into the water during a storm. If the gates are closed, they could reduce the rise into Galveston Bay by 30% to 60%, depending on the course and intensity of the hurricane, according to the US Army Corps analysis.
Disclosure: Texas A&M University was a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial backers play no part in the Tribune’s journalism. A complete list can be found here.
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https://abc13.com/ike-dike-project-galveston-bay-coastal-protection-senate-approves-texas-coast/12082565/ US Senate approves Texas Ike Dike Coastal Defense Project in Galveston Bay to protect against hurricanes