Hurricane Laura devastated southwest Louisiana, causing billions of dollars in damage and destruction.
We lucked out with Laura … but what if we hadn’t?
If Galveston and Houston had taken a direct hit from Laura, many thousands of homes and business would have been damaged or destroyed and hundreds of lives would have been lost.
Sooner or later, a catastrophic hurricane on a scale of Laura is bound to make a direct hit on Houston and Galveston.
It’s time to revisit Ike Dike!
The Ike Dike was proposed by Professor Bill Merrell of Texas A&M University at Galveston in the aftermath of 2008’s Hurricane Ike.
Merrell’s proposal was designed to protect Galveston beyond its seawall and to protect the Bolivar Peninsula, the Galveston Bay area and Houston from hurricane storm surges by extending the Galveston Seawall and constructing flood gates similar to those used in the Netherlands. The cost of the Ike Dike was, at the time, estimated to be $4 billion.
Eco-nuts immediately objected to the Ike Dike. They squealed like stuck pigs over the thought that the flood gates would interfere with the migration of marine life despite the fact that the gates would be shut only during a storm. The Eco-nuts made the ridiculous assertion that a natural barrier of sand dunes would work better than Dr. Merrell’s Ike Dike.
Next, Rice University threw a monkey wrench into Merrell’s proposal by recommending the construction of a flood gate across the Houston ship channel in place of the Ike Dike so as to protect Houston’s enormous petrochemical industry. I am not a hydraulic engineer, but it would seem like a flood gate across the ship channel would push a strong storm surge backwards to the sides of the channel, thereby destroying countless homes.
Of course, the biggest objection to the Ike Dike was its estimated cost of $4 billion. Never mind that the Army Corps of Engineers spent $14 billion after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina to upgrade New Orleans’ flood control system.
In 2020, Texas Governor Rick Perry came out in favor of the Ike Dike and created the Governor’s Commission on Disaster Recovery and Renewal to examine regional approaches to storm surge suppression and to secure the same degree of funding from the federal government that was awarded to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. A public corporation for Harris, Galveston, Chambers, Brazoria, Orange and Jefferson counties was established for that purpose. But nothing other than some jawing has come from that corporation.
Some of you may recall that in 2017 I wrote an article for Big Jolly Times in which I pushed for the construction of the Ike Dike (Will the Houston-Galveston Area Ever Get the Protection of the Ike Dike? June 29, 2017).
Greg Degeyter made several outstanding comments, including one questioning my notion that a flood gate across the ship channel would cause more flooding of homes.
Almost all the other comments were in opposition to the Ike Dike, either because people should not have built homes in flood prone areas, so fuck ’em,, or the government should not be spending money it does not have.
As for homes in flood prone areas, I don’t have any sympathy for people who have built beach-front houses. But without any protection, a strong storm surge would damage or destroy thousands of homes in Houston which are not in flood prone areas and which are not near any beaches.
As for the government spending money it doesn’t have, it’s been doing that for as long as I can remember. The government has been funding the military, congress, the executive branch, the justice system, the health and education departments, etc., etc. with money it doesn’t have.
We dodged a bullet this time. We might not be as lucky with the next Gulf hurricane. It’s not too late to build the Ike Dike. If the government can spend $14 billion to protect New Orleans with fewer than 400,000 people, it ought to spend even twice as much to protect the Houston-Galveston area which has a population of several million people.
The Ike Dike is a great idea. It has the potential of saving property worth far more than the cost to build it. And it will save many lives. We should demand that the Ike Dike be constructed without anymore never-ending studies.