All six county judges appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry to the Gulf Coast Protection and Recovery District gathered at the Galveston County Commissioners Court Workshop Room this morning for the first meeting of the group in two years. Listen Agenda
The members include Brazoria County Judge Joe King, Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick and Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux. Former Harris County judge Robert Eckels is the president of the district.
Judge Branick called the meeting to order and called for a vote to reelect Judge Henry as chair of the group.
“This group was spun out of the governor’s commission that studied Hurricane Ike and its impact and how we might deal with issues that came out of Ike in the future, particularly the storm surge,” explained Eckels, who acknowledged the presence of Dr. William Merrell of Texas A&M University at Galveston; but noted that Merrell’s proposed Ike Dike has not been endorsed by the group. He mentioned the competing proposal by the Rice University SSPEED Center and a study of a system that would protect Orange and Jefferson Counties.
Judge Thibodeaux reported on the $500,000 study in his area.
“The price was $1.5 billion,” Judge Thibodaux said of the initial cost estimate for a storm surge system. “That would cover Jefferson County also, with the big gate at the bridges.”
A draft of the Orange County report is posted on the county’s website. Click Here
“We will try to bring these together into a common plan for the upper Texas coast,” Eckels said. “I don’t think we will have the budget to come in with the ultimate plan for what the solution is, but we can come in with a process that would let the more viable plans rise to the top.”
Eckels said that the bylaws provide for the appointment of three additional members to the group, a member to be nominated by Chambers, Jefferson and Orange counties; another to be nominated by Brazoria, Galveston and Harris counties; and a third to be selected by the entire group. Sylvia, Branick and Thibodeaux have previously nominated Jim Sutherlin of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, but he has not been confirmed by the three commissioners courts.
Nominations for the other two positions will be considered at the next meeting, which will be scheduled after the first of the year.
In an interview with Guidry News Service after the meeting, Eckels said that he is encouraged about the reactivation of the committee. Listen
“We may be able to move forward and coordinate the challenges that we face in the far upper Texas Coast,” Eckels said.
Judge Henry and Judge Emmett talked to Guidry News Service about the cooperation across the Causeway. Listen
“I’m glad we finally met, I guess the first time in a little over two years, and it’s really just procedural in getting things back on track again,” Henry said. “So we’ll see how the funding source turns up from the GLO.”
Emmett stressed that the issue is regional.
“This is one of those bodies that was formed to look to the future, and unfortunately we haven’t met in a couple of years because of funding problems coming out of HUD and the way those funds have been tied up,” Emmett said. “But there has been so much publicity and discussion about Ike Dike and protection and a lot of it's right and a lot of it's wrong and I think this group can do a lot to help educate the public and get input from the public.”
Galveston Mayor Lewis Rosen is pleased that the committee has been reactivated. Listen
“I think it’s wonderful for the future of Galveston,” Rosen said. “I see this as the beginning of a tremendous, tremendous project that’s going to create a lot of jobs, and also by the protection that it provides the city of Galveston.”
Dr. Merrell also expressed appreciation for the reactivation of the six county committee. Listen
“I think it’s great,” Merrell said. “I think it’s an appropriate committee to put some of this together on; and ultimately we have to have an organization that can operate any kind of a surge barrier we have and to maintain it.”