The Rotary Club of Galveston on Tuesday hosted Colonel Len Waterworth, who delivered an update regarding the proposed “Ike Dike” and coastal storm surge suppression.
Waterworth formerly served as commander of the United States Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District, and has also served as executive director of the Port of Houston. He currently serves as executive professor in the Department of Maritime Administration and is senior research associate for the the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores.
“We know our investments,” Waterworth said. “I'm sure most of us live on the island. Our work is on the island, but this is just the gateway to 52 miles of ship channel.” Listen (39:44)
He noted the number of ships entering the ship channel through Galveston, and its importance to the region.
“What you'll find now is not only all those ships, but you'll find the largest petrochemical complex in the United States sitting right there,” Waterworth said. “I found that you'll find over 6 million people in the region.”
He said there was “no easy answers” to the region's vulnerability to hurricanes.
“That big answer has a tendency to scare a lot of people away from even thinking about what the answer could be,” Waterworth said.
He then discussed the damages from Hurricane Ike, noting that some victims are seeking insurance payments from damages by the storm.
“We're still paying the bill,” he said.
Waterworth then discussed options, noting that the Army Corps of Engineers process “won't work” for a project of a scale needed to protect the region.
“Here is the coastal spine,” he said. “It works in the Netherlands, it works Saint Petersburg, it works in Italy, it works in Japan.”
He then described the coastal spine, noting that Galveston's Seawall is part of the coastal spine. He also noted the cost.
“This is all manageable, this is all doable, but, this is what freaks people out – we think it's $8 billion,” Waterworth said.
He noted, by comparison, one event, such as Ike, cost $30 billion in damages.
Waterworth urged those interested to attend public meetings, such as those being held by the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District, one of which was held in League City on Tuesday. Another meeting will be held on March 31 in Galveston.
“I would ask you to go and participate and learn as much as you can,” Waterworth said. “Or not, but we will build something. The question is will it be before the next storm or after the next storm.”