The Texas House Select Committee on Texas, Innovation and Infrastructure on Monday received testimony during its inaugural meeting, including testimony from the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District, regarding the Corps' mission and discussion of studies into a coastal storm surge barrier for the Upper Texas Gulf Coast.
Chief of Naviation Christopher Frabotta and Senior Project Manager Sharon Tirpak delivered testimony on behalf of the Corps of Engineers.
Frabotta and Tirpak discussed the corps' service area and mission, focusing on the Galveston District, which includes approximately 400 miles of coastline that includes 48 Texas counties, 18 coastal counties, nine watersheds and four Louisiana parishes. Handout
“Our major mission in the Galveston District is our Navigation District,” Frabotta said, noting the Corps' mission statement for navigation. “It is to provide safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation systems for the movement of commerce, national security needs, and recreation.” Listen (37:27)
Frabotta said the Corps accomplishes that mission primarily through dredging and maintenance of channels along the coast.
“We also do things like construct and repair coastal structures,” he said.
Members of the committee discussed costs, funding availability and the status of dredging projects. They also then discussed the proposed coastal barrier for the Upper Texas Gulf Coast.
Tirpak discussed the timeline of the coastal barrier study, noting that the draft report would be available for public comment in July of 2018, with a final report due in 2021.
Tirpak said that some efforts are being made to “fast track” the project, including utilizing data from the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District's studies. However, she said completing studies would take time.
“Some of the engineering and the modeling that has to be done is quite complex, and for us to develop a reasonable cost estimate, we need some detailed information,” Tirpak said. “If you don't have a reasonable cost estimate at the end of the process that could hurt you down the way.”
The committee also heard testimony from Juan Antonio Flores from the Port of San Antonio, Don Lipscomb with the Port of Dallas Authority, Jennifer Stastny with the Texas Ports Association. Ginger Goodin and Jim Kruse with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute spoke, as did Dan Harmon, Caroline Mays and Marc Williams with the Texas Department of Transportation. Meeting Video
Port of Beaumont Port Director and CEO Chris Fisher also attended the meeting, but did not deliver testimony.