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Coastal Surge Protection
BAHEP and City of Houston announce Coastal Spine initiatives
by Lora-Marie Bernard
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

BAHEP and City of Houston Storm Surge Protection InitiativesThe Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and the Houston City Council on Tuesday unveiled the second promotional video to advance a coastal spine system that would protect the Upper Texas Gulf Coast from rising water due to storm surge during a hurricane.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the video would educate and promote awareness of a system inspired by Dutch design.

“I don’t think there is a better time to have this conversation than right now,” he said. “As we work diligently to get back on track after the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, we are also keeping our eyes on the vital need for strong surge protection in our region.” Listen (4:49)

If Harvey had been a direct hit to Houston, the nation would have suffered, he said. 

“When Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, there was $30 billion in damages,” Turner said. “If Ike had hit a little bit further to the north, we could have lost refineries, jet fuel and the entire Houston Ship Channel. That would have destroyed jobs, not only of the Houstonians, but there would have been an impact on the nation as a whole.” 

He said the region needed to begin serious discussion about mitigation because the state and national economy are at risk. 

“We cannot talk about rebuilding if we do not build this coastal spine,” he said.  

Turner stressed the federal government has a precedence for helping communities create storm surge protection. After Hurricane Katrina the federal government spent $14 billion in Louisiana for a mitigation/protection system. The Northeast coast also has had similar projects since Hurricane Ike.  

“There is no reason why, in the package that is before Congress now, that the coastal spine should not be fully funded,” he said.  

Bob Mitchell, president of BAHEP, said Hurricane Ike spurred the region’s communities in 2008 to plan for a coastal spine.  

However, the past 10 months have been the most productive of the past years, Mitchell added. 

“I like to say we were laying the foundation for that,” he said, referring to the first seven years of collaboration building and research.  Listen (4:49)

Mitchell recognized Dr. William (Bill) Merrell of Texas A&M at Galveston for his initial concept for a surge protection system and thanked Colonel Len Waterworth of A&M at Galveston for spearheading the coalition. He also thanked several other organizations and individuals who “got them over the hump.”  

BAHEP and City of Houston Storm Surge Protection InitiativesMitchell invited attendees to watch the film “Unprepared-A Nation at Risk", the second video designed and produced by Space City films, (view below) which documents the history of Texas storms and the after-effects of them and features interviews with elected officials and experts who discuss the financial impact to the region in national terms. It also provides an overview of the investment return that the construction project could offer the region.  

In the question and answer session after the film, leaders told the crowd that Hurricane Harvey created about $150 billion in damage to Texas. Listen (13:56)

Mitchell said the coastal spine system could cost up to $14.5 billion to build. Hurricane Ike delivered about $30 billion in damage to the region. Of that amount, $27 billion in damage came from the storm surge. 

“It would have already paid for itself,” Mitchell said of the proposed coastal spine system.  

The event was held at the Legacy Room in the Houston City Hall.

Ike Dike
Remembering Jim Guidry BAHEP

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