Texas Gulf Coast Levee Plan Moves To Next Step

The complete plans for the entire Texas Gulf Coast protection system has been approved by the general commander and chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The next step is to send it to Congress for funding.

Galveston Corps Commander Colonel Tim Vail called the system “one of the largest projects in the history of the Corps of Engineers.”

Orange County’s section of the system is steps ahead of almost all of the coast. Three years ago Congress allocated $1.9 billion to begin the local section. Orange County and Freeport will be the first two new sections to be built.

A project to raise existing levees in Port Arthur has also been approved and is underway. Congress allocated another $2 billion for the Freeport and Port Arthur sections.

The Corps this week held virtual public information sessions on the design for the Freeport segment. No dates or times have been set for similar sessions for the Orange County segment.

The Texas General Land Office is the state co-partner on the massive project.

The idea for a protection system for Texas began after Hurricane Ike in 2008 sent a tremendous storm surge that inundated a wide area, including the southern part of Orange County.  The protection system was first nicknamed “The Ike Dike” and was later called the “Coastal Spine. Now the Corps of Engineers is referring to it as “Coastal Storm Risk Management.”

Ín a news release Wednesday, Colonel Vail said the “best scientists and engineers” have worked on the project since 2014. The team included more than 300 individuals from 11 different districts of the Corps of Engineers plus two corps laboratories.

Besides the construction of levees, seawalls, and flood gates, the overall project includes ecosystem restoration for places that face the loss of marsh and wetlands. Marshes and wetlands offer a first line of protection against floods and storm surge from the gulf.

Environmental impact studies have been completed for the entire coastal system. The Orange County segment has also had a historic and archeological survey complete by the Texas Historical Commission, as required for public projects.

The Corps of Engineers news release said the system is to help protect the coast from hurricane storm surge, coastal erosion, and relative rising sea level change.

The corps’ final plan has adjustments to original proposals for Bolivar Penisula and parts of Galveston.

The original plan had been to build a system of levees and seawalls parallel to State Highway 87, which runs along the Bolivar beach. Instead, the corps will increase the size of the beach and dune system assigned to some areas.

Also, at the Bolivar Roads crossing, the storm protection system will have two smaller deep draft gates instead of  one larger gate. Corps said no public comments will be taken on the final plans because several public meetings have been held across the counties affected by the protection system.

The Orange County section will have 15.6 miles of levees plus 10.7 miles of new concrete floodwalls and gates. The flood protection system will include seven new pump stations that will help drain out water during times of heavy rains.

Written by Margaret Toal

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