HOUSTON, Texas (KXAN) — A sophisticated storm surge barrier decades in the making is receiving a renewed push in the wake of Hurricane Laura, which brought strong winds and storm surge to east Texas early Thursday morning.
“We dodged a bullet,” Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday. Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm in Cameron, Louisiana, which is less than 40 miles from the border with Texas.
Texas wasn’t so fortunate in 2008 when Hurricane Ike pummeled the coast and caused $38 billion in damage. In the wake of that storm, people began to call for a comprehensive storm surge barrier.
Texas A&M scientists proposed a solution: the “Ike Dike” or “Coastal Spine.” It involves 70 miles of sea walls, gates and barriers along the coast, and requires coordination and study to make sure it doesn’t have a negative effect on the environment or surrounding communities.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn said during a press conference Thursday that the Army Corps of Engineers won’t release its finalized plan until next year, and after that it will need congressional support before it’s put in place.
“There’s a lot of attention to the Ike Dike and that’s a priority,” he said.
Texas Rep. Chip Roy said it’s time to make sure it remains a priority, saying, “Whenever you’re talking about infrastructure, it’s about prioritization and we don’t ever do it.”
“Go back and look at the historic pictures of building the wall there after the disastrous hurricane of the early part of the 20th Century,” Roy said. “There’s no limit to what we can do if we want to do it. It’s a matter of resources and putting our mind to what we need to do.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who has weathered five hurricanes since taking office five years ago, echoed that the time to get the Ike Dike funded and built is now.
“You have to have the Coastal Spine, quite frankly, and we need it yesterday,” he said.