By guest writer George P Bush
Four years after the Hurricane of 1900 killed more than 6,000 people, city, county and state leaders completed work on the Galveston seawall. Within 10 years, they had raised the entire city as much as 16 feet above its previous grade.
Today – seven years after hurricanes Ike and Dolly – the Texas coast is just as vulnerable as it was before those storms caused more than $29 billion in direct damages and left thousands homeless.
Little has changed. The initial work done to study our vulnerability led by the Gulf Coast community protection and recovery district is a step in the right direction, but there is still no unified vision driving what we should do to protect the Texas coast. This
More than 7.1 million Texans live along the Gulf Coast. More than one quarter of our nation’s refining capacity resides there too, not to mention tens of thousands of jobs created by this dynamic industry. Protecting that alone should be considered a national security issue.
If we don’t act now, the potential environmental consequences could be astounding.
Storm-surge modeling completed by Rice University shows that Ike would have delivered a 20-foot storm surge up the Houston ship channel had it made landfall just west of where it did. There are more than 4,000 petrochemical storage tanks on land alongside the ship channel that would begin to flood if just a 15-foot storm surge struck.
It is time to take action and move forward – the cost of delaying longer is too high. That’s why I have worked with brigadier general David Hill, commander of the Army Corps Of Engineers southwestern division in Dallas, to strike an agreement with the federal government to develop a plan to protect our coast from storms and to speed its recovery afterward.
The agreement between the Texas general land office and the corps begins the process of developing the study that will investigate the feasibility of projects for flood reduction, ecosystem restoration and hurricane- and storm-damage mitigation along the entire Texas coast.
Because Texas doesn’t have a unified plan approved by the corps, we have not only lost out on billions in federal funding with respect to recovery from previous natural disasters but we’re also positioned in a vulnerable situation for future events. It’s time to bring those tax dollars back to Texas and put them to work protecting the trade, logistics, tourism and fishing industries that are the economic engines of our Texas success story.
The Texas coast powers the nation and we are responsible for protecting it. Working together as a region – combining and coordinating local, state and federal resources – enables us to directly address ongoing threats to the Texas coast for future generations.
George P Bush is Texas’ land commissioner.