By Lora-Marie Bernard
A week before Hurricane Harvey formed, Galveston County was approving a series of resolutions to strengthen long-term storm surge protection and renaming an agency dedicated to coordinating those efforts among upper gulf coast communities.
In a special meeting on Aug. 17, Galveston County Commissioners Court adopted a resolution that amends the name of the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District. The resolution also restated the articles of incorporation and agency bylaws.
The planning district was formed in 2010 to study storm surge in Galveston, Brazoria, Chambers, Harris, Jefferson and Orange counties. Leaders are now renaming it the Gulf Coast Protection District.
Commissioner Ken Clark asked County Judge Mark Henry why they needed to rename the district. Henry said it was for practical reasons.
“The name change is shorter that’s all I’m aware of,” the judge said. Henry said he discussed the matter with the Commissioner George P. Bush of the General Land Office earlier in August. He said Bush requested the name change as part of a larger funding mechanism. “He asks that this entity at least for now be the fiscal sponsor, for the lack of a better word,” he said. “And that it can be done this way as a way to maintain our charter. “
Commissioner Darrell Apffel said he thought an effort was underway to make the Gulf Coast Water Authority the funding agent for storm surge protection. Henry said that was the case but that measure did not pass at the state. “There has to be a local entity, so I guess that’s why the commissioner wants this,” he said. Clark said that he did not expect the Gulf Coast Protection District to be the fiscal agent for long. “The thing of it is that process is moving forward,” Clark said. “They tried to do some special legislation during the special session but it didn’t come to fruition. So they are going to continue working on that. This looks like it is a stop gap measure.”
In a related move, commissioners also voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that authorizes Henry to negotiate an interlocal agreement with the county judges of Harris, Chambers and Brazoria counties. Henry was given negotiation authority on a broad swath of matters. The resolution includes topics such as financing, design, development, construction, operation and management. Under the provisions, he will present suggestions and recommendations to the commissioners’ court for consideration.