The $31 billion Ike Dike project hits another milestone

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This week, members of Congress are closing in on authorizing a massive $31 billion system to block storm surges along Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula and at the mouth of the Galveston Bay.

A draft Water Resources Development Bill 2022 published on Friday suggests the United States should complete the feasibility study for the protection and restoration of the Texas coast, informally known as “Ike Dike”.

If approved, the federal government would take $19.2 billion of the cost of the multi-faceted project that would mean building dunes, flood walls and giant gates in an attempt to protect the most populated part of the Texas Gulf Coast.

The US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will consider on Wednesday the text of the draft legislation, the next step in the process. Legislation for these types of projects is drafted at regular intervals so that the work of the US Army Corps of Engineers can take off from the ground.

On HoustonChronicle.com: How even the smallest parts of the massive Ike Dike plan will impact Galveston

“After months of hard work and collaboration, we are moving forward with a truly ambitious, bipartisan WRDA bill,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat who chairs the committee, in a prepared statement.

Texas lawmakers have already created a local government district capable of imposing taxes to pay for the local share of the cost, which amounts to $11.7 billion.

The Coastal Texas project is a radical proposal, centered on a series of massive gates that would span the entrance to Galveston Bay. This would have ramifications for the marine environment and change the way ships enter and exit the Houston Ship Channel.

The project won’t be able to stop everything either: the valves are proposed to block a wall of water 22 feet high. Dune systems on Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula will need to be maintained as the storms will wash them away.

Proponents said the high cost and impact on habitat and wildlife is necessary to protect the region as sea levels rise due to climate change. The petrochemical industry and coastal communities are particularly vulnerable. Critics say a more nuanced, nature-based approach should be considered.

You can read the text of the bill here.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

Ben Wermund contributed to this report.

emily.foxhall@chron.com

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