Austin: Coastal Texas Study Endorses $28.87 Billion System Against Gulf Storms
Feature Illustration: Scene of port activity on the Texas coast. Source: Screen save from GLO and USACE Texas Coastal Study video.
Austin (Travis County) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Texas General Land Office (GLO) released a final study on September 10 that recommends a $28.87 billion system to buffer the Texas coast against storms.
The Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Feasibility Study–generally referred to as the Coastal Texas Study–recommends a combined network of coastal storm risk management (CSRM) and ecosystem restoration (ER) features.
The proposed network functions as a system to reduce the risk of coastal storm damages to natural and man-made infrastructure and to restore degraded coastal ecosystems through a comprehensive approach that employs multiple lines of defense.
The system can be broken into three groupings:
A Coastwide Ecosystem Restoration Plan to restore degraded ecosystems that buffer communities and industry on the Texas coast from erosion, subsidence, and storm losses. The lowest-cost comprehensive ER plan includes a combination of approximately 114 miles of breakwaters, 15 miles of bird rookery islands, 2,000 acres of marsh, 12 miles of oyster reef, and almost 20 miles of beach and dune.
On the lower Texas coast, a Coastal Storm Risk Management beach restoration measure on South Padre Island includes 2.9 miles of beach nourishment and sediment management. The plan proposes beach nourishment on a 10-year cycle for the authorized project life of 50 years.
On the upper Texas coast, the Galveston Bay Storm Surge Barrier System was formulated as a system with multiple-lines-of-defense to reduce damage to communities, critical petrochemical and refinery complexes, federal navigation channels, and other existing infrastructure in and around Galveston Bay from storm surge.
Focused on redundancy and robustness, the proposed system provides increased resiliency along the Texas coast and is adaptable to future conditions, including relative sea level change.
At the completion of the Coastal Texas Study, and upon approval by the USACE chief, a plan will be recommended to Congress for authorization and funding. If authorized and funded by Congress, later phases of the project would include preconstruction engineering and design, construction, and operations and maintenance.
The revised recommended plan identified in the final report would be built over a period of 12 to 20 years, depending on congressional authorization and partnerships. The project would be maintained after construction by a local sponsor.
In November 2015, the USACE, in partnership with the GLO, initiated the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Feasibility Study (Coastal Texas Study), to determine the feasibility of constructing coastal storm risk management and ecosystem restoration features using multiple lines of defense.
A VBX May 2, 2016 article reported on a major component of this effort when U.S. Senator John Cornyn introduced a bill intended to rush the USACE study with the hope of reaching the construction stage by 2024. At the time, the parameters of the coastline to be addressed had not been defined, however, much of the focus was on how to defend the Houston-Galveston industrial and populated areas from a catastrophic hurricane event.
The Coastal Texas Study was budgeted at $19.8 milion, with a 50-50 federal to non-federal cost share split.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.