The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has revealed that the vulnerability of the US coastline to severe storms is clear in wake of hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Ike and Wilma, which collectively amounted to more than $200 billion in economic loss. The Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center (SSPEED) estimates that the Galveston region alone experienced more than $25 billion in economic loss from Hurricane Ike in 2008, despite the fact that the greatest impact missed the region and instead hit east of Galveston Bay.
Previous discussions of hurricane-protection options for the Houston-Galveston region have focused on constructing a floodgate at the mouth of either Galveston Bay or the Houston Ship Channel. A new research paper by energy, engineering and environmental law experts at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy has suggested new structural and nonstructural solutions could better protect the Houston-Galveston region from the impact of hurricanes and severe storms.
‘Experts have issued a report offering a third alternative to protect the Houston-Galveston region from hurricanes and storm. They recommend constructing a mid-bay gate halfway between the previously discussed sites.’
The paper, 'Legal Issues in Hurricane Damage Risk Abatement', examines various alternatives for mitigating floods and storm damage and analyzes the federal regulations that could apply in seeking funding for the proposals. SSPEED experts this summer issued a report offering a third alternative: a mid-bay gate halfway between the previously discussed sites.
Jim Blackburn, a professor in the practice of environmental law at Rice and Baker Institute Rice Faculty Scholar, said, "It is impossible to discuss mitigating these hurricane-surge damage issues without taking federal environmental law and policy into account, particularly if federal money is being relied upon, a point that seems to be missed by many local advocates. At least two alternatives exist that offer substantial protection of industry and residences in the bay's high-risk zone, but the law and policies relate to each in different ways. The mid-bay alternative might be able to be funded with local and/or state monies, whereas the lower-bay alternative almost certainly will require federal money, thereby more directly invoking federal environmental laws and funding policies."
Blackburn further added, "More generally, the goal of this paper is to discuss evolving federal flood-damage reduction policy and the increased importance and integration of ecological service features into project design. The paper presents the Texas Coastal Exchange, a nonstructural, ecological services-based flood-damage mitigation concept that has great potential not only for Galveston Bay but across the US. This ecological services orientation of the federal government has only recently emerged under the Obama administration and is a major refocusing of flood-damage reduction policy at the federal level. The creation of a market-based ecological services transaction system is an excellent way to integrate emerging federal policy creatively with market forces to achieve long-term surge protection as well as a response to sea-level rise, which is not emphasized in the paper."