“Ike Dike” Approved. Just the Beginning for Huge Climate Driven Spends

July 29, 2022

Houston Chronicle:

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved the plan to build the coastal barrier known as the “Ike Dike” at the mouth of Galveston Bay. The $31-billion dollar project is considered the largest of its kind ever proposed in the nation and is meant to protect the Houston region from hurricane storm surges.  

Senators voted 92-2 to approve the Water Resources Development Act, which includes authorization for the project as well as others. The bill has now passed both chambers with authorization for the project, but the House and Senate will have to iron out differences in the two versions before sending it to Biden.

The Ike Dike plan centers on gates that would be built across the mouth of Galveston Bay and lowered ahead of hurricanes to block waves of water from pushing up the Houston Ship Channel and flooding industrial facilities and homes. Supporters urging the project ahead say officials already stalled too long in doing something to protect the vulnerable area. 

“Think of all the hurricanes and damage that we’ve heard over the years that have come in on the eastern shore of Galveston and Houston,” said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican, before the vote. “This will help mitigate the impacts of future hurricanes and ensure critical port assets can continue to serve our country’s shipping and supply chain needs.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, added that the bill would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “protect communities from climate change-exacerbated events like flooding and drought.”

Storms are expected to get stronger as the globe warms. Still, environmental advocates have raised concerns about how the foundations of the large gates in the water will impact the flow of water between Galveston Bay and the saltier Gulf. Animal species depend on being able to move freely between the two at different stages of their lives.

Of course there will be environmental impacts to this environmentally-driven project.

Houston Chronicle:

With less water potentially moving in and out of the bay, its water quality could change, its salinity could be slightly altered and the habitats of endangered and threatened species could be affected. High tide is expected to be half an inch lower, and low tide is expected to be half an inch higher, so Goshen pointed out that some wetland plants could die.

Life on the bottom of the seafloor will literally be dug up when the gates are installed.

The Corps noted that it aimed to minimize impacts and intends to plant new wetlands and create oyster reefs elsewhere. Still, the report said, “since the barrier would be located at the primary exchange point between the Gulf of Mexico and the Galveston Bay, one of the largest estuaries on the Gulf Coast, the potential for adverse indirect impacts could be far reaching.”

There’s further concern for the fish that depend on currents to move them in and out of the bay at various life stages. Take the red drum. These fish spawn offshore, then tides and currents carry the larvae and baby fish into the bays. They move to quiet, back areas of the bay to grow. When they’re older, they move back to the Gulf, and the cycle repeats.

The gates restricting water flow could inhibit that process, though Corps researchers so far are optimistic. Their initial calculations found “very similar” particle movements with or without the gates. But advocates have criticized them as rudimentary. The report concedes that the calculations don’t account for “all the intricate behaviors of an alive biological larvae.”

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