Hurricane Laura brings renewed pitch for Ike Dike

Chris Cobler
Posted 9/1/20

As thousands fled southeast Texas ahead of Hurricane Laura, Texas A&M promoted an Ike Dike as a critical way to protect the region from devastating damage.

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Hurricane Laura brings renewed pitch for Ike Dike

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As thousands fled southeast Texas ahead of Hurricane Laura, Texas A&M promoted an Ike Dike as a critical way to protect the region from devastating damage.

Texas escaped a direct hit from Laura, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, just east of Port Arthur. Despite the state’s luck this time, Texas A&M marine scientists urged action on their proposal to build a series of barriers, levees and gates that would close off Galveston Bay from storm surge.

William Merrell, a professor at Texas A&M-Galveston and a former president of the school, helped develop the plan after Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston in 2008, resulting in $30 billion in damages and killing more than 50 people.

Cost estimates for the Ike Dike range from $10 billion to $20 billion. The Army Corps of Engineers and Texas General Land Office are finishing a major feasibility study for the Texas Coast that includes a coastal surge protection plan that incorporates many features of the Ike Dike. The plan is expected to be available for public comment starting in late October and in final form by next spring.

The forecast for the massive project is a lot farther off than the next hurricane during an active season. Congressional approval and matching local funds are still needed.

A&M officials say the investment is well worth it to protect about 6 million people and prevent $100 billion in damages from a direct hit.

“The Ike Dike would work, I am sure of it,” Merrell said in a news release. “If you stop the storm surge at the coast, you protect everyone – Galveston, Houston, everybody.

“Obviously this is a very busy and probably record-breaking season – I believe it’s the fifth above-average season in a row. There are theories that suggest that in the future, we might get more major hurricanes and that there are now many more intense rainfall events. Also, there is evidence that many storms are slowing down as they approach the coast – more flooding and longer duration surges. The flooding threat is getting worse and worse.”

Remember the Alamo

Operators of the Alamo are looking for the public’s support to preserve Texas’ historical landmark.

Texans are being urged to contact their lawmakers on behalf of the Alamo Plan, which would preserve the Alamo Church and Long Barrack, reclaim the historic battlefield, relocate the Cenotaph and build a new visitor center and museum.

The renovations are projected to cost $450 million and are being supported by the city of San Antonio and the nonprofit Alamo Trust, which is overseen by the Texas General Land Office.

As part of the plan, Alamo officials are seeking a permit from the Texas Historical Commission to allow for disassembly, repair and reassembly of the Cenotaph 500 feet from its existing location. The commission meeting is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 22, but details are not yet confirmed.

Some politicians and others have opposed the renovation plan and, in particular, the relocation of the Cenotaph, a 60-foot-tall monument added to the site in the 1930s.

“The Alamo walls need your support if they are to continue to stand,” the Alamo officials wrote last week in an email to supporters directing them to supporthealamoplan.com. “Write a letter and tell our Texas officials to act now to support the only plan that will make sure that future generations of Texans will Remember the Alamo!”

Pumped up in Fort Worth

Convenience store retailer Yesway is planning a new way that will move its headquarters to Fort Worth.

Yesway, which bought Allsup’s 304 stores last year, is closing its three offices in Abilene, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; and Clovis, N.M., to consolidate its operations in Fort Worth.

Yesway has 407 stores in Texas, Iowa, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. The company said it plans to grow to more than 600 convenience stores during the next several years.

The long and meandering boundary

Texans are known for their fanciful language, but this can lead to confusion when it comes to divvying up water rights.

Charles Perry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Water and Rural Affairs, is seeking clarity from the Office of Attorney General about what “meanders” meant to lawmakers in 1951.

The Legislature created the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District with a boundary “along the meanders of the caprock” of the High Plains Escarpment, which describes the geographical transition point between the flat ground and the surrounding rolling terrain.

The meandering definition has led to a dispute between the High Plains water district in Potter County and the neighboring Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District, according to Perry, a Republican who represents Senate District 28 in West Texas.

Presumably, an AG decision can mend the fissure.

Chris Cobler is a board member and past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. He welcomes email at ccobler@texaspress.com.

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