Representatives from the city and Galveston’s major industries gathered at the Galveston Island Convention Center to provide an update on the area’s recovery since Ike made landfall in the early morning of Sep. 13, 2008. State Senator Larry Taylor summarizes the common sentiment.
State Sen. Larry Taylor
“As you can see, Galveston island, for the most part, particularly our tourist areas, is back, and it’s back stronger and better than ever.”
Taylor joined Galveston Mayor Lewis Rosen; Mike Mierzwa, director of the Port of Galveston; and representatives for the island’s economic development, tourism and coastal resources. All were positive about the island’s recovery so far.
Meg Winchester is the director of the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“I can honestly say tourism is one of the biggest reasons Galveston recovered so quickly. (…) In 2012, the island experienced its best tourism season on record with visitors spending $655 million to generate a $908 million economic impact to the island.”
Mayor Rosen says after revenue from property taxes initially decreased after Ike, it’s now higher than before the storm hit.
That’s despite the fact that the city’s population dropped to fewer than 48,000 from around 60,000 pre-Ike.
“We don’t have the number of folks that have actually come back. It’ll probably be another seven years before we get another census, but I feel like our population is back and growing strong.”
He says the recovery is ongoing and there remains work to be done.
“Galveston will be 175 years old next year. Some of our infrastructure is always caving in and in need of repairs, plus, you put the damage from Ike on top of that. That, I think, is one of our main focuses right now, is to get our infrastructure up and running.”
Galveston Mayor Lewis Rosen
The Ike Dike is also a big topic among Galvestonians. Dr. William Merrell is a professor of marine sciences at Texas A&M at Galveston. He initiated the idea of a coastal barrier to protect the Houston-Galveston area. With the dike, he says,
“We wouldn’t have to go through this recovery again. We wouldn’t have to see people die. We wouldn’t have to rebuild. We wouldn’t have to evacuate patients from hospitals. This doesn’t have to happen, and for much of the world it doesn’t happen, and it’s time that we got serious about not having it happen here.”
It’s not clear if the Ike Dike will ever be built because of its estimated $4 billion to $6 billion price tag. But Merrell says it really is a matter of political will.