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Will Big Gates To Stop Hurricane Flooding Ever Be Built?

As we reach the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, researchers at Rice University say they’re narrowing down the best options for building a barrier to protect the coast from the next, big storm.


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Jim Blackburn (left) and Phil Bedient with map of proposed projects to reduce storm surge from hurricanes
Dave Fehling
Jim Blackburn (left) and Phil Bedient with map of proposed projects to reduce storm surge from hurricanes.

Seven years, Hurricane Ike roared ashore in Galveston and left nearly $30 billion dollars in damage across the region. But at Rice University, civil engineering researcher Philip Bedient says he can't believe the lack of prevention. "I mean were coming up on the seven year anniversary and it's astounding to me that we sit here at this point in time and have not moved a single truckload of dirt or sand to build a dike or do anything," says Bedient He and other researchers are releasing a report on the status of proposals to something and something big: public works projects that could be making a difference to minimize flooding from the "storm surge" of sea-water pushed inland by a storm.

rendering of Ike dike
Rendering of huge gates in the Houston Ship Channel would block the storm surge from causing flooding upstream.

The proposals include giant gates across the ship channel that would close before a hurricane hit, blocking the surge. A system of gates and levees could cost several billion dollars — at least — but compared to what they might save by reducing flood damage, the researchers say they're a good deal. But fellow author of the report and an environmental lawyer Jim Blackburn says trying to convince politicians to get behind the projects is the tough part. "Many of them have gotten elected on not spending tax money so you've got all these factors at work and there's nothing easy about this," Blackburn told News 88.7. Texas A&M Galveston as well as the Texas Land Office are also working on studies to determine what projects might work. The question is when or even if any of them will ever get built.

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