Energy & Environment

Ike Dike work closer to starting after $550 million appropriation from Texas Legislature

A longstanding plan for a storm surge suppression system between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, commonly called the ‘Ike Dike,’ is awaiting federal funding. Once that happens, work on the $34 billion project can get underway.


Galveston Beach
Katie Watkins/Houston Public Media
As part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project, these beaches in Galveston will have a double dune system and extra sand added to extend into the Gulf Coast.

Work on an extensive storm surge suppression system along the Texas Gulf Coast, a longstanding wish-list item for the Houston region and its petrochemical industry, could get underway sometime soon after state leaders allocated another $550 million toward the initiative.

Now the "Ike Dike" project, as it has become commonly known, just needs a funding appropriation from the federal government, which authorized the initiative late last year.

Executive director Nicole Sunstrum of the Gulf Coast Protection District, the non-federal sponsor of the project, said an allocation from Congress could be coming as soon as later this month. Once that happens, she said her organization can enter into a formal partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with environmental and detailed design work to follow.

The Texas Legislature, which previously had allocated $400 million toward the initiative, made its latest commitment as part of House Bill 1, a general appropriations bill that was signed into law earlier this week by Gov. Greg Abbott.

"This is the biggest infrastructure project in U.S. history, so every step in the path is a big deal," Sunstrum said. "That's kind of our next hurdle is the federal funding."

The Coastal Texas project, as it is called by the Army Corps and Gulf Coast Protection District, has been in the works since Hurricane Ike brought significant storm surge to the region in 2008. The Army Corps and Texas General Land Office subsequently spent six years and $20 million on a feasibility study for the Ike Dike, with its findings unveiled in 2021.

The plan is to construct a series of gates between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, which serves as the entryway into the Houston Ship Channel, along with additional gate systems in Clear Lake and Dickinson Bay, beach-and-dune systems on Bolivar and Galveston and a ring barrier on the bay side of the island. At an estimated cost of $34 billion, the work is expected to block up to 22 feet of hurricane storm surge into the bay and up the ship channel, thereby providing flooding protections to homes, businesses and the nation's largest petrochemical complex.

Construction of the project, in its entirety, is expected to take longer than a decade. Sunstrum said some phases could be completed within a few years, which would provide some more immediate storm surge protection.

Ike Dike Rendering
Courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Texas General Land Office
An aerial view of the storm surge gate system that would stretch across the water between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula.

"We are ready and excited to continue our work with the (Army Corps), stakeholders, and our partners to advance these essential programs and to efficiently deliver much needed protection from coastal storm surge," Michel Bechtel, the board president for the Gulf Coast Protection District, said in a news release.

Sunstrum said some of the funding recently allocated by the Texas Legislature is for a similar Army Corps project called Sabine to Galveston Bay, a $4 billion initiative that entails a series of gates, levees and pumps in three different coastal locations to the north and south of the forthcoming Ike Dike: in Brazoria County, in Jefferson County and in Orange County. The work in Jefferson County, to upgrade an existing storm surge suppression system, has been ongoing for more than a year, Sunstrum said.

The Ike Dike initiative also includes ecosystem restoration efforts along the entire Texas coast, Sunstrum said.

"Those two projects together will give us some full-scale resiliency along the coast as a whole," she said.

Part of the Ike Dike plan is for 65 percent of the funding to come from the federal government and 35 percent from the state, according to Sunstrum, who said exactly how much of the $550 million will be used for Ike Dike work is accordingly dependent on how much Congress decides to allocate this year. Sunstrum said the Gulf Coast Protection District, which was created by the legislature in 2021, has heard that amount could be as little as $50 million or as much as $500 million.

However much money comes from the feds – assuming they make any sort of appropriation this year – Sunstrum said her organization and the Army Corps are ready to put it to use.

"We are watching that closely right now," she said. "The amount of money that is appropriated federally, that'll sort of set the pace for what we can expect. Of course, the more money we get, the more we can do."

Adam Zuvanich

Adam Zuvanich

Digital Content Producer

Adam Zuvanich writes locally relevant digital news stories for Houston Public Media. He grew up in the Houston area and earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas before working as a sportswriter in Austin, Lubbock, Odessa, St. Louis and San Antonio. Zuvanich returned home to Houston and made...

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