SocraticGadfly: Is the Corps about to foist an Ike Dike on us? (Updated 1 year later)

October 04, 2018

Is the Corps about to foist an Ike Dike on us?
(Updated 1 year later)

Both here and here, I provided various reasons why I did NOT want the hugely anti-environmentalist U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (along with state-level Texas A-M military and civilian engineering toadies) building a so-called Ike Dike for Houston.

In a nutshell:
1. An Ike Dike would do bupkis for Hurricane Harvey inland-generated flooding. Houston has had tropical storms and even tropical depressions, or just plain old weather systems, cause inland-generated flooding. An Ike Dike helps none of that; fixing the Corps-created reservoirs does more.
2. Claims of a Greater New Orleans Barrier in Greater NOLA as a starting point for an Ike Dike are simply bullshit. Oh, and who's already responsible for barriers, levees, etc., around New Orleans? No names, but its initials are C-O-R-P-S.
3. The cost of an Ike Dike would probably be at least triple of what the Corps claims. Other Texans should not be stuck with bailing out Houston, on a state share, nor should the rest of the nation be stuck with bailing out Texas, especially with a state led by climate change denialists.

But the Corps appears ready to foist upon us either an Ike Dike or an Ike Dike Lite. Riffing on my "numbers" worry, the boondogglers have already raised the cost to a $22-30 billion level, far above the $15 billion or less that was being discussed just a couple of years ago. The boondoggling will go higher if the Corps, as is likely given its past history, takes most of BOTH the A&M and Rice ideas into its master plan.

Update, Oct. 18/21, 2019: The Corps is proposing creating 14-foot "natural" sand dunes as part of a 44-mile-long mix of barriers and floodgates from High Island to San Luis Pass.

I don't hate to say I told you so, to Houstonians of all sorts of political stripes, because I did. The Chronic is now reporting these same cost and feasibility issues, just over the first part of the proposal on the sand dune barriers.

Going beyond that, here's my take from the 18th on the Corps announcement.

First, C-O-R-P-S, sand dunes you create aren't "natural." And, depending on how you create them, they may not have the same weathering resistance as actual natural dunes.

Second, you say you'll replenish them annually. That, in turn, probably assumes they weather as well as truly natural dunes. Given that such dunes don't exist there right now, that's probably not a warranted statement.

Third, you say you'll replenish them annually. Per point the second, if they deteriorate that fast (I'm also thinking of many other artificial barrier dune projects, so this point and the one above aren't pulled out of my hat), how much will this cost? If there's no dedicated budget line item in future years, how will people hold you to this?

And my take on the Chronic.

Nick Powell notes that the cost of dredging sand for both the original dunes and the replenishment will be a big cost factor. After all, even before the 1900 killer hurricane, there wasn't much sand on Galveston Island. There's not a lot more on the mainland coast. He also notes the Corps' current cost estimate does not include annual maintenance. I'll add that although the current gate for the Houston Ship Channel is not as environmentally catastrophic as the original, it's still not good.  Finally, A-M Galveston staff criticizing the Corps, per what I've said about A-M elsewhere, are doing so to row their own oar as much as they truly think the Corps is wrong. Don't trust everything they say, either, even if Powell gives them a pass.

And now, back to the original.

Also troubling is that many backers of the Ike Dike, such as John Cornyn on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Oct. 9, won't allow for, or even mention, climate change.

Anyway, the Corps will take both online and in-person comment, as well as holding meetings in Greater Houston. Tell it no.

Oct. 26: Here's details of the survey. Email contact to address the Corps is at top of page 1.

Oct. 31: The Sierra Club's Houston group also raises two/three other questions. They are: What will the long term maintenance costs be (or has anybody calculated this?), and who will pay them?

Update, Oct. 18, 2019:

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