Gulf of Mexico
Huge waves created by Hurricane Michael crash into cement barricades along Bolivar Peninsula's Texas 87 Wednesday. Currently under construction, the section of highway regularly becomes inundated with water and beach debris when large storms hit the Gulf Coast. Photo taken Wednesday, 10/10/18 Photo: Guiseppe Barranco/The Enterprise, Photo Editor

ENTERPRISE EDITORIAL: Dune plan is better than wall for Bolivar

The plan unveiled last week by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the Bolivar Peninsula from storm surge should have been the one proposed in December. But this is a case of better late than never, and Bolivar residents are undoubtedly relieved to see this logical proposal finally coming forward. It would rely on natural sand dunes to absorb the energy of a surge instead of wall running the partial length of the peninsula.

Dunes are natural and aesthetically pleasing. A Berlin Wall-style barrier is neither. The new plan calls for dunes 8 to 13 feet high, which would help a lot to blunt a hurricane’s force, even though planners admit they could be topped by wave action from a major storm. But no protection system is perfect, and the dunes are much better for many reasons. If a storm reduces them, they can be replenished with more sand, of which there is no shortage offshore. That process is also much more cost-effective than anything involving concrete.

The 25-mile levee wall, running from Port Bolivar to High Island, was wrong on so many levels. If it had been built, it would have virtually destroyed the value of any property on the south side. They were practically being written off to save properties on the northern side of the wall.

It was no surprise to hear Bolivar Peninsula Chamber of Commerce president Brenda Flanagan say of that proposal when it was unveiled in December, “It’s already destroying our peninsula.” She said potential home buyers were understandably “afraid” to make an expensive commitment to property that could have a grim future.

The Corps of Engineers and the Texas General Land Office should have realized that — and not waited six months to correct that mistake. Now, at least, peninsula residents can have more confidence in what lies ahead.

It would be nice if the dune and beach buildup could begin soon, but these plans are far down the road. They might not be completed until 2035, and that’s if they start as planned. But this is a proposal that peninsula residents can unite behind, and that matters a great deal.

Any construction along the Gulf Coast contains an element of risk, especially in this time of climate change when storms seem to be getting deadlier. But Texans are not going to abandon their coast, and neither are any other Americans. The smart way to proceed is to build up natural defenses like dunes and beaches while avoiding construction in the most vulnerable locations. With a stout layer of dunes along the beach, the Bolivar Peninsula would be about as safe as any coastal location. The sooner the sand starts getting piled up, the better.

See Editorial . . .