George P. Bush urges feds to modify coastal barrier alignment to protect private property

GALVESTON — Wading into the debate over a proposed coastal barrier to protect the Galveston-Houston area from major tropical storms, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush on Thursday urged federal officials to alter their proposed alignment to protect private property rights and to hold a longer public comment period before submitting their plan to Congress.

Bush used a news conference in this coastal city to outline six "guiding principles" that he hoped the Army Corps of Engineers would honor in developing a a 71-mile long system of levees and gates from High Island to San Luis Pass, including Galveston. The project, a previous version of which was dubbed the "Ike Dike," is expected to cost $23 million to $31 billion.

The Texas General Land Office that Bush heads is the non-federal sponsor of the coastal barrier study, a draft of which was made public in October and that is expected to be completed by 2021.

Although officials agree on the need to protect Texas' Gulf Coast, including Houston's petrochemical plants, from flooding triggered by a catastrophic storm, some residents of the Bolivar Peninsula have balked at a planned path that they say would require the taking of homes and not protect them from storm surge from Galveston Bay.

Bush asked that the Army Corps locate the levee system on or along the beach in a "sand dune-based system" that would integrate with the coastal environment and not affect private property along the main thoroughfares of Bolivar and Galveston island. He also wants the Army Corps to consider alternatives to a "ring levee" that would encircle the north side of Galveston island and bisect its East and West Ends, but which presents engineering and environmental challenges that could be prohibitive.

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