Gulf of Mexico
Houston Chronicle

‘Ike Dike’ creator says proposed coastal barrier must be altered to satisfy Galveston, Bolivar residents

Bill Merrell, who developed the Ike Dike concept nearly a decade ago, gave a lengthy presentation on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan, expressing some concern as to how it would impact residents.

Even the original developer of the “Ike Dike” isn’t crazy about a coastal barrier proposal modeled from his idea.

During a meeting hosted by the Galveston City Council Thursday night intended to gather public comments from residents on a proposed 71-mile “coastal spine,” Bill Merrell, a professor at Texas A&M University at Galveston who developed the Ike Dike concept nearly a decade ago, gave a lengthy presentation on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan, expressing some concern as to how it would impact residents of Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula.

“It’s the right overall strategy but it can be made better for Texas and its coastal communities,” Merrell said.

Merrell, who based his Ike Dike on a similar dike and levee system that protects the Netherlands, raised a handful of issues with the plan, from the cost and scope of the project to the engineering of the coastal barrier and the necessity of a “ring levee” to protect Galveston.

The Army Corps plan — proposed in late October and currently in the midst of a 75-day public comment period that was recently extended by 30 days — was a levee system that would begin at High Island, run the length of Bolivar Peninsula, cross the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel with a sea gate, incorporate the existing Galveston sea wall and continue down the west end of Galveston Island. It also would include a “ring levee” on Galveston’s bay side.

Merrell referred to the Corps’ plan as an “Ike Dike strategy with add-ons.” He expressed some sticker shock that the estimate of the proposal has nearly tripled, from a $9.5 billion estimate when he conceived the plan to the now nearly $32 billion figure that the coastal spine and all of its supplemental components — which include gates along various Galveston Bay estuaries and massive ecosystem restoration efforts extending down the coast — would cost.

“The costs, I hope, are estimated too high, but if not we’re gonna have to trim this sucker down to something that’s affordable,” Merrell said.

What concerned Merrell most is how the engineering of a coastal spine could impact coastal residents’ beach access and disrupt the natural environment. He called for future design efforts to focus on engineered dune systems — essentially a sea wall barrier covered and fortified by sand — and to test those concepts on both Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island. Read full article.