Gulf of Mexico
Houston Ship Channel

TX - Ike Dike’s gates do not allow large ships to use the Houston Ship Channel

Early designs for the gates, part of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Texas Coastal Protection and Restoration project at the mouth of Galveston Bay – the Ike Dike – could deter a new generation of large cargo ships from reaching Port Houston.

The gates, which are part of a $34 billion effort to block storm surges from the Gulf of Mexico flowing up the Houston Ship Channel, won’t provide adequate space for the large ships that will arrive after the project’s completion, according to a new report need to navigate the ship channel Study commissioned by the Greater Houston Port Bureau.

A group of pilots managing shipping channels in Houston and Galveston presented the findings Wednesday during a meeting of the Gulf Coast Protection District, a body set up by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2021 to facilitate flood control projects along the coast.

Ships traversing the canal are getting larger, which is why a $1 billion project is widening and deepening the canal. The canal is vital to the industrial and commercial facilities on its banks, which generate about $800 billion in business each year — about 20 percent of the state’s gross domestic product — and $38 billion in tax revenue each year.

“There are many things that would just choke the Port of Houston,” said Capt. William Diehl, president of the port bureau.

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The project was proposed after Hurricane Ike caused a storm surge in 2008 that devastated Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula and caused $30 billion in damage in 26 Texas counties. When fully completed, the Army Corps estimates the project will save $2.2 billion in storm damage each year, although once the gates are complete, perhaps by 2040 — or in the 50 years or more that the structure is expected to be in use will be operational – will still be useful. is uncertain.

The 22-foot-tall coastal defense project was recently approved by the federal government, but the official design and planning process for the massive project will not begin until Congress approves funding.

Key to the project are the Seagates, which would allow large ships to come and go and do business along the ship canal, which houses 272 chemical plants, refineries, oil storage facilities and other industrial facilities. According to the Port Authority, the Houston Ship Channel is the busiest waterway in the world.

The bureau’s study used preliminary designs for the gates through simulations regularly used by pilots along the ship’s canal, and “it was not a success,” Diehl said.

“We feel like we need to always be publicly aware that the Houston Ship Channel is the golden goose,” he said. “We have to make sure it’s successful.”

Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers said at the meeting they would consider the pilots’ concerns.

Corps project manager Kelly Burks-Copes said her team is ready to customize the designs to fit the project’s mission. The preliminary design of the gates has already been changed to include two gates instead of one – a change made to allow ships to enter when a gate needs to be closed for repairs.

“The Corps likes a challenge. We’re ready for it,” said Burks-Copes. “So we’re just waiting for Congress to secede.”

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