The United States Army Corps of Engineers have been working to provide a seawall or dike which has been termed the Coastal Spine to diminish the impact from storm surge caused by a tropical depression. Orange County is included in the plans for the Corps of Engineers’ project.
The Commissioners Court met a couple of times in May and June with the Corps of Engineers which provided updates on the proposed coastal dike project. Commissioner John Gothia attended both forums with the Corps at the Texas A&M campus in Galveston.
Gothia thinks the counties the dike would protect if and when it gets built would benefit greatly, but all of those same counties cannot afford to allow the cost of the project cause them to go broke. He is aware the state of Texas and Corps of Engineers is aware of that conflict.
The state and feds have allocated the first section of funding for the local match share to cover the studies and research for the project. “We hope if things continue to move forward that’s what’s going to continue to happen that the state is going to keep coming through and paying for those local share portions,” Gothia evaluated.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers provided aerial tours June 3 of the proposed Coastal Spine or dike for officials from the gulf coast counties where it will be built. Orange County Commissioner Robert Viator took a helicopter ride with the Corps of Engineers as they flew over marshes and saw successful marsh restoration projects done by the Corps which could be affecting Orange County outfall ditches from draining.
Viator commented on the overhead view of the proposed dike site. “It was very interesting to fly along the proposed route of the wall and talk about how things would work like pump stations and various issues.”
He is especially glad to have the county providing its input into the project. “That’s why we need a seat at the table. We should have always had a seat at the table as to not only help the project be more beneficial for the citizens, but also to protect the citizens from negative effects that may come,” Viator concluded.
The proposed dike which would inhibit storm surge from damaging coastal communities from Orange County to Brazoria County will cost in the billions of dollars to complete. Viator believes the barrier will be a benefit for the county and appreciates that Orange County has a chance to provide input on the plans to build it. The Commissioner is glad Orange County will have a say in the benefits from the project. Viator pointed out that there may be some negative effects that may come. “Walls work both ways, they hold water out and they hold water in,” Viator explained.
Completion of the Coastal Spine is predicted to take several years if not decades.
The Commissioners are unanimous the dike would have a major impact by reducing the infiltration of storm surge from a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico. The problem will be paying for the billion dollar project.
The cost to Orange County could be in the millions of dollars. Local State Representative Dade Phelan has sponsored a bill this session that would support projects for flood prevention. The bill calls for a constitutional amendment that would allocate up to $1.7 billion for the projects.
County Judge Carl Thibodeaux thinks such an amendment could be the answer for Orange County funding its share of the dike project. “Anything that comes up that can be helping the local entities with matching funds for major projects is going to be a real positive for the area,” Thibodeaux indicated. Thibodeaux added he needs to look at the bill really good to make sure because some bills have hidden pit falls.
Phelan’s bill is calling for a constitutional amendment to approve the funds. Being a constitutional amendment means the final decision would be made by the voters of Texas whether it passes or not.
-Dan Perrine, KOGT-