Ike Dike plan gains attention as hurricane season heightens

Damaged+houses+are+shown+after+Hurricane+Ike%2C+the+disaster+that+prompted+this+plan.

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Damaged houses are shown after Hurricane Ike, the disaster that prompted this plan.

Analei Berger, News and Features Editor

This year’s hurricane season has been a whirlwind of emotions for the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Luckily, Houstonians have been spared the wrath of 2020’s major Hurricane Laura. It is only fitting that this year would have a major hurricane. The residents of Galveston and Houston could use this as a warning and plan for what may come next hurricane season.

There was a proposed Ike Dike that was inspired after Hurricane Ike hit Galveston as a strong category two hurricane on September 13, 2008. The hurricane had a 22-foot storm surge along with inland flooding. There was about $30 billion worth of damage done. Not only was Galveston effected but also the greater Houston area. Damage further inland was caused by power outages and strong gusts of wind.

Back in 2008 after Ike hit the Texas coast, two college students at Texas A&M University proposed a structure with a catchy name Ike Dike that was inspired by Hurricane Ike. This construction would soon save billions in repairs for oncoming hurricanes and would help to protect the Texas coastal areas. The cost that was estimated to build the dike was between ten and twenty billion dollars. Although this number is high, it is small in comparison to the damage that a category five hurricane would have cost the coast. Not to mention the other effects that it could have on the country when it comes to petroleum and oil production in the Gulf and considering that Houston is the fourth biggest port complex in the country.

The Texas coast has an average rate of being hit by a major hurricane every fifteen years but every time hurricane season rolls around in June, Texas weathermen start shaking in their boots. There is always a chance of a direct impact.

Back during the infamous 1900 storm after thousands of people were killed and the island was totally destroyed, Galveston’s citizens devised a plan to build the 17-foot seawall spreading out upon ten miles of Galveston’s coastline. The seawall helped with other hurricanes, however, Ike was different and water flooded the island through the back and not the front where the wall was built.

The Ike Dike’s plans are actually quite simple and ingenious. The plan that was proposed was to build a 17-foot seawall out along Galveston to the Bolivar Peninsula. Except the wall would be disguised as natural sand dunes. Some would be natural sand that has vegetation locking it in place, while other parts would simply be concrete.

Beachgoers would not be able to tell the difference between the real sand dunes and the man-made ones. In addition, there would be no need to worry about the ship channel being blocked because there would be an 800-foot swinging gate for ships to pass through. The opening would lock closed when there was a chance that a storm would be coming.

There was a study done that if the dike would have been in place during Ike then 95% of residential areas would have been spared and if the dike is there during a category five storm, 70% of damage could be prevented. Not only would the dike protect the coast from surges and storms, it would be a good long-term investment. Businesses would be more comfortable with building on the seawall and Galveston if there was some type of protection and barrier in place to prevent the island and their business from being potentially swept away.

While the dike was proposed back in 2008 after Hurricane Ike, 2020 Hurricane Laura rekindled the urge to build the Dike. Although Houston and Galveston were spared this season, the area will not get so lucky every time. Laura was a category four, almost category five, hurricane that hit the Texas-Louisiana border and devastated southern Louisiana. There continues to be both positives and negatives to building the Ike Dike.

“There is a whole lot more wrong with this storm surge proposal than what the public has been told,” Brandt Mannchen, Sierra Club, said.

If the dike was built it would be detrimental to one of the last all-natural fishing areas on the Texas Coast. The San Luis Pass is located on the Upper Texas Coast, which is a local fishing and recreational hotspot. Provided that the Ike Dike would be built, it will close in the pass and it would throw the whole ecosystem off by changing the water circulation, the flow of the shrimp and fish, salinity levels and the natural erosion locations. With the new dikes in the gulf it would alter the set fish and shrimp migration patterns that run through the bay. However, total environmental effects of the dike have not fully been analyzed yet.

“We need quick solutions and effective solutions, and that’s what we’re advocating for here in Bolivar,” Charlotte Stirling, Bolivar Peninsula, said.

Whether or not it is the Ike Dike that is going to be built, there needs to be something other than the current seawall protecting Galveston and the coastal Houston areas.