Galveston City Council’s split vote on a decision to spend another $250,000 to support the Ike Dike shows that all’s not well among those who believe the island needs more protection from hurricanes.
The new council ought to have a public discussion about what the city’s policy will be.
On Thursday, the outgoing council voted 4-1 with two abstentions to grant $250,000 in 4B sales tax to a nonprofit headed by the outgoing mayor’s wife. The nonprofit, the Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance, was founded to support the Ike Dike, the storm protection system proposed by Bill Merrell, a professor at Texas A&M University at Galveston.
The three council members who did not support the grant aren’t necessarily against the Ike Dike specifically or a storm protection system in general. They just weren’t sold that it’s a good idea to continue to give $250,000 installments of public money without a firmer plan.
By one count, this is the third $250,000 installment. The city had committed $250,000 directly to the project in 2012.
But the city also gave the port 4B money for repairs for infrastructure. But the port, while protesting it didn’t have the money for infrastructure repairs, did find money for a $250,000 commitment in support of the Ike Dike, leaving some people with the impression that the port was acting as a pipeline of 4B funds.
A couple of questions came up Thursday that the new council should try to answer.
Why is the city giving money to a nonprofit, rather than directly to Texas A&M at Galveston to support Merrell’s studies?
Why isn’t the money going directly to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will conduct the study that matters?
The Ike Dike — which envisions a barrier across Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula and floodgates at Bolivar Roads and San Luis Pass — might cost $10 billion.
Obviously, that would require federal help. But for the project to be eligible for federal funds, it would have to pass muster in a feasibility study. That study, conducted by the Corps of Engineers, would include a cost-benefits analysis.
The local match on that $10 million study would be roughly $5 million. Supporters of the Ike Dike say Texas A&M research would be part of the corps’ study, meaning the funds spent would be counted as part of the local match.
The new council ought to nail that point down.
Also, it’s become obvious that different visions of Ike Dike have emerged.
One envisions a hardened line of dunes protecting private property on Galveston’s West End. That line is, in effect, a static easement. Supporters of that idea see a series of beach reconstruction projects putting sand on the beaches in front of that line, perpetually protecting the private property that exists today.
Others say that the only possible way of meeting the cost-benefit test would be to raise and harden FM 3005 and forget about private property seaward of that barrier.
With such different ideas about what the Ike Dike might be, it’s hard to see Galveston moving forward in unison. The new council ought to call a public meeting and sort this out.
How they voted
On latest allocation of $250,000
Mayor Lewis Rosen
Cornelia Harris Banks