Rice Researchers Propose Alternative to Ike Dike

More than a decade after Hurricane Ike and two years after Hurricane Harvey, the long-proposed "Ike Dike" continues to crawl along. The plan for a massive coastal barrier off of Galveston to protect from hurricanes and storm surge got a boost after Harvey, but still likely remains more than a decade off while awaiting various levels of federal funding and approval. In the meantime, a group of researchers at Rice University has come up with a hurricane-mitigation plan they say is cheaper and can be completed faster than the Ike Dike.

The Galveston Bay Park Plan is the brainchild of researchers at Rice's Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center (SSPEED). "It basically is the concept of building a dike, or a levee if you will, along the Houston Ship Channel with the material generated by dredging the Houston Ship Channel," says Jim Blackburn, Texas environmental attorney and spokesperson for SSPEED. "The channel is getting ready to be widened and deepened, and there's a lot of good raw material that's going to be generated...and we want to build a hurricane protection device out of that material."

Specifically, the plan calls for building a 25-foot-tall levee along the shipping lane, then using the additional dredged material to pile behind the levee for new parkland---hence the name Park Plan. "These new park areas would allow for fishing, biking, hiking, bird-watching, other types of recreation," says Blackburn.

Blackburn tells KTRH the Park Plan would be much cheaper than the Ike Dike, because it uses material already being dredged for the Houston Ship Channel expansion project. He also estimates it could be finished much quicker---possibly as early as 2027---because it would rely only on local funding. "This is not going be a federal project, this would be a local government project that would be submitted to the (Army) Corps of Engineers for permitting, but not for funding," he says.

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