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  • Kaitlin Grable

About the Coastal Barrier Plan | 10/31

Last week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a Draft Feasibility Study & Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed coastal barrier. The statement discusses potential environmental impacts from such a structure but does not adequately address the potential impacts to our region's ecological health and the continued productivity of its commercial and recreational fisheries.

This Galveston County Daily News article provides an insight to the history and status of the Coastal Barrier. To summarize, the proposed 76-mile-long system of barriers and gates would run along Galveston Island, Bolivar Peninsula, and inside Galveston Bay. This plan would cost somewhere between $23-30 billion.

A depiction of the proposed plan from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Texas General Land Office

The structures proposed include:

  • A 1,200-foot wide floating sector gate at Bolivar Roads

  • Dozens of smaller lift gates to accompany the aforementioned

  • Levees and floodwalls on Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island

  • A ring levee around the east end of Galveston

  • Barriers extending out to the west end as far as San Luis Pass.

  • Gates or other barriers near the Houston Ship Channel, Clear Creek, and Dickinson, Offatts, and Highland Bayous

  • Nine ecosystem restoration projects to increase coastal resiliency and reduce flooding risks on the coast

The Corps of Engineers does foresee a number of human and ecological issues that could arise from the barrier, including but not limited to:

  • Increased erosion on Gulf of Mexico beaches

  • Increased potential for the formation of harmful algal blooms Galveston Bay

  • Increased localized flooding after high volumes of rain near Offatts and Dickinson Bayous, Clear Lake, and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

  • The alteration, damage, and/or destruction of crucial wetlands and bay habitats

  • Loss of breeding habitats for species such as the American eel

  • Increased difficulty for juvenile fish and shellfish to travel from the bay (which essentially acts as a nursery) to the Gulf

  • Risk of marine mammals and sea turtles to be crushed by the gates

  • Changes in salinity of the bay

  • Salinity changes altering the habitats of creatures such as dolphins

The study done by the Corps of Engineers does not adequately address the potential impacts to our region's ecological health, and organizations such as the Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) are calling for a more thorough study to address these issues and to discern whether or not a large scale coastal spine is truly the answer.

If you're interested in reading GBF's full stance on the Coastal Barrier, you can find it here. I highly recommend considering their position when forming your own.

So what's next?

Something to keep in mind is that the release of the proposed plan is merely the start of a very lengthy process. It won't be until 2021 that the Corps will plan to issue the final feasibility study. And if approved, it could take as long as 15 years to construct.

Over the next few months, the Corps of Engineers will hold public meetings about the proposed plan in multiple cities along our coast.

  • November 27th | 5:30pm | Bauer Community Center in Port Lavaca

  • November 28th | 5:30pm | Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M Corpus Christi

  • November 29th | 5:30pm | Port Isabel Event & Cultural Center

  • December 11th | 5:30pm | Winnie Community Building

  • December 12th | 5:30pm | Galveston Island Convention Center

  • December 18th | 5:30pm | Bay Area Community Center in Seabrook

If you have questions, these meetings would be the best place to get answers straight from the experts.

There will be a 75 day comment period to allow the public in our region to voice their concerns regarding the issue. This period will be open from October 26, 2018 to January 9, 2019. You can submit a comment here.

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