ClearWorld November 2017 - Page 12

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Coastal populations worldwide are playing a dangerous game. Frequent hazardous storms along coastlines are a given, and yet we continue to place our heads in the sand when considering the future. This submission focuses on an innovative project in Galveston Bay serving as a model for proactively solving coastal planning challenges. The summary below demonstrates how we can reconnect to these valued landscapes while providing storm protection, economic stimulus, environmental benefits, and sustainable coastal communities.

On September 13, 2008 Hurricane Ike struck the Upper Texas Coast, wreaking havoc on infrastructure and washing away entire communities. Labeled as a category two storm by wind speed, Ike surpassed all inundation damage predictions and changed the lives of millions of people in the region. While devastating, the storm was a considerably smaller version of the modeled “worst case scenario” in which bay surge tracks up the densely populated west shore of Galveston Bay and into the heavily industrialized Houston Ship Channel.

Historically, the mitigation of coastal storms has focused on the use of intensive structural solutions — single-purpose engineered barriers designed to protect against often inadequately modeled storms. Once these engineering feats realize their massive physical form, the public develops an attitude of complacency and invincibility against storm events. They are “behind the wall”. The submitting team references this phenomenon as the “moral hazard” where a false sense of security results in more coastal development, subpar construction standards, inadequate policy, and greater public risk. As expected, shortly after Ike a proposal for a much longer, higher, wider, 100 mile long dike surfaced that would span and isolate all of Galveston Bay. Life defining interactions with the Gulf of Mexico would be severed and the cultural landscape destroyed not by nature, but ourselves.

Coastal Roulette: Planning Resilient Communities for Galveston Bay