By Jonathan Hilburg • November 7, 2017A wide-ranging $61 billion proposal by Governor Greg Abbot and other Texas leaders for rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey was released last Wednesday, and is already being met with uncertainty by Washington, D.C. officials. Two-and-a-half months after Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm, the official damages estimate has risen to $180 billion while residents and institutions are still struggling to adjust.
Calling for enhanced infrastructure measures to prevent future coastal flooding, coupled with buyouts for homes in vulnerable areas, the governor’s request goes far beyond just rebuilding what had been destroyed. Future-proofing the Gulf Coast will mean building detention lakes, dredging canals, and maybe most ambitiously, the construction of the “Ike Dike,” a $12 billion series of “coastal spines.”
Meant to mainly protect the Houston-Galveston area, the three large coastal barriers have been proposed to both prevent incoming storm surges as well as allow water to be pumped out more easily. As Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S., home to one of the largest ports in the country and situated near a high concentration of petroleum refining plants, the area is uniquely exposed to flood risks.
With a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast every fifteen years on average, the governor’s office has placed precedence on hardening critical coastal infrastructure. But over $1 billion is also set aside for buying out properties in the most vulnerable areas, similar to New York State’s post-Sandy acquisition program meant to turn destroyed residential areas into waterfront buffers.
Despite only being one-third of the predicted total reconstruction cost, government officials have demurred when asked about the price tag, the Houston Chroniclereported.
“We’re working on a number. We don’t have a number,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). He remarked that coming up with such a large funding request is difficult at a time when so many other states are also asking for disaster relief coming off of a particularly active hurricane and wildfire season.
Texas is currently facing years of recovery as designers have called attention to the historic residences, businesses and cultural institutions damaged during Harvey. With state and local governments outlining their plans for disaster mitigation, it will be worth watching to see how Texas moves forward.