Texas Hurricane 'Ike Dike' To Cost Billions

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The “Ike Dike” — a proposed dike in Texas modeled on the one that protects The Netherlands from storm surges — could cost as much as $2.4 billion, according to Explorations in Applied Geography.

Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and other consultants, partnering with Texas A&M, this week suggested the dike should resemble The Netherlands’ Maeslant or the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barriers in scope and life-cycle costs. The Eastern Scheldt, which was finished in the late 1980s, cost the proposed amount to build.

William Merrell, a professor from Texas A&M University, first proposed the ”Ike Dike” for Texas soon after Hurricane Ike made landfall in September 2008 as a Category 2 storm.  It caused significant flooding in Texas and Louisiana, killed 112 people and caused $38 billion worth of damage, making it third in the list of costliest hurricanes in U.S. history.

Though support for the project waned after Hurricane Sandy, recent research funding and partnerships may bring the “Ike Dike” back to the drawing table.

The proposed barrier would stretch across the mouth of the Galveston Bay. It would attach to Port Bolivar on one side and Galveston on the other and become an extension of the existing Galveston sea wall. The barrier would allow ships to pass into Port Houston through a gate, which would close when sea level rises during a storm.

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The Netherlands has fought a battle with the ocean for nearly all of its existence. About 20 percent of low-lying Dutch country is below sea level, and half of it is only a meter above sea level.

The nation’s delta is so flood-prone that the Dutch built sea walls to protect against the ocean. The walls had to be constantly reinforced following storm surges.

In 1953, however, a storm on the North Sea caused a surge so huge it overwhelmed the dikes and killed 1,800 people.

To protect themselves, the Dutch launched their $7-billion ‘DeltaWorks’ coastal protection project — a system of dams, sluices, levees and several storm surge barriers, including the Maeslant and the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barriers. The structures turned the delta’s squiggly topography into one continuous, shortened coastline. The Dutch also gave land up to the sea, turning some of the delta into freshwater lakes.

In 1997, they finished building the Maeslant barrier, which is one of the largest moving structures on Earth. Two gates are usually open to allow ships to pass through. When the ocean begins to surge and levels rise by three meters, the gates close. The bay gets isolated from the sea, protecting the inland areas.

Image: The proposed Texas storm surge barrier. Credit: Delft University of Technology.

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