Header Graphic: Coastal Barrier Information

The Proposed
Galveston Ring Levee: Coastal Barriers
Protecting people, property, and industry

In late October (2019) I attended an interesting coastal barrier meeting conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Texas General Land Office (GLO). It discussed the Texas coastal barrier and specifically the proposed Galveston Ring Levee, drainage, and pump stations. Col. Vail, the Corps lead representative, stressed he is not a policy maker, just an engineer, and that Congress, not the Corps, will make the decision about what will be authorized and what parts of the entire coastal barrier plan will be funded. He said that by law he is precluded from suggesting any actions that will make things worse (i.e., increased flooding). 

The Corps' current approaches are based on:

(1) not separating  existing neighborhoods
(2) limiting the number of gates in order to maintain the levee's strength, and
(3) limiting the disruption of the lives of residents.

A clarification:
The tentative plan for the entire Texas coast will be
submitted to Congress in 2021.  In the meantime it is still
in the planning and discussion stage.  The anticipated cost
for the entire Texas coast is around $31 billion while
estimates are that the Galveston Bay/Houston Ship
Channel portion would be $10-12 billion of that total.

In my mind the Galveston/Houston portion is critical and
will provide more bang for the buck.  A category 3+ hurricane
going up the Houston ship channel could shutdown the
petrochemical industry for one-and-a-half to three years
which would have national – not just regional – implications: 
not enough fuel to get goods to stores nationwide;
skyrocketing prices for goods because of increased competition
for a dwindling supply of fuel; shortages of heating oil
for the Northeast, etc.
The Corps believes a ring levee is needed in order to guard against flooding from the Bay by hurricane winds causing a storm surge from water already in Galveston Bay.  The height of the levee would be 14 feet above sea level, making it as low as 2-4 feet in some areas and taller in others.  For example, the current thinking is that the height near downtown (the Strand) would be no more than 4 foot.  The foot print of the proposed levee around the port would also dovetail with the port's master plan.  

A couple of residents raised the following concerns about the western part of the ring levee. The first was from a person who lived on 103rd street who did not want his view obstructed by a 14 foot levee wall. The other was from an environmentalist who was concerned about having a barrier running through wetlands.

As the map (right) shows under the proposed plan there would be a circulation gate on Offetts Bayou to allow the free flow of tides and currents during normal times. There would also be two navigation gates (probably lift gates) that would be high enough to accomodate the passage of sail boats with tall masts.

The Eastern part of the proposed ring levee (see the map below) has three key features of note.

  • First, it would leave unobstructed the area where a new bridge to Pelican Island may be built in the future.
  • Second, it dovetails with the Port of Galveston's master plan.
  • And third it does not protect the part of Harborside Blvd. that normally floods; because too many gates would be needed to grant access to the industrial areas, thereby weakening the protection offered by the ring levee.
The proposed Ring Levee (Western Portion)
[This rendering is not to scale and meant only to give an approximation
of the suggested placement of the ring levee]

CLICK ON MAP TO SEE A LARGER RENDERING.  Map of the northwestern part of the levee
The proposed Ring Levee (Eastern Portion)
[This rendering is not to scale and meant only to give
an approximation of the suggested placement of the ring levee]
The Eastern portion of the proposed ring levee.  Click on the image to see an enlarged view.

Click on the maps to get a larger image