Texas Funds Coastal Reconstruction on Hurricane Ike Anniversary
GALVESTON, Texas, September 14, 2009 (ENS) - Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson today announced $135.4 million in coastal protection projects to take the fight against beach erosion coast-wide in a coordinated effort from South Padre Island to McFaddin Beach.

"We're fighting on all fronts now in the battle against erosion," Patterson said, standing at the end of the Galveston Seawall remembering how devastating Hurricane Ike blew ashore one year ago.

"Critically needed projects from South Padre Island to McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge will begin immediately in an unprecedented effort to protect the Texas coast," he said.

The $135.4 million list of projects was made possible by $25 million the 81st Legislature appropriated to the state's Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act.

State Representatives Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, Larry Taylor, R–Friendswood, and state Senator Joan Huffman, R–Southside Place, attended the Monday morning announcement.

Aerial view of damage done to Galveston Island by Hurricane Ike (Photo by Jocelyn Augustino courtesy FEMA)

The largest single project on the list is a massive beach renourishment that will stretch six miles west of the end of the Galveston Seawall.

The $5.9 million in state money devoted to the project leveraged an additional $40.5 million from the federal government. The $46 million project will widen the beach by about 200 feet between 103rd Street, at the western end of the seawall, and 13 Mile Road.

"Hurricane Ike dealt a devastating blow to this area, but now we're going to be able to build this beach back bigger and better than it has been in decades," Patterson said. "For each dollar Texas will spend on this project, the federal government will spend six. That's a good use of our Texas dollar. That's what happens when people at all levels of government work together."

"When I was in high school, you could walk off the end of the seawall on to the beach," said Patterson, pointing to the rocks and severely eroded beach beyond the seawall. "When we're done rebuilding the beach here, you will be able to do that again."

Rebuilding dunes flattened by Hurricane Ike and restoring beaches emaciated by erosion is an investment that will continue to pay returns, he said.

"Once a beach undergoes a renourishment by the Texas General Land Office, it becomes eligible for future federal funding under FEMA guidelines," Patterson explained. "Doing these projects now will help protect the Texas coast long into the future."

Other projects funded by the $135.4 million package include:

Also funded is a test project on South Padre Island, where a series of low-profile stabilizers will be built underwater and perpendicular to the shoreline in an attempt to capture sand on a critically eroding beach.

More Gulf Coast homes and businesses are at risk of disastrous flooding from storm surge than previously recognized by property owners or policymakers, warns a new report issued today by the Institute for Business & Home Safety, a not-for-profit applied research and communications organization supported by property insurers and reinsurers.

Debris is stacked in front of retail establishments along the seawall in Galveston where Hurricane Ike came ashore. September 17, 2008. (Photo by Robert Kaufmann courtesy FEMA)

"Lessons learned from Hurricane Ike, which is the third-costliest hurricane on record, should be used by vulnerable communities from Texas to Maine to effectively reduce property damage in all hurricane-exposed areas," said IBHS President and CEO Julie Rochman.

"Simply put," she said, "the study found that many properties are not built high enough to withstand storm surges, tightly enough to prevent water from causing interior damage or strongly enough to prevent damage when high winds strike."

The study questions the current basis for elevating properties along the Gulf Coast and urges the National Flood Insurance Program to provide greater incentives for building above the minimum elevations now in place.

According to Tim Reinhold, IBHS senior vice president of research and chief engineer, most homes in coastal areas are built to or slightly above 100-year base flood elevations.

"All it takes is a breaking wave about two feet above the base of a house to knock out the bottom floor or destroy a frame house," he explained.

"The chances of destruction can be significantly reduced by employing what has been learned about the importance of proper elevation, which can be relatively inexpensive when building a coastal home," he said. "For example, building to a 500-year base flood elevation reduces the chance of storm surge exceeding the base elevation to about 10 percent in a 50-year period."

"Beyond the actual findings," said Rochman, "our report includes a very practical, easy-to-follow retrofit guide for Texans in coastal areas to use. The guide takes into account the current Texas building code requirements and outlines specific retrofit options that homeowners and residents can use to harden their property by doing things such as strengthening their roofs."

More than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast, with more than $9 trillion of insured coastal property vulnerable to hurricanes.

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.