The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed building up 14-foot-high sand dunes as part of a $32 billion plan to protect the Houston and Galveston areas in Texas from hurricane storm surge.
The Corps of Engineers said in a statement that the plan calls for establishing about 44 miles of dunes and floodgates from High Island to San Luis Pass, as well as ecosystem restoration farther south. The proposal is among a series of revisions the Corps made to the coastal barrier alignment that was released last year.
The original plan was to build levees that would run parallel to FM 3005 on Galveston Island and Texas 87 on Bolivar Peninsula but behind the dune line. This reportedly would have left thousands of homes adjacent to the beach exposed to flooding and could have required eminent domain buyouts.
The updated plan and switch to sand dunes has been “mostly embraced” by experts as the most practical and politically expedient next step for storm surge mitigation.
“We’re talking about a dune system that runs along the existing dune line,” Kelly Burks-Copes, the Corps’ project manager, said in the statement. “It’s just one solid, continuous line with beach access still afforded, with drive-overs and walk-overs, in compliance with the Open Beaches Act.”
The dunes could also help alleviate erosion. The Bureau of Economic Geology, which monitors shoreline changes along the Texas coast, estimates that parts of Galveston and Bolivar have lost 5 to 8 feet of shoreline in the last 80 years.