Should Galveston Be Rebuilt?

SHOULD GALVESTON BE REBUILT? “The city and its environs rest on barrier islands, which are made of sand, low-lying and prone to significant geological shifts. In Galveston’s case, even before Ike’s landfall, the island was both sinking slowly and becoming sharply eroded along its west end. Moreover, a couple of years ago, the city itself commissioned University of Texas geologist Jim Gibeaut to create a geohazards map for the island, that is, where should development not occur? The research study found that nearly all the development along the beach front west of the seawall, which protects the core of the island, is in ‘red’ or ‘yellow’ zones, where Gibeaut says development should not occur.” [SciGuy]

7 Comment

  • The city did great for 100 year after the seawall was built. That’s pretty damn good record. The same concept of the island sinking applies to all of the coastal counties of Texas. It’s a natural phenomenon. Same arguments can be made for Corpus Christi. We either live with it and fight it or let it consume us.

    Galveston will stay.

  • Just becuase it applies to all the other coastal counties too doesn’t make it right. We shouldn’t be building on land that is going to be consumed by the ocean and we shouldn’t try to stop it. Galveston will not go away but there are areas that shouldn’t be re-built.

  • How does that make sense? Save one but not all. Allow some but not others. Who decides this?

    If the logic is not to build in a place because the nature makes it difficult, then much pretty much everywhere is off limits.

    You can’t live in central Texas without large reservoirs because of droughts. Northern Texas and much of central US is off limits because of high tornado activity. Near and river or stream is off limits because of potential flooding. The west coast state become off limits because of seismic activity, fires, mudslides. etc.

    As long as the risk is assessed and benefits of outweigh it, it’s fine to live in these areas. The primary reason for reconstruction of any devastated area is due to it’s benefit. The total destruction throughout our region from IKE will cost a couple of billion dollars to fix, but that cost is next to nothing to what our area contributes to State and Country. Fixing it becomes a long term investment.

    As much as I don’t agree with massive spending for recovery or subsidizing (flood insurance for example)the living in high hazard areas on the surface, once you realize the what is gained from the risk the cost becomes minimal.

  • This whole “we shouldn’t rebuild because there was a Hurricane” argument has always seemed to be a bit misguided to me. A storm of this magnitude happens maybe a handful of times a century. Sure the damages for each occurrence are astronomical but averaged over time the costs per annum are not. Now look at some other places people live and consider the per annum costs. Vast areas of the North require expensive snow clearing, road treatment and fuel bills every year to enable people to live with the cold. Most of the Midwest lives with the fear of either Tornadoes, river flooding or both. Huge chunks of the West are reliant on very expensive water management in order to remain habitable. There is no safe, cheap place to live in terms of battling nature. Hurricanes just draw attention to our part of the nation because of the massive cost of each infrequent occurrence.

  • Hurricanes are not infrequent. With climate change, we are likely to see a greater number of intense storms. Ike was just Cat 2.

    Also, not rebuilding parts of the West End is very different than giving up on Galveston and coastal communities. Likewise, people in the Midwest need to respond to flood devastation and rethink where to develop, and how. Same for the West with water scarcity, fire, and earthquakes. Designing our entire nation in opposition to nature isn’t right on so many levels.

  • We should never run from the nature or environment. The planet will cool and warm regardless of our activities and with each cycle it’ll bring it’s own challenges to survival.

    Warming solar cycles on earth are the best and easiest of times for human survival. We haven’t even approached the global temperatures experienced during the peak of the Vikings and Medieval periods.

    Cooling solar cycles on earth (which we are trending towards the next 10-20 years)are the toughest times for human survival with potential food supply shortages and vast animal populations dying.

    Deciding whether to develop the west end of a barrier island is a trivial. Yes, there will be some high winds, storm surges and typical beach erosion. Living in fear that the climate is changing in either direction should be seen as a challenge and not as something to fear.

  • The east end of Galveston is protected by a sea wall on the south side. The sea wall may not be high enough to protect the island against a major weather event. Ike was large but only a category 2 storm and there was some overtopping. Only modern storm surge models will tell us what the worst-case scenario is. And then there is the rising sea level. So we can assume that a higher sea wall is required. However, the east end of the island is not protected against tidal surge from the Galveston Bay side. This is what flooded Galveston during Ike. Even if an enormous Ike Dike is built, a levee on the north side is needed to protect the east end of the island. The west end of the island is subject to severe erosion. It is only thinly populated and with few permanent residents. If an Ike Dike is built here it will either leave beach houses stranded or cut off from the beach. Attempting to protect these weekend homes would be futile and self-defeating.

    The east end of Galveston is rightly revered as an architectural and civic jewel and historic center of Texas culture. It can and should be protected from severe weather events. Those protections that are built should be designed to enhance the island, as the sea wall was. They should be more than adequate to protect the city but they should not be designed in purely engineering terms. Any sea walls or levees must be better engineered than the sea walls and levees in New Orleans.

    Areas that are on the lowest lying coastal areas should not be built on, or if built on they should be built on at the owner’s risk. They should not be insured at everyone else’s expense. Owners should be required to pay into a clean-up fund for the inevitable day when they will be destroyed and the clean-up costs pile up as high as the mountains of debris in inland areas.

    Fortunately, the most vulnerable areas are still largely unoccupied. These wetlands and coastal marsh, should be protected and used for recreation and as a biological reserve and resource for the nation. The recent devastation of the Louisiana coastline reminds us of just how vital these lands are to the general welfare. Louisiana’s wetlands may be doomed but ours don’t have to be. These lands should be collected into a national recreation area that will support existing communities and prevent reckless development.