Ike Dike

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Location of proposed construction

The Ike Dike is a proposed coastal barrier that, when completed, would protect the Galveston Bay in Texas, United States. The project would be a dramatic enhancement of the existing Galveston Seawall, complete with floodgates, which would protect more of Galveston, the Bolivar Peninsula, the Galveston Bay Area, and Houston. The barrier would extend across Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula and would provide a barrier against all Gulf surges into the bay.[1] The project is primarily the suggestion of Dr. Bill Merrell of Texas A&M University at Galveston.[2] The Ike Dike would be able to withstand ~10,000 year storms.[3]

The proposal is, as the name suggests, motivated by the damage caused by Hurricane Ike in 2008 (as well as the disastrous 1900 Galveston Hurricane).[1][4] Storm surges from Hurricane Ike caused severe damage to Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula and caused significant damage to other areas around the bay. Fortunately the damage to critical industries was minimal and most heavy industry returned to normal quickly. Still, Ike was not nearly as destructive as meteorologists predict a future hurricane will eventually be.

Proponents argue that there is a national security concern that must be addressed.[1] The Houston area (particularly the Bay Area) is home to the largest and most important concentration of petroleum refining and petrochemical processing plants in the United States, and most of these plants are on the coast or on the ship channel. Additionally the Port of Houston is the second-busiest port in the nation. The economic damage to the United States, not to mention Texas, in the event of a catastrophic impact on the coast would be nationally serious. Indeed, some researchers have argued that had Ike tracked a few miles further southwest it could have sidelined 40% of U.S. jet-fuel production, not to mention serious setbacks to the production of gasoline and other chemicals[5]

Map of Galveston Bay; Galveston Island is at center with Bolivar Peninsula to its northeast.

Opponents of the project worry that it is simply too expensive (some estimates place the cost between $3 billion and $4 billion) and its efficacy is not established.[6][7]

The project is still only a concept under study. In 2010 the Texas Governor publicly expressed support for the idea.[1] The Governor’s Commission on Disaster Recovery and Renewal recommended that a 6-county (Harris, Galveston, Chambers, Brazoria, Orange and Jefferson) public corporation be established to examine regional approaches to storm surge suppression. That corporation, the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District, Inc., was established on April 20, 2010. Galveston County Judge Jim Yarborough was elected chair of the board of directors and Robert Eckels, former county judge of Harris County, was elected President. Dannenbaum Engineering was appointed as the engineering consultant. Despite this, though, the declining economy in 2010 stifled efforts to secure funding and the project remains stalled.[8] By the end of 2012 momentum toward building the structure had waned significantly, in large part due to Hurricane Sandy, which seriously damaged the U.S. Northeast and attracted attention away from the Gulf Coast.[9] Nevertheless, in 2013 Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, a local community organization, began efforts to raise funds for a comprehensive study that could convince the U.S. Congress to fund the project.[5] In addition, throughout 2013 researchers at Delft University of Technology worked out several flood defense concepts for closing off the Bolivar Roads Inlet. On Monday August 4, 2014 Texas legislators lamented a disagreement on how to protect the Houston region against storm surge and urged that a plan be brought to the Legislature as soon as possible.

The project manager named by Dannenbaum Engineering to study the Ike Dike and alternatives, Christopher W. Sallese, is a retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineer colonel. He was the district engineer and commanding officer of the Galveston District. Sallese is named as one of several defendants in an April 19, 2013 federal lawsuit filed in United States District Court, Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division, as Civil Action No. 3:13-CV-00126.[10] This lawsuit is significant because the East Galveston Bay complex and neighboring counties would be changed greatly if the dike was constructed. Property owners and the economic base of the area would face tremendous changes. In addition, the Rollover Pass area is a federally protected critical habitat for endangered species[11] and is a key point for marine species migration.

The project was still under discussion in 2017 although the Sierra Club and other environmentalists were warning about the risk to marine life in the area.[12] Several groups were proving their own recommendations on the technical aspects and design of the storm-surge protection system.


  1. ^ a b c d Casselman, WSJ (4 June 2009)
  2. ^ "Center for Texas Beaches and Shores". 
  3. ^ "Ike Dike". 
  4. ^ Merrell, Texas A&M-Galveston
  5. ^ a b Rice, Harvey (30 May 2013). "What will protect us from the next surge?". The Houston Chronicle. 
  6. ^ Triarsi, KHOU (15 Jan 2009)
  7. ^ Meyers, GCDN (14 Jan 2009)
  8. ^ Cherry, Mary Alys (25 May 2011). "No money available for Ike Dike". Your Houston News. 
  9. ^ Berger, Eric (4 Nov 2012). "Ike Dike may be among Sandy's casualties". Houston Chronicle. 
  10. ^ Rollover Pass Litigation, http://www.guidrynews.com/story.aspx?id=1000051471 Guidry News Service
  11. ^ Office of the Federal Register https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2001/07/10/01-16905/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-final-determination-of-critical-habitat-for-wintering Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Determination of Critical Habitat for Wintering Piping Plovers
  12. ^ http://www.houstonchronicle.com/neighborhood/bayarea/news/article/Environmentalists-skeptical-of-Ike-Dike-10835021.php