By Mary Alys Cherry
After eight long years of trying to get help with the proposed Coastal Barrier System to protect the Galveston Bay area from storm surge, we are finally getting some national attention.
Just last month help came from Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who sent a letter to President Trump that was signed by 60 Bay Area mayors, city officials, state legislators and business leaders, asking for financial help with the $15 billion project.
Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell and UTMB officials Dr. Bill Merrill and Col. Len Waterworth and many others who have worked to make the project possible were delighted to learn that CNN TV news channel made note of the Bush request and also was running a four-part series on the proposal and how badly it is needed.
The series suggests that the president forget that border wall and instead protect the millions of American lives and businesses along the Texas coast with a hurricane wall.
“Texas lawmakers are asking President Donald Trump to help them build a wall — no, not that wall. Instead of a border wall built to keep immigrants from crossing into the state illegally, this wall would protect the critically important cities of Houston and Galveston from the devastating storm surge of a powerful hurricane,” the CNN series begins.
Using points made in Bush’s letter about how critically important the Houston and Galveston Bay areas are to our national infrastructure, “with 428 million tons of cargo flowing through the region annually,” CNN also explains that the Port of Houston is the second busiest port in the United States.
“The region is also a critical hub for the nation’s petrochemical resources. The nation’s largest Strategic Petroleum Reserve is in Freeport — which is responsible for over half the country’s jet fuel and the No. 1 energy supplier to the U.S. Military — which makes protecting it ‘crucial to national security,’” Bush said in the letter.
“The Houston and Galveston Bay area produces more than 3 million direct and indirect jobs nationwide, yet remains largely unprotected from storm surge nearly a decade after Hurricane Ike devastated the upper coast of Texas, killing 74 people and causing $29.5 billion in damages,” he continued.
“The deadly storm was the third most devastating hurricane in U.S. history, which missed the Port of Houston; however, a direct hit from the hurricane would have resulted in more than $100 billion in damages. The coastal barrier system proposed would be built to a 100-year event standard, and modeling has concluded that it would have prevented 87 percent of the damages incurred by Hurricane Ike.
The Houston/Galveston area is home to the largest and most important concentration of petroleum refining and petrochemical processing plants in the United States, which often find their properties storm victims, as the region is hit by a major hurricane about every 15 years.
Hurricane Ike caused approximately $35 billion in damages, loss of life and considerable damage to the natural environment, yet it was not nearly as destructive as future hurricanes could be.
Houston is the global leader in three important industries – energy, life sciences and aerospace. Other points for the president to ponder:
Houston is home to the world famous Texas Medical Center and NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
The city is home to 24 Fortune 500 corporate headquarters.
The Houston-Galveston region encompasses the nation’s largest petrochemical complex, which supplies 40 percent of American’s specialty chemical products.
The Houston region provides 27 percent of America’s gasoline supply, 60 percent of its jet fuel and 80 percent of the Department of Defense military fuel runs through the port.
By air or sea, Houston offers vital distribution channels and connects America to the world’s marketplace.
The Galveston Bay estuary is a sanctuary for wildlife and fishing enthusiasts and produces more seafood than any bay in the nation, except Chesapeake Bay.
Commissioner Bush’s letter seeking presidential help for the proposed coastal barrier system was co-signed by 60 Texas leaders including members of the Texas Legislature, 21 coastal mayors, six county judges and more than two dozen members of the business and education communities.
“Building the proposed coastal barrier system is a historic opportunity to safeguard our nation’s economy, our national security and millions of citizens’ lives and livelihood,” Bush wrote.
Joining him in co-signing his letter were:
Dr. William J. Merrell, Texas A&M Galveston, Ike Dike Founder
Bob Mitchell, President, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership
Robert Eckels, President, Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District
Dr. Samuel D. Brody, Director, Center for Texas Beaches and Shores
Bob Harvey, President & CEO, Greater Houston Partnership
Vicki Fullerton, Chairman of the Board, Texas Association of Realtors
Hector Rivero, President & CEO, Texas Chemical Council
Scott Joslove, President & CEO, Texas Hotel & Lodging Association
Todd Staples, President, Texas Oil and Gas Association
Earl Shipp, Vice President of Gulf Coast Operations, Dow Chemical
James F. Thompson, Chief Executive, Global Programs, AECOM
James D. Dannenbaum, President & CEO, Dannenbaum Engineering
William L. Raba, President, Raba Kistner
David C. Fisher, Director & CEO, Port of Beaumont
Floyd Gaspard, Port Director, Port of Port Arthur
L.M. “Matt” Sebesta Jr., County Judge, Brazoria County
Jimmy Sylvia, County Judge, Chambers County
Mark Henry, County Judge, Galveston County
Ed Emmett, County Judge, Harris County
Jeff Branick, County Judge, Jefferson County
Stephen Brint Carlton, County Judge, Orange County
Sylvia Garcia, State Senator, District 6
Larry Taylor, State Senator, District 11
Dr. Greg Bonnen, State Representative, District 24
John P. Cyrier, State Representative, District 17
Joe Deshotel, State Representative, District 22
Wayne Faircloth, State Representative, District 23
Dennis Paul, State Representative, District 129
Dade Phelan, State Representative, District 21
Theresa Rodriguez, President, Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership
Mike Shields, Executive Director, Baytown / West Chambers County Economic Development Foundation
Cindy H. DeWease, President & CEO, Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce
Craig S. Beskid, Executive Director, East Harris County Manufacturers Association
David S. Murphy, Chairman, Galveston County Economic Development Alliance
Bobby Hocking, President, Galveston County Mayor and Council Members Association
Jeff Sjostrom, President, Galveston Economic Development Partnership
Joyce Calver McLean, Chairman Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees
Gina M. Spagnola, President and CEO, Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce
Colleen Hicks, President, La Porte-Bayshore Chamber of Commerce
Cheryl Sanders, Mayor, Anahuac
Stephen DonCarlos, Mayor, Baytown
Billy Combs, Mayor, Beach City
Jerry Mouton, Mayor, Deer Park
Julie Masters, Mayor, Dickinson
Robert White, Mayor, El Lago
Kevin M. Holland, Mayor, Friendswood
James D. Yarbrough, Mayor, Galveston
Sylvester Turner, Mayor, Houston
Carl Joiner, Mayor, Kemah
Bobby Hocking, Mayor, La Marque
Louis R. Rigby, Mayor, La Porte
Pat Hallisey, Mayor, League City
Nick Dixon, Mayor, Mont Belvieu
Michel J. Bechtel, Mayor, Morgan’s Point
Mark Denman, Mayor, Nassau Bay
Johnny Isbell, Mayor, Pasadena
Jeff Tambrella, Mayor, Santa Fe
Glenn Royal, Mayor, Seabrook
Jon Keeney, Mayor, Taylor Lake Village
Donna Rogers, Mayor, Webster
Greg Smith, Ph.D., Superintendent, Clear Creek School District
Lloyd W. Graham, Superintendent, La Porte School District