Time has come to get serious about protecting our region and the nation

BAHEP President Bob Mitchell, at the podium, prepares to roll-out dynamic new storm surge protection video during a media event held Sept. 12 at Houston City Hall. Shown, from left are: Houston City Council Members Karla Cisneros, Dave Martin, David Robinson, Jack Christie, standing behind Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Mayor Pro-Tem Ellen R. Cohen. Next to Cohen are State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, State Rep. Dennis Paul, and Stephen C. Costello, City of Houston chief resilience officer and “flood czar.”

By Kathryn Paradis

Victor Hugo, a French writer famous for penning Les Misérables, among many other works, wrote, “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” Following the massive destruction of Hurricane Harvey, roughly estimated to have caused $150 billion in damages, it appears that the time has finally come to take storm surge protection for the upper Texas Gulf coast under serious consideration.

On Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, less than 24 hours shy of the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Ike, the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and the City of Houston rolled out the second in a series of videos produced to promote the critical need for a coastal spine system, an “Ike Dike” if you will, to protect the people, homes, businesses, industries and economies of the region, state, and nation.

The film, Unprepared – A Nation at Risk, produced by Space City Films and funded by the Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance, takes a hard look at the consequences of Houston suffering a direct hit from a major hurricane.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, surrounded by members of city council and other stakeholders, led the media event by stating, “I don’t think there is a better time to have this conversation than right now. As we work diligently to get back on track after the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, we are also keeping our eyes on the vital need for strong surge protection in our region.”

“It is very difficult,” he emphasized, “to have a conversation about rebuilding if we don’t have a serious conversation about mitigation … It needs to be a part of the rebuilding process.”

San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer says hello to Col. Len Waterworth, Texas A&M Galveston executive professor.

The mayor continued, “I think that Hurricane Harvey was a warning sign that we need to start talking, and, quite frankly, we need to start designing and building. There is no reason that in the package before Congress that they are considering that the coastal spine should not be fully funded.”

Mayor Turner then invited BAHEP President Bob Mitchell to address the media and others in the overflow crowd in the Legacy Room at Houston City Hall. BAHEP, in partnership with Texas A&M University at Galveston among many others, has been working since 2009 to gain support for a coastal spine system.

“We’ve actually been able to accomplish more in the last 10 months than we have in the previous seven years,” Mitchell told the crowd, pointing out that the accomplishments would not have been possible without the assistance of many people, notably Dr. Bill Merrell of Texas A&M Galveston, the “father” of the coastal spine concept. “Without his foresight and creativity, there is no way that we would be standing here today,” Mitchell said.

He invited everyone to watch the video, which spoke of Texas storms and their consequences, featured interviews with hurricane experts and elected officials, and outlined the potential financial impact on the nation of such storms and the aftermath of a major storm surge barreling up the Houston Ship Channel. The dynamic video can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/v_Ez1Xvkjqo.

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