HOUSTON -- (Nov. 14, 2011) -- To protect Houston and Galveston from future hurricanes, a Rice University-led team of experts recommends building a floodgate across the Houston Ship Channel adding new levees to protect densely populated areas on Galveston Island and the developed west side of Galveston Bay. The team also recommends creating a 130-mile-long coastal recreation area to sustainably use wetlands that act as a natural flood barrier.
The recommendations appear in a new report this month from Rice University's Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center. The report follows more than two years of research into lessons learned from Hurricane Ike, which made landfall at Galveston Island in September 2008. Ike caused 112 U.S. deaths and is the third-costliest storm in U.S. history, with damages estimated at $30 billion.
"Ike was a Category 2 storm, and Houston and Galveston stand to suffer greater losses from stronger storms, particularly if they hit south of Galveston Bay," said Phil Bedient, director of the SSPEED Center and Rice's Herman Brown Professor of Engineering. "As we studied this, we also met with leaders from industry and government to determine the most realistic and feasible way to protect lives and property from the next big storm."
Bedient said the study determined that storm-surge flooding could threaten thousands of lives in heavily populated West Galveston Bay communities like Clear Lake and Dickinson. The study also found that refineries and other industry along the Houston Ship Channel was vulnerable to storm surge greater than 15 feet.
SSPEED's study began with a 2009 grant from Houston Endowment to investigate how the region had responded to and been impacted by Ike. The endowment also asked for a set of recommendations about how to protect the region from the most devastating effects of future storms.
"In developing our recommendations, we were foc
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