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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Coastal Texas Study?

The Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Feasibility Study, also known as the Coastal Texas Study, involves engineering, economic, and environmental analyses. The Study Team has built on existing storm surge and flood data from the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District (GCCPRD) study. The Study Team is comprised of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Texas General Land Office (GLO) and their engineering, environmental, and public outreach consultants

The purpose of the Coastal Texas Study is to identify Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) and Ecosystem Restoration (ER) measures that would protect the health and safety of Texas coastal communities, reduce the risk of storm damage to industries and businesses critical to the Nation’s economy, and address critical coastal ecosystems in need of restoration.

Since November 2015, USACE and the GLO have been examining the feasibility of constructing projects for coastal storm risk management and ecosystem restoration along the Texas coast. The goal of the Coastal Texas Study is to enhance resiliency in coastal communities and improve capabilities to prepare for, withstand, recover and adapt to coastal hazards.

 

When did the Coastal Texas Study begin?

The Coastal Texas Study’s history began in 2007 with congressional authorization to identify and evaluate a comprehensive plan for the restoration and conservation of wetlands, barrier islands, shorelines, and related lands and features that protect critical resources, habitat, and infrastructure from the impacts of coastal storms, erosion, and subsidence. In 2015, the non-federal sponsor, the GLO, was identified and funding to initiate the study was received. At that time, three other organizations also began studying a comprehensive solution for the upper Texas Coast, specifically the Houston/Galveston Region, including:

  • the Ike Dike Plan from Texas A&M University at Galveston,
  • the Coastal Spine Plan by the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Restoration District (GCCPRD), and
  • the Bay Park Plan from the Severe Storm Prediction Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center at Rice University.

 

 

What has been done to communicate about the Coastal Texas Study?

The Study Team, comprised of USACE and the GLO, made a concerted effort to ensure that determining the scope of the study was inclusive. In addition to engaging the public, an interagency team of Federal, State, local agencies, and Tribal Nations met regularly to discuss study progress and identify issues related to the Coastal Texas Study. This interagency group will continue to meet throughout the future planning and development phases of the study. In addition, the following public outreach efforts have been carried out since 2014:

  • Eight (8) Scoping Meetings in 2014 to announce initiation of the reconnaissance/feasibility studies and to solicit input on storm risk reduction and habitat restoration
  • Issuance of Notice of Intent in 2016 and solicitation of scoping comments from Federal, state, local agencies, Tribal Nations, and other interested organizations
  • Regular updates to the study website; https://coastalstudy.texas.gov
  • Resource agency meetings were held monthly from 2016 to 2018 to provide an opportunity for agency feedback and study progress updates. Additional meetings/workshops were held to discuss specific study topics such as ER screenings, Habitat Evaluation Procedure/Wetland Value Assessment, mitigation, etc.
  • Seven (7) Public Meetings were held in 2018 to provide the public with updated information about the study scope, schedule, and to solicit public comments for consideration on the DIFR-EIS and the proposed Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP)
  • Twenty (20) community-based work group sessions, led by the GLO, in partnership with local leaders
  • Three (3) Public Open Houses in 2019/2020 to update stakeholders on study progress
  • Over sixty (60) presentations and briefing sessions at conferences, professional meetings, and other public or private events

 

 

What is being done now to involve the public in Coastal Texas Study?

Now, the USACE and GLO are hosting a series of six virtual public meetings along the Texas coast to encourage citizens to provide feedback on the Draft Feasibility Report and DEIS and the revised draft proposal presented in the reports.  On March 24, 2020, the Corps issued a memorandum: Interim Army Procedures for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The memorandum established interim Army NEPA procedures in consideration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. These interim NEPA procedures apply to all Army NEPA proponents responsible for NEPA compliance. The memorandum directed the following actions related to public meetings and the NEPA process:

  • NEPA public meetings will be transitioned to virtual meetings, postponed, or cancelled, as deemed appropriate by the Army NEPA proponent.
  • Alternative means of public engagement will be implemented and documented in public participation plans. Virtual meetings may be conducted using online meeting / collaboration tools, teleconference, social media, or email, as appropriate.
  • NEPA public and Federal Register notices will inform the public about these alternative participation procedures and how to obtain NEPA materials on the project web site or through the mail. Public notices will provide a contact phone number, email, website address, and mailing address.
  • Project information, including, but not limited to, scoping materials, draft NEPA documents, and comment forms will be available on project websites. This includes materials normally presented at public meetings.
  • Project information, including, but not limited to, scoping materials, draft NEPA documents, and comment forms will be sent through the mail as either hard copies or as printable compact discs (as requested). Mailed materials will include requested materials normally presented at public meetings and materials on the project website.
  • Army NEPA proponents will ensure cooperating agencies are aware of these NEPA alternative participation procedures.

In response to this memorandum, the Corps determined that the scoping meeting for the proposed Project would be moved to a virtual platform in accordance with the above interim procedures.

 

Is the revised draft proposal going to be the final plan?

The revised draft proposal is not a finalized plan. The Study Team will review and address the input received from the public, resource agencies, and USACE and GLO leadership to produce a final report. It is anticipated that the Final Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement (IFR-EIS) will be published for public, state, and agency review in 2021.

When the Feasibility Report and EIS are complete and finalized, the revised draft proposal, consisting of storm risk management and ecosystem restoration features, will be recommended to Congress for authorization, funding, and construction.

The revised draft proposal identified in the Final report would be built over a period of 12 to 20 years, depending on congressional authorization and partnerships. The project would be maintained after construction by a local sponsor.

 

Who will pay to build the proposed plan features? Will locals pay the price?

Construction cannot begin until a final proposal is approved and fully funded by Congress. A timeline for implementation and funding will be included in the final report. At the earliest, funding is not likely before 2023.  In addition, a non-federal sponsor would be identified at a later stage in the Study (most likely the state or a not yet identified local entity) and would be responsible for 35 percent of the construction costs. Federal funding would be responsible for 65 percent of the construction cost.

 

How will the proposed storm surge barrier at Bolivar Roads be maintained and how much will it cost to maintain?

Operations and maintenance are the non-federal sponsors responsibility, meaning the state or a not yet identified local entity will be responsible for operations and maintenance costs. The Texas Legislature will determine who will be the non-federal sponsor for operations and maintenance of the proposed structures. Maintenance and operations costs for the proposed surge gates at Bolivar Roads will be determined at a later stage of the study during Preliminary Engineering and Design (PED).

 

Why are fortified dunes not included in the current proposal?

Fortified dunes, which would include a clay or concrete solid core, or center, covered by sand, may negatively impact the surrounding environment by disrupting existing sea turtle habitats, among other species. The proposed beach and dune system provides similar risk reduction levels to that of fortified dunes while at the same time maximizing ecosystem restoration benefits. The Coastal Texas Study will continue to evaluate other alternatives at a later stage of the study during Preliminary Engineering and Design (PED).

 

Why is Galveston the only area with a storm surge barrier proposal?

In short, the study has shown that Galveston would benefit the most from the implementation of a storm surge barrier, while providing the least environmental impacts. Under the proposed design, the risk reduction benefits generated by a storm surge barrier far outweigh the cost and environmental impacts. Higher elevations along the lower Texas coast result in a lower risk of storm surge than that of the Galveston area and upper Texas coast.

 

Will neighborhoods have a say in the type of beach access available?

The proposed beach and dune systems will attempt to maintain the same level of both pedestrian and vehicular beach access currently allowed by incorporating walk and drive over infrastructure at locations designated in each local government’s Beach Access and Dune Protection Plan. Beach access would be in compliance with the Texas Open Beaches Act and any federal access requirements.

 

Will the proposed beach and dune systems change individual insurance costs?

Anticipated changes to individual insurance rates as a result of constructing the proposed beach and dune systems will be determined by the National Flood Insurance Program at a later stage of the study.

 

Why do the storm surge models not include heavy rain?

Flooding from rainfall is not the focus of the Coastal Texas Study. The primary focus of the Study is to reduce the risk of damage created by storm surge, including damage to homes, our jobs, and businesses critical to our state and nation’s economy, as well as, restore our beaches and protect our coastal wildlife. The storms that were selected for modeling were the most destructive scenarios for storm surge and wave conditions.

 

Will private properties effected by a “combi-wall” be eligible for buyout or compensation?

Property buyouts and/or compensation will be determined at a later stage of the study during Preliminary Engineering and Design (PED). The non-federal sponsor will have the responsibility of acquiring all necessary real estate interests for the project and ensuring that relocation of utilities and facilities is accomplished. Where absolutely necessary, voluntary relocations and acquisitions will be pursued, and eminent domain would only be imposed by a local sponsor as a last resort. The General Land Office currently does not have eminent domain authority.

 

How does this study address bay surge?

The proposed storm surge barrier at Bolivar Roads will significantly reduce the surge that moves into Galveston Bay from the Gulf of Mexico as a result of a storm; however, Galveston Bay is relatively large, so water surfaces in Galveston Bay can still rise from hurricane force wind conditions even with the proposed storm surge barrier closed. To address surge that builds within Galveston Bay, non-structural measures (elevating, flood proofing, or buying out structures that are vulnerable to storm surge and flooding), additional storm surge barriers at Clear Creek and Dickinson Bayou, and the ring barrier on Galveston Island are proposed for further risk reduction.

 

How much will the revised draft proposal cost?

The total construction cost for the revised draft proposal is approximately $26 billion.

 

When will construction begin and end?

This plan requires authorization from Congress and appropriation of construction funds.  Efficient completion is dependent a continuous funding stream of construction funds. For planning purposes for the draft report, the team assumed that construction would begin in 2025 and be completed by 2043 for the storm risk features and the ecosystem restoration features.  The final report will investigate detailed implementation plan & funding stream.

 

Will eminent domain be used?  What areas would Eminent Domain need to be enforced?

This is still being determined.  Impacts to homes and businesses will be avoided and minimized as much as possible during refinement and optimization of the alignments.

The non-federal sponsor will have the responsibility of acquiring all necessary real estate interests for the project and ensuring that relocation of utilities and facilities is accomplished. Where necessary, voluntary relocations and acquisitions will be pursued, and eminent domain would only be imposed by a local sponsor as a last resort.

Condemnation authority is a necessary prerequisite for serving as a non-federal sponsor. GLO does not have condemnation authorization.  Another entity will need to be involved (Legislature will need to create/designate an entity that has condemnation authority or change GLO’s abilities).

 

Will we still have to evacuate?

Evacuation is a critical component of risk reduction along the Texas Coast.  The system of risk reduction features is intended to increase resiliency, which is the ability to prepare for, withstand, recover and adapt to coastal risk.  The successful performance of levees and barriers will mean that residents can return sooner, have a functional home to return to, and that industries are offline for shorter durations.  This means that, although evacuation is required to reduce risk of loss of life, the return to normal operations is swifter when damage to the study area is reduced. 

 

What does the Bolivar Roads Gate System do to water quality?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) conducted quantitative analyses using 3D Adaptive Hydraulics (AdH) model to simulate hydrodynamics, salinity, and sediment transport to understand potential environmental impacts. This modeling characterized the changes to the Galveston Bay System with the storm surge gates across Bolivar Roads in the open condition (which represents the non-storm condition or “everyday” operations of the gate structures) to compare to the without barrier condition (present). All modeling was conducted using a tentative gate configuration across Bolivar inlet that would reduce the flow conveyance by less than ten percent. This would change the height of tides as Gulf water inflow is somewhat restricted by the structure, and freshwater exit from the bay to the Gulf is similarly affected. The modeling so far indicates that the height of tides in the bay would not be at levels that endanger fish and oyster populations.

 

Will the Bolivar Roads Gate System restrict flow of water?

Yes, as the opening to the Bolivar Roads pass is constricted by the structures of the gate system there will be a restriction to the flow of water.  The greater the constriction (the more area the structure takes up) the greater the change in flow.  However, modeling conducted using a tentative gate configuration across Bolivar inlet showed a reduced flow conveyance of roughly 8.4 percent. This is reduced from the 27.5 percent constriction which was considered in the Tentatively Selected Plan.

 

How would the project impact the flow/salinity in Galveston Bay?

Based on AdH modeling, or modeling of the water, limited impacts to salinity and velocity should be expected from the project. Most of the with and without project salinities were close to identical near Bolivar Roads Gate System but begin to diverge further into the system at the Mid Bay Marsh and Morgan’s Point stations.

 

What does the Bolivar Roads Gate System mean for fish passage and larval transport?

Since larval transport depends on flow in and out of the bay, potential impacts were evaluated with particle track modeling and ADCIRC results. Representative species were modeled as particles in the with and without project condition to assess whether significant reductions in larval movement resulted. The results showed no significant difference in larval transport between the with and without project conditions. Additional modeling will be conducted in PED once refinements are made to the gate design.

The USACE is consulting with resource agencies to determine how to assess larval transport impacts in the next phase of modeling.  It is anticipated that gate design can set target standards to avoid or minimize impacts.

 

Is it true fewer fish, shrimp, crabs would be restricted from moving into Galveston Bay?

The constriction caused by the structures in the Bolivar Roads pass may restrict movement of some species of fish or shellfish; however, there are environmental gates located in shallow water that will remain open, helping to reduce any impacts to the movement of aquatic species.  As we refine the design, we will minimize any impacts to aquatic species movement as much as possible.

 

When will the Bolivar Roads Gate System be operated?

The operation procedure has not been determined yet.  It is assumed that the barrier would be closed at low tide in advance of a storm to maximize the capacity of rainwater storage in the bay. 

The barrier would not be closed for purposes other than risk reduction from a storm or maintenance (which would be a minimal closure time).

 

How long will the components last and what is repair, maintenance budget?

Operations, Maintenance, Repair, Rehabilitation & Replacement (OMRR&R) needs are scoped and estimated for each component in the revised draft proposal, and the costs are included in the project cost estimate.  The State of Texas or a designated local non-federal sponsor are responsible for operations and maintenance in accordance with the O&M manual after construction of the plan is complete.

The most significant OMRR&R is associated with the Coastal Barrier CSRM “Galveston Bay Storm Surge Barrier System”. OMRR&R associated with South Padre Island is minimal and the ecosystem Restoration plan is limited to Adaptive Management and Monitoring activities.

The cost estimates for maintenance of the Coastal Barrier plan was based on existing expenditures for normal OMRR&R of similar features around the Nation and historical information for gates of similar magnitude provided by the Rijkswaterstaat, Netherlands.  The total estimated annual OMRR&R cost is $131 million on an average annual basis (FY20 Price Level, 2.75% Discount Rate).

The main features of work identified based on the cost estimates were levee, floodwall, pump station, drainage structure, surge barrier gates, and the 1,200-foot sector gate complex.

  • Levee maintenance items included yearly mowing of levees, semi-annual visual inspection of the levees; periodic establishment of turf, and maintenance of access roads to and on levees.
  • Floodwall maintenance items included semiannual visual inspection for settlement, cracking, or breaking to an extent, which might affect the stability of the wall or its water tightness; crack repairs; other maintenance as needed.
  • Pump stations maintenance items included monthly startup of backup generators/systems, periodic inspections, pump replacement, and machinery replacement.
  • Drainage structures maintenance items included gate adjustments, gate rehab, clean-out of outfalls/trash tasks, and gate replacement.
  • Navigation and vertical gate maintenance items included monthly startup of backup generators/ systems, yearly closure of gates pre-hurricane season, dive inspection, gate adjustments/greasing, gate rehab, and gate replacement.

 

Which parts will be constructed first?

Construction will be phased to capture cost savings through combining efforts, such as marsh restoration when sediment is available, and prioritizing those components that provide greatest risk reduction earliest, and as available funding is available from the Federal and the non-Federal Sponsors’ budget.

Phased construction of CSRM and ER measures over project life will consider multiple factors:

  • Environmental compliance/clearance
  • Sponsor readiness
  • Most productive “bang for the buck,” e.g., gate (CSRM) or measure W-3 (ER)
  • Synergies
    • Efficiencies in dredging program
    • Complement existing features
    • Combinations to capture mobilization cost savings, e.g., CA-5 and CA-6
  • Air Quality Impacts – timing of construction in regions not within compliance
  • Prioritize implementation to complement actions of others in proximity

 

Will you build portions as funds are available and never finish if funding dries up?

The implementation plan assumes uninterrupted funding flow.  The allocation of funding may impact the construction schedule, and the implementation plan will be developed to capture cost savings through combining efforts, such as marsh restoration when sediment is available, and prioritize those components that provide greatest risk reduction earliest, and as funding is available from the Federal and the non-Federal Sponsors’ budget.

 

Will there be induced damages and what remedy will we have?

We have a responsibility to mitigate for all induced damages, both natural environmental & the human environment Structures that reduce risk by altering the flow of water can impact the flow and elevation of water in other areas.  Small increases in water surface elevations may result from construction of the coastal barrier and levee.  Additional ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) modeling will be performed in the future phases to determine whether or not there will be induced flooding and to precisely estimate its magnitude.

 

Why should we pay for a system to protect industrial interests?

The proposed barrier, levee and supporting elements reduce risk to a larger community than the concentration of industrial facilities in Houston.  Surrounding areas are filled with residences that house employees of the industries, railways and port facilities that serve Houston, Galveston and the nation.  Comprehensive risk reduction in the region requires a combined effort of federal, state, and private agencies increasing the area’s ability to prepare for, withstand, respond and adapt to coastal risk.  Industries in the Houston area will contribute to risk reduction through investments in their own facilities that contribute to the success of the larger features.

 

Why bother spending so much but leave San Luis Pass open?

The anticipated risk reduction benefits for protective features at San Luis Pass do not outweigh the potential negative environmental impacts of closing off the last remaining natural pass along the Texas coast. Many of the structures and assets that would be protected as a result of the closure are already elevated above surge heights or are at a ground elevation that limits surge impact. There is also limited surge risk when factoring in the full probability of potential storm directions. The pass and the adjoining West Bay are very shallow and constitute only to 10 to 12 percent of the water exchange between West Bay and the larger area of Galveston Bay. This condition minimizes the risk of surge being transmitted to the large area of Galveston Bay where there is a greater number of structures and assets at risk from storm surge.

 

Won’t the proposed Galveston Ring Barrier create a “bathtub effect” in Galveston city proper, trapping water within the barrier on the island and creating a severe flooding threat?

Any features proposed by the study are not permitted to worsen any existing conditions (i.e. the risk of flooding from a rain event cannot be increased with the implementation of the proposed ring barrier). Pump stations would be implemented to expedite the release of water back into Galveston Bay and the Study Team is working with the City of Galveston to determine potential solutions for the City’s drainage system.

 

How would simply building a wall or barrier going to help protect the Texas coast?

The Coastal Texas Study utilizes a “multiple lines of defense” approach/strategy that includes a combination of other structural and non-structural measures, as well as natural and nature-based features to form resilient, redundant, robust, and adaptable strategies that promote life safety. The specific measures proposed through the Study will be based on local site conditions and societal values.

 

Why not incorporate managed retreat?

Managed retreat is often proposed as a practical alternative to constructing large, expensive features to manage such large, natural risks which will worsen over time due to the frequency of storms and sea level rise. Managed retreat is a useful comparison for economic comparisons and identifying adaptations and triggers for action into the future. Abandonment of at-risk resources will occur in the study area, but only after all potential uses are exhausted to avoid economic losses of abandonment.  Retreat is a portion of the non-structural considerations and further evaluation of the costs and timeline of retreat will be considered further to influence decisions about project adaptations.

 

How will the Ecosystem Restoration features provide any benefit?

The objective of ecosystem restoration is to restore degraded ecosystem structure, function, and dynamic processes to a more sustainable condition. Restoration of marsh, islands, beaches and hydrologic connectivity will preserve and or increase habitat for both commercially and recreationally important species.

Aside from providing habitat, natural features on the coast provide “lines of defense” against storm damage caused by hurricanes and tropical storms coming ashore from the Gulf.  The series of barriers include the barrier islands, the living shorelines, and finally coastal marshes that can reduce the physical impacts of storm surges and winds which enter the bays. The open areas interrupt wave energy that can move water further inland, provide some capacity for storm surge.

Many of the ER measures have secondary benefits of providing risk reduction to infrastructure, such as the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) by reducing the amount of wave energy the vessels will be exposed to while reducing erosion along the shorelines and restoring habitats.

 

What will this mean for Flood Insurance for my home?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA is the federal agency responsible for administering the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). As part of the NFIP, FEMA develops Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) to identify areas that may be subject to flooding, for both determining flood insurance rates and flood plain management activities. Floodplain maps have been published by FEMA since the beginning of the NFIP. Starting in 2003, FEMA embarked on a nationwide program called the Flood Map Modernization (Map Mod) Program. Through Phase 1 of the Map Mod Program, FEMA provided digital flood hazard data and maps known as Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs), which are more reliable, easy to use, and readily available than the previous hardcopy FIRMs for 92% of the population (65% of the continental US land area). As part of this process, FEMA worked with federal, state, and local agencies to ensure that the most up-to-date information possible is incorporated into this new digital product.

As FEMA cannot yet factor the proposed project into its FIRMs, it cannot be said how the proposed project will impact flood insurance for individual properties. However, we encourage everyone to always keep flood insurance for their properties.

 

How can I make Public Comments?

The USACE will accept public comments on the report for a 45-day period starting on Friday, October 30, 2020, and continuing through Monday, December 14, 2020. You may provide comments during any of the upcoming virtual public meetings, or you may submit comments by mail, email, or on the project website. Written comments on the report must be postmarked by Monday, December 14, 2020. You may send written comments or questions to the USACE, Galveston District, Attn: Mr. Jeff Pinsky, Environmental Compliance Branch, Regional Planning and Environmental Center, P.O. Box 1229, Galveston, TX 77553-1229, or you may email comments to: CoastalTexas@usace.army.mil.