City, province and port support study Galveston Bay Park | Rice News | News and Media Relations

HOUSTON – (June 22, 2022) – Houston, Harris County, Port Houston and a local entrepreneur collaborated on an engineering study of Galveston Bay Park, a chain of man-made islands that Rice University experts have proposed to build as both a hurricane barrier and a 10,000-acre public park.

Computer model-generated maps predicting storm surges at sites in and around Galveston Bay from a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 132 mph making landfall at San Luis Pass on the south side of Galveston Island. The same storm is depicted without the protection of the Galveston Bay Park coastal ridge or storm barriers (left) and with the protection of both barriers (right). Colors indicating the flood depth are equivalent, but the flood depth figures are in feet on the left and in meters on the right. (Image courtesy of SSPEED Center/Rice University)

Rice’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center proposed the storm barrier in the bay in 2015, and the idea was fully realized in an award-winning design by architecture firm Rogers Partners in 2020. The county, harbor and city each contributed $250,000. contributes to the cost of a detailed technical study of the park proposal, a crucial step in preparing the project for the first environmental permit. Entrepreneur Joe Swinbank contributed the rest of the costs for the $1 million investigation.

“Passing through funding for this item represents a significant step forward for our region to support the research at the Rice SSPEED Center,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The project is needed to inform critical investments to protect the Greater Houston region from the devastating effects of future storms in the Gulf of Mexico, along the Texas coast and in Galveston Bay.”

SSPEED Center Director Phil Bedient said: “The Galveston Bay Park will work in tandem with the coastal ridge, can be built without federal funds and the barrier portion of the project could be completed by the early 2030s, providing protection against storm surges of 25 foot for both the industrial complexes and densely populated areas to the west and northwest of Galveston Bay. We are grateful that Port Houston, City of Houston, Harris County and Joe Swinbank have agreed to invest in a more detailed analysis of the plan.”

The idea for Galveston Bay Park is based on the fact that the Houston Ship Channel is to be dredged in the coming years to both remove the runoff of silt entering the channel and part of a long-term plan to widen the channel’s shipping lanes. The islands of Galveston Bay Park would be built of dredged material and would run parallel to the shipping channel from Baytown to Texas City. During a hurricane, storm surge barriers between the islands and across the shipping lanes would be closed to prevent the storm surge barrier from entering West Galveston Bay or the shipping channel.

forecasted flooding maps of a Category 4 hurricane with and without Galveston Bay Park and taking sea level rise into account
Maps from computer models predicting storm surge levels, in feet, at locations in and around Galveston Bay, both with and without the Galveston Bay Park storm barrier during a Category 4 hurricane with 132 mph winds making landfall at San Luis Pass in the south end of Galveston Island. The figures in this model have been generated with estimated sea level values ​​in 2050 based on increases due to climate change. (Image courtesy of SSPEED Center/Rice University)

“I have long been an advocate of what I call the ‘all of the above’ approach when it comes to coastal protection plans, which may include the Galveston Bay Park plan,” said Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia. Texas has waited far too long for action to guard against the dangers of storms crossing our coast from the Gulf of Mexico. I am grateful to all of our partners in the City of Houston, Port Houston and Rice University’s SSPEED Center for their financial and intellectual efforts to explore how to protect us from devastating tropical weather.”

Bedient said the 25-foot storm surge from petrochemical refineries and densely populated residential communities on the west side of Galveston Bay is a realistic hurricane scenario that the SSPEED researchers have studied extensively using computer modeling. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of major hurricanes classified as Category 3, 4 and 5, and Bedient said the Galveston Bay Park barrier will work in tandem with the proposed coastal barrier, or “Ike Dike,” to protect against these. big storms.

Houston City Councilman David W. Robinson said: “The Galveston Bay Park Plan has been hailed as a potential addition to improve the effectiveness of the coastal spine project while protecting critical infrastructure, regional industry and our port facility. The project would also enhance the protection of the residents of Houston, our neighbors throughout the region, and the essential workers who sustain and sustain our communities.”

An artist illustration of Galveston Bay Park
An artistic illustration of Galveston Bay Park, a chain of islands that would double as a hurricane barrier and a 10,000-acre state park. (Image courtesy of Rogers Partners)

Ric Campo, President of Port Houston, said: “Port Houston remains steadfast in its commitment to serve the best interests of the community and the region. We are optimistic that this project will help protect lives, the Texas economy and the environment.”

SSPEED computer models have shown a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of 132 mph and a smaller footprint than 2008’s Hurricane Ike that could cause catastrophic flooding if it makes landfall at San Luis Pass on the south side of Galveston Island. In that scenario, up to 20 feet of water would inundate the areas around the ship’s channel, well within Loop 610. There would be up to 6 feet of flooding in La Porte, Seabrook, Bayview, Clear Lake, Webster, and parts of Friendswood west. from Interstate 45. If Galveston Bay Park is built, the SSPEED models show that flooding in such a scenario is limited to about 2 meters along the ship channel and 2 meters in coastal communities.

If sea level rises due to climate change are accounted for in the model, the same scenario could cause up to 30 feet of flooding along the ship canal and up to 24 feet of flooding in coastal communities by 2050. With the Galveston Bay Park barrier in place, SSPEED found that flooding would be limited to 10 feet along the ship channel and 9 feet in western bay communities.

Jim Blackburn, co-director of SSPEED Center, said: “The Galveston Bay Park project was born out of the need to achieve a higher level of protection than provided by the coastal spine project for the upper part of the bay. We can now Protecting the shipping channel and the eastern shore of Harris County from the great storms of the future is critical to our long-term economic and environmental future.”

Artistic representation of a nighttime party in Galveston Bay Park
Artistic representation of a nighttime party in Galveston Bay Park. (Image courtesy of Rogers Partners)
Related stories and links

SSPEED Center – sspeed.rice.edu

More about the Galveston Bay Park Plan – sspeed.rice.edu/gbpp

SSPEED Center four page flyer on the Galveston Bay Park Plan

SSPEED Center’s 24-page brochure on the Galveston Bay Park Plan

Galveston Bay Park is a ‘vision’ of Houston’s future – Aug 3, 2020

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https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/05/0601_BAYPARK-Cat4-nSLRb-lg.jpg
CAPTION: Maps from computer models predicting storm surge levels, in feet, at sites in and around Galveston Bay, both with and without the Galveston Bay Park storm barrier during a Category 4 hurricane with 132 mph winds making landfall at San Luis Pass on the south side of Galveston Island. Figures in this model were generated using 2015 sea level data (Image courtesy of SSPEED Center/Rice University)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/05/0601_BAYPARK-Cat4-wSLRb-lg.jpg
CAPTION: Maps from computer models predicting storm surge levels, in feet, at sites in and around Galveston Bay, both with and without the Galveston Bay Park storm barrier during a Category 4 hurricane with 132 mph winds making landfall at San Luis Pass on the south side of Galveston Island. The figures in this model have been generated with estimated sea level values ​​in 2050 based on increases due to climate change. (Image courtesy of SSPEED Center/Rice University)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/06/0622_BAYPARK-Cat4-nSLRwCS-lg.jpg
CAPTION: Computer model-generated maps predicting storm surge at sites in and around Galveston Bay from a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 132 mph making landfall at San Luis Pass on the south side of Galveston Island. The same storm is depicted without the protection of the Galveston Bay Park coastal ridge or storm barriers (left) and with the protection of both barriers (right). Colors indicating the flood depth are equivalent, but the flood depth figures are in feet on the left and in meters on the right. (Image courtesy of SSPEED Center/Rice University)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/05/0601_BAYPARK-fig1-lg.jpg
CAPTION: An artistic illustration of Galveston Bay Park, a chain of islands that would double as a hurricane barrier and a 10,000-acre state park. (Image courtesy of Rogers Partners)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/05/0601_BAYPARK-fig2-lg.jpg
CAPTION: An artist’s illustration highlighting the recreational features of Galveston Bay Park. (Image courtesy of Rogers Partners)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/05/0601_BAYPARK-night-lg.jpg
CAPTION: Artistic rendering of a nighttime party in Galveston Bay Park. (Image courtesy of Rogers Partners)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/05/0601_BAYPARK-day-lg.jpg
CAPTION: Rogers Partners’ design for Galveston Bay Park earned top honors in Houston 2020 Visions, an international design competition launched in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to assemble visionary plans for a resilient and prosperous Houston of tomorrow. (Image courtesy of Rogers Partners)

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