This month it will be exactly five years since Hurricane Ike caused enormous damage in and around Houston and Galveston in the US state of Texas.
The Port of Houston fulfills a crucial economic role and generates around $178 million in revenues each year. Given the vulnerability of the area, it is a question of when rather than whether the city will again be hit by a major hurricane. This makes good coastal defenses essential. The Delft University of Technology, Royal HaskoningDHV and Iv Infra are exploring possible designs for a storm surge barrier off the coast of Houston.
The Ike Dike concept
Immediately after Hurricane Ike, Professor Bill Merrell of the Texas A&M University, developed and unveiled the ‘Ike Dike’ concept. A key element of the concept is a movable storm surge barrier that can seal off the bay near Galveston and Houston during a hurricane. Under normal conditions the bay provides a passage to the Port of Houston, so it must remain accessible for shipping. Another matter of great importance is the preservation of the ecosystems in the bay. Which types of flood barriers are buildable to protect the Houston/Galveston area optimally against storm surges? This is the question that the Delft University of Technology, Royal HaskoningDHV and Iv-Infra are currently examining.
Detailing of preferred variants
Over the past months the Delft University of Technology, Royal Haskoning DHV and Iv-Infra have worked out some flood defense concepts for closing off the approximately three kilometers long opening and have presented them to Bill Merrell and his team. In terms of their dimensions the barriers are similar to the Maeslant and Eastern Scheldt storm surge barriers in the Netherlands. The various concepts were compared with each other in respect of criteria like reliability, makeability, maintainability and life-cycle costs. The three parties will elaborate the preferred variants in greater detail in the coming period. A joint research program will also be set up between the Delft University of Technology and the Texan universities.