Post-Hurricane Harvey: Rebuilding for the Future

The Texas Tribune published my op ed piece on September 7 on how to move forward after Hurricane Harvey, and how to prepare for the next big storm.

before and after views of Port Aransas
Aransas Pass before and after Hurricane Harvey, August 2017. Credit: NOAA

Invest in real solutions to real problems

How do we rebuild? How do we prepare for the future? To live in the place we all love, we must be willing to invest in solutions to the problems we know exist; we must ensure that Harvey relief makes us whole and gives us the resources to make the Texas Gulf Coast ready for the next hurricane.

A basic function of government is to protect us. Ask yourself if laws and regulations that were in place before Harvey struck made the situation better or worse. Who advocated for those bad policies? Was it the people who have a financial incentive to not spend the necessary funds for protection and their bought-and-paid-for lawmakers? How do we change the debate so we are talking about real solutions to real problems?

Our leaders must work for us

With floodwaters still flowing in parts of Texas, and Hurricane Irma eyeing the U.S. mainland, the current political talk is about tax cuts for the wealthy or the residency status of nearly 800,000 children and young adults. These are not the priorities of folks who lost everything in Winnie, Port Aransas, Orange, Beaumont, and Houston—and many cities in between.

Our leaders must work for us, not for folks who want to avoid paying to do the right thing.

 

Texas’ 36th District faces unique problems

Our District is unique because of the major concentration of refineries and petrochemical plants, and shipping lanes, along the Texas Gulf Coast. The effects of Hurricane Harvey reached well beyond the Texas borders, impacting 40 percent of the U.S. petrochemicals market (See CNBC, Harvey threatens to choke off supply of critical chemicals , plastics to U.S. manufacturers). Our District is concerned with the effects of storm surge. And southeast Texas has several protected wildlife areas.

I am a geologist by training, an environmental and risk assessment consultant by trade, so I know the unique problems we face as we work to recover. We need to make sure that DC gives us what we need to rebuild, and does it in a way that helps protect from future storms.

“Ike Dike” would protect Texas Coast, Communities, Lives and Economy

The predicted approach of Tropical Storm Harvey reminds us on the Gulf Coast that it’s not if, it’s when a hurricane will hit.  Our region is hit by a major hurricane about every 15 years. Many of us have lived through and recovered from Alicia, Allison, Rita, Katrina, and Ike.  Hurricane Ike alone caused $30 billion in damage and killed more than 100 people.

Engineers at Texas A&M and Rice University have designed storm surge protection that would protect the southeast Texas coast from damage and loss of life.  The proposed cost is $12 billion – a bargain compared to the cost a Katrina-like hurricane would result in: losses to the Texas economy of $73 billion in gross product and 863,000 jobs.

Construction of the “Ike Dike” would bring good-paying jobs to the area, and a sense of pride that we are working to protect our community.

As we prepare for a potential hit from Harvey, I urge you to contact your representatives and tell them that it’s time to protect the Texas coast, our community, our lives, and the economy from these predictable natural disasters.

Let’s hope that Harvey is a non-event.

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