LAND profs propose series of enhancements for “Ike Dike”

Eric Bardenhagen

Eric Bardenhagen

Galen Newman

Galen Newman

A proposed “Ike Dike” to protect the Galveston/Houston area from hurricane storm surges should incorporate amenities such a business parks, public spaces and pedestrian thoroughfares, elements that could stimulate economic and social opportunities while enhancing the earthwork’s visual appeal, concludes research funded by Texas A&M’s Institute for Sustainable Coastal Communities.

The dike would consist of continuous 20- to 25-foot-tall, 70- to 90-foot-wide dunes running along Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula with two giant flood gates at opposite ends of the island — one at San Luis Pass and another in the channel between the island and the peninsula. The dike was conceived by Bill Merrell, holder of the George P. Mitchell Chair of Marine Sciences at Texas A&M University at Galveston, as a response to extensive surge damage from 2008’s Hurricane Ike.

Merrell believes the Ike Dike can be built with technology used in the Delta Works project, a series of barriers and gates used to protect low-lying areas in The Netherlands.

Protective dunes along the Texas Gulf Coast could, however, become visual and social barriers that decrease beachfront connectivity and walkability and fragment habitat areas, said ISCC researchers Galen Newman and Eric Bardenhagen, assistant professors in Texas A&M’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning.

In their two-year study, “Landscape Integration for Storm Surge Barrier Infrastructure: Galveston Island, Texas, USA,” Newman and Bardenhagen provide recommendations for the dunes based on their research examining impacts of surge protection systems in The Netherlands and New Orleans.

They recommended incorporating elements that provide economic and social benefits to the area while enhancing the dunes’ capacity to reduce vulnerability to storm surges, including:

  • Ponds behind the dunes that would attract wildlife and absorb storm surge;
  • Retail spaces, such as cafes and beach equipment rental businesses, between the beach and the dunes;
  • Green spaces with bicycle and pedestrian lanes atop the dunes, and  
  • Native plantings to protect the stability of the dunes.

The researchers also identified four types of coastland based on beach widths and commercial and residential development and created dune master plans tailored to each type.

Jun-Hyun Kim, assistant professor of architecture, and Ruisi Guo and Yixun Zhang, graduate landscape architecture students, also contributed to this project.

posted June 15, 2015