On Wednesday, Rep. Lizzie Fletcher testified in front of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and urged the committee to include the Coastal Texas Study’s recommendations in the Water Resource Development Act of 2022 (WRDA) and to consider additional expansions of the Port of Houston.
Fletcher is a former member of the committee and was involved in the 2020 WRDA.
The Texas Coastal Study is a 6-year Army Corps of Engineers project intended to “identify feasible projects that reduce risks to public health and the economy, restore critical ecosystems, and advance coastal resiliency.” The threat of increasingly powerful and frequent storms and floods resulting from climate change has given greater urgency for such projects in Texas.
“The Coastal Texas Study is a critical project that would stop storm surges at the coast, protecting our region—and our nation—from catastrophic damage,” said Fletcher.
“It protects the Texas coast, including the Houston region, home to more than seven million people, and home to the Houston Ship Channel and the Port of Houston—the busiest port in the country by total tonnage and home to one of the largest, if not the largest, concentration of refining and petrochemical complexes in the world.”
The large concentration of petrochemical facilities could create an environmental catastrophe if a hurricane were to make landfall directly in Galveston Bay. One expert warned that such an event could be “America’s version of Chernobyl” with large volumes of hazardous chemicals spilling into populated areas.
Several projects have been proposed to avert such catastrophes, the most famous of which is the Ike Dike, but getting funding for them has been a very slow process. However, ensuring the Houston area is resilient against storm surges is an issue for the nation, not just Texas. “The economic damage to the United States in the event of a catastrophic storm surge up the Houston Ship Channel would have dire economic consequences not just in the Houston region, but across our country,” said Fletcher.
In addition to the Coastal Texas Study, Fletcher called for additional improvements to the Port of Houston like the Houston Ship Channel Improvement Project. Such projects would allow the port to accommodate larger “Neo-Panamax” ships that are now transiting through an expanded Panama Canal. These kinds of improvements can also ease supply chain bottlenecks that are impacting the world.
“Authorizing the Coastal Texas Study and the Port of Houston policy requests is in our national security interest and our national economic interest,” said Fletcher at the conclusion of her testimony. “It is smart. It is timely. And it is what we need now — for Texas and for the entire country.”