The next big storm
Special session should make some progress on hurricane preparedness.
The special session of the Texas Legislature, which opens Tuesday, has the potential to be, as they say in Amarillo, as worthless as a sidesaddle on a sow. Gov. Greg Abbott called the 30-day meeting to protect his right flank. It will cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars and result in little more than a replay of the mud wrestling that came to a miserable end in late May.
But there is a way to take the sow’s ears and make something worthwhile. In his call to action, Abbott should include a system to protect our region from a killer, so-called “Scenario 7” hurricane.
A Scenario 7 hurricane is one that is 15 percent stronger than Hurricane Ike and makes landfall in the vicinity of Freeport. Researchers paint a grim picture of such a storm’s aftermath: thousands dead; billions in property damage; hundreds of thousands homeless; and catastrophic environmental damage.
It was disappointing in the extreme that the Legislature accomplished nothing in the regular session to prevent such a disaster.
State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, whose district would suffer the brunt of such a storm, introduced a bill that would have given an existing special-purpose district the additional power to construct a surge-protection system. But that bill was gutted amid infighting among local officials over which agency should be tasked with the project. It is beyond regretful that any progress on protecting our region may be delayed another two years because of political turf battles.
Even a bill that would have funded an additional $2 million so Texas A&M University at Galveston can continue its research on surge protection failed to pass. The session was a complete abdication of responsibility when it comes to preparing our region for the next big storm.
Every item on Abbott’s special call list pales in comparison to the existential threat a Scenario 7 hurricane poses to our region. So, if we must go through the Kabuki theater of a special session to satisfy Republican Party infighting, can we, at least, use it to make some progress on protecting our region from the killer storm we will one day inevitably face?
At a minimum, Abbott should add to the special session call the creation of a blue-ribbon panel to develop a definitive plan for a comprehensive storm-surge protection system to be considered by the 2019 Legislature. That would be a silk purse of which the governor could be proud.