The next big storm

Spe­cial ses­sion should make some progress on hur­ri­cane pre­pared­ness.

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

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.

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