Protecting The Texas Coast Must Be A Priority

Contact: George P. Bush
EDITORIAL — June 01, 2017

Austin — Nearly a decade after Hurricanes Ike and Dolly, our coast remains largely unprotected. We are just as vulnerable to a major storm today as we were in 2008 - and that's bad news. Modeling from the Rice SSPEED Center shows that had Ike not changed course at the last minute, more than 4,000 petrochemical tanks would have been inundated. The loss of life and economic damages would have been exponentially greater.

I don't say this to alarm you. I say it to explain why we have such a sense of urgency about this issue at the Texas General Land Office and why coastal protection has become my agency's priority this year. More than a quarter of the nation's refining capacity resides in six counties stretching from Orange to Brazoria where more than 7 million Texans have chosen to build their lives. It's vital that we protect our coast before the next big storm.

That's why I asked leaders in industry, local and regional government to partner with me in urging the Trump administration to fund a coastal barrier system. We understand this is a unique request - our country has a tradition of protecting against major storms only after one has occurred.

Here at the GLO, we don't accept maxims such as, "that's how it's always been done." Since 1836 Texans fought for what is right and been willing to sacrifice for it. Protecting our coast is a chance to do that. Texas can once again lead the nation toward an innovative and more proactive way of confronting natural disasters.

Building a coastal barrier system would be the right thing to do - not only for folks who live along the coast, but for our entire state and for this country. It will protect lives and infrastructure in the region and guard against an inevitable spike in cost of living when this global hub of food, fuel, and force faces a major storm.

We're working hard at the Texas General Land Office to revolutionize the way this state and country protects against hurricanes, and that's something the folks of Houston know we need. The recent expansion of the Panama Canal is a once in a generation opportunity and the Port of Houston is taking advantage of it. The Port of Houston Authority plans to spend $1.6 billion on expansion and additional improvements over a five-year period while other Texas ports and their private-sector partners are investing nearly $50 billion.

We won't stop sharing these reasons to protect our coast and pushing to get it done until we get results for the people who call this great state home. But in the meantime, there are some important things you can do this hurricane season to protect your family should a storm come our way.

The first of these is being prepared to evacuate. An evacuation plan should be created and reviewed with all family members before the start of hurricane season. The Texas Department of Transportation website has evacuation maps and up-to-date road conditions. Remember to consider family members of different mobility levels, as well as pets, when building your plan.

An evacuation kit should be stored in one place and include cash, key personal records, one gallon of water per person per day, nonperishable food to last at least five days, a supply of any prescription medication your family needs, first aid, a change of clothes, flashlights, batteries, a portable radio and blankets or pillows.

Lastly, you should have a stockpile of emergency supplies for the home that allows your household to be self-sustaining for at least 72 hours. This should include everything mentioned in the evacuation kit as well as extra food and water, matches, gas for a generator, materials to protect your home, bleach, trash bags, sanitizer, chargers for your phone and, if available, a landline.

Remember to follow any evacuation and preparation instructions from your local authorities as well as the National Weather Service.

We're working hard at the GLO to protect our state from major storms, but let's all come together to make sure we're prepared and ready to assist our neighbors in the meantime.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush was born in Houston and now oversees the state's coastal protection efforts, including oil spill prevention and response, erosion mitigation projects and long-term recovery efforts for natural disasters, including hurricanes and floods.

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