See progress, timeline for Port Arthur in Gulf Coast levee construction project

Published 12:40 am Thursday, February 3, 2022

Part of a $300 million project to raise the levee around Port Arthur and add other forms of storm protection to the area has entered construction phase on TX 87 near Sabine Pass.

Allen Sims, district engineer for Drainage District No. 7, and Charles Wheeler, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — Galveston district; appeared before city officials this week to provide an update on the project that began in 2017 with the completion of a feasibility study.

In total, the Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Program will stretch from Orange to Brazoria counties and cost, in total, approximately $40 billion.

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The purpose of the project is to reduce the threat of storm surge from tropical events that have devastated the Texas coast over the years, with Jefferson County experiencing a multitude of storms since Hurricane Rita in 2005.

The remnants of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 dropped 64.5 inches of rain in Nederland alone, setting a U.S. record.

Rising sea levels and larger storms put the region at greater risk, according to information from the Corps of Engineers.

Wheeler said while construction has started in part of Port Arthur, the design phase for other areas is almost complete.

“We’re being held to a higher standard in Port Arthur with the pressure to meet all the timelines, so we appreciate all the support we can get in coordinating, relocating utilities and land acquisitions,” he said.

The project, which will be funded 65 percent by the Corps of Engineers and 35 percent by DD7, includes raising levees 1-5 additional feet, adding railroad closure gates and replacing I-walls with T-walls.

“An inverted T-wall is more stable and substantial than what’s there now,” Sims said. “And after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans with the failures that occurred there, this is a more desirable design.”

One suggestion the DD7 official made to councilmembers was replacing the boardwalk behind City Hall with concrete.

“Right now the walk is truly a boardwalk — it’s built out of boards,” he said. “What I’d like to propose to you guys in order to do something that would be beneficial to both of us, instead of putting boards back on top of this levee, let me pour a concrete pad… In place of those boards we can do stamped concrete if you’d like to make it look nice with a board pattern.”

Sims said the reason for the change involved maintenance to the levee.

“It’s hard for me to run a tractor down boards,” he said.

Final designs are expected to be complete by 2023 with project completion set by 2026.

Wheeler said they will be putting informational pamphlets at various places around Port Arthur and Mid County to help residents better understand the project.

“We’re trying to make it as simple as possible so people can understand,” he said. “The language we made plain and easy to digest.”

To see a digital copy, click here.