Officials update progress of levee improvement project from Orange to Brazoria counties

Published 12:30 am Sunday, April 2, 2023

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon host a virtual meeting to update the public on the progress of a $3.9 billion project to provide storm surge protection from Orange to Brazoria counties.

The April 6 meeting will focus on the Port Arthur Coastal Storm Risk Management Program, which accounts for $863 million of the total cost.

Locally that money is funded 65 percent through the federal government, and 35 percent through Drainage District 7.

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“Unlike many federal projects, this project was fully funded at the onset,” said Garrett Sullivan with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District.

The timeline began with a feasibility study in 2017, funding from Congress in 2018, the first contract award in 2019 and the beginning of construction in 2020.

The project is expected to be complete in 2029.

The focus in and directly around Port Arthur includes the replacement of levee walls, raising levee height, adding erosion protection to certain structures and providing new railroad and road closure gates.

“The overall goal of this program is to reduce the risk of human life loss; to protect residences, businesses and the economic output of the area; to protect the energy sector in the area; and, as you probably know…Port Arthur is the No. 1 oil producing city in the state of Texas,” Sullivan said. “You outshine every other city in the area…and the largest chemical producing plant in the United States is located here at Motiva.”

The current levee system in Port Arthur was constructed over the course of 20 years beginning in the 1960s. The 32-mile stretch includes flood walls and pump stations.

The Port Arthur Coastal Storm Risk Management Program will upgrade 20 of the 32 miles. The levee currently uses I-walls. Nearly 5 miles of flood walls will be replaced with T-walls, which Sullivan said is more stable against storm surge.

In addition, the approximately 20 roadway and railroad gates will be replaced with higher versions.

“They are closed in the event of an approaching storm event,” Sullivan said. “They’re not mechanically operated. DD7 is primarily responsible for using…construction equipment in order to pull these gates closed in the event of a hurricane within the last 48 hours of the event’s arrival.”

Surge frontage protection will be added to the city’s 20 pump stations.

Currently the first 1.1 miles of improvements have been completed. Work on the section from Rose Hill to the north end of Procter Street is currently out for bids.

“We’re excited,” Councilwoman Charlotte Moses said.

Sullivan said information on how to attend the April 6 virtual meeting from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be released on the Corps of Engineers’ social media and web page.