Centennial Gate proposal gets closer to reality thanks to multi-million dollar grant

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HOUSTON - A project idea that could potentially protect the Houston Ship Channel from surging water due to a hurricane is now getting closer to a reality thanks to a multi-million dollar grant.

Rice University's Centennial Gate proposal would have a structure that resembles the Rotterdam-style floodgate built near the Fred Hartman Bridge.

The hope is that the Centennial Gate would protect the industries that reside in the Houston Ship Channel from storm surge and resulting flooding.

"Among other things, a primary goal is to develop a comprehensive program for the protection of industries along the Houston Ship Channel and the Bayport area as well as residential development in the Clear Lake and Galveston Island communities."

The program was created and will be evaluated by Rice University's Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center.

They were awarded $3.1 million by Houston Endowment to research the gate and other several options' ability to protect the Houston-Galveston region from severe storms and hurricanes.

"With this next phase of funding, the SSPEED Center will begin to conduct regional evaluations of the various alternative proposals that have been put forward for regional storm protection," said Phil Bedient, Director of the SSPEED Center.

One of those alternatives in their Dutch inspired "multiple lines of defense" plan is to create a recreation area that could withstand surge flooding.

"Our work so far has produced two excellent solutions — the Centennial Gate to protect the Ship Channel and two landscape-scale green-space concepts for the low-lying, undeveloped areas," said SSPEED Co-director Jim Blackburn.

The grant money will also be used to evaluate the social, economic and environmental impacts of any of the strategies, including the Ike Dike.

The Ike Dike is a multi-billion dollar proposed seawall that would run the length of Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula.

Another proposal is creating options for elevated roads and levee protection for the city of Galveston and constructing oyster reefs in Galveston Bay.

Some of the money will also go to a storm-surge computer model that would help researchers evaluate and compare the sizes and arrangements of the storm protection options.

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