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Obama signs Cornyn flood mitigation bill

The title to this post is a bit of an overbid, but this is still a good thing.

President Obama on Monday signed into law a bill that could help expedite the long process of constructing a hurricane protection system for the Texas coast, including the particularly vulnerable Houston region.

The “Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation,” or WIIN, Act contains a major provision of another bill U.S. Sen. John Cornyn filed in April — the month after The Texas Tribune and ProPublica published an interactive report exploring the dire impacts of a monster storm hitting the nation’s fourth-largest city and its massive petrochemical complex. Scientists are still fine-tuning plans to protect against such an event, which they say could kill hundreds, if not thousands, of people and cripple the economy and environment.

Most agree on the need to build a project known as the “coastal spine,” a massive floodgate and barrier system, but there is no official consensus plan. (State lawmakers have asked scientists to settle on a plan to protect the coast, but they’re still in disagreement.) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will have the final say on what plan to pursue and is conducting its own study of the issue, has estimated that construction on any such system for Texas couldn’t begin until 2024 at the earliest.

The bill Cornyn filed in April, called the “Corps’ Obligation to Assist in Safeguarding Texas,” or COAST, Act, was designed to hurry things along by requiring the Corps to take local studies on the issue into account (one by a six-county coalition, in particular) and by eliminating the need for Congress to authorize construction of whatever project the Corps ends up recommending.

The bipartisan WIIN Act includes only the former provision requiring the Corps to account for local studies, meaning Congress still will have to sign off on any plan. (The COAST Act passed the Senate in September but never passed the House.)

See here for some background. We’re still a long way from something being built, as we lack such minor details as consensus on what to build and a funding mechanism for it. But this is a step forward, so credit to Sen. Cornyn for shepherding the bill through and to President Obama for signing it. The Current and Space City Weather have more.

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4 Comments

  1. C.L. says:

    I suspect the Corp will get on building this right after they finish construction of Trump’s Wall.

  2. matx says:

    Congress wants to be able to say no to any spending that may not “benefit” their districts so that they can go back to their constituents and tell them how much money I didn’t spend on such-and-such. With the Army Corps of Engineers this is easy – especially projects designed to mitigate effects of natural disasters – the seeming prevalence of science deniers in Congress will guarantee COAST will not pass.

  3. Neither Here Nor There says:

    All Republicans know that that Climate Change is Hoax why would they sign on to such an expensive project?

    C.L., if the wall is built, quite a few undocumented will build the wall. If they don’t use them the wall won’t be built, no enough money. Obama did require all employees to be E-Verified, but that was this year. So no hard data as to how that is working.

  4. C.L. says:

    @NHNT… I think you missed my point. It’s highly unlikely either project will come to fruition in your or my lifetime [or that of our children (as applicable)].