U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has filed legislation to expedite a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study that will determine how best to protect the Houston region from a devastating hurricane.
The bill, dubbed the “Corps’ Obligation to Assist in Safeguarding Texas” or COAST Act, also would streamline congressional authorization for any project that comes from the Corps study, the Texas Republican’s office announced Thursday.
“Texans along our coast live under the constant threat of weather-related devastation to their homes, their livelihoods, and their communities,” Cornyn said in a statement. “By reducing inefficiency and eliminating duplication, we can speed up the Army Corps’ process to ultimately help bring families, businesses, and communities along the coast the peace of mind they deserve.”
Cornyn’s announcement comes days after crippling floods hit the Houston region. His office made no mention of the legislation earlier this month, before those floods, when The Texas Tribune inquired as to what Cornyn was doing to address the Houston region’s extreme vulnerability to hurricane storm surge.
Hell and High Water
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country. It's home to the nation's largest refining and petrochemical complex, where billions of gallons of oil and dangerous chemicals are stored. And it's a sitting duck for the next big hurricane. Learn why Texas isn't ready.
In March, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune published an extensive look at what Houston’s perfect storm would look like (a companion story ran on the Reveal radio show and podcast.) Scientists, experts, and public officials say that such a hurricane would kill thousands and cripple the national economy.
The Corps “feasibility” study, which it launched earlier this year after striking a partnership with the Texas General Land Office, is expected to take five years. In October, Cornyn and several Texas members of the U.S. House sent a letter to the agency that generally expressed support for the study, but did not request a faster timeline. A month later, 32 of the 34 Texas members of the U.S. House sent another letter to the agency saying the five-year timeline was too long, noting the last hurricane to hit the Houston region was Ike in 2008. The area sees a major storm every 15 years on average.