Dave Rogers

For The Record

 

Orange County Judge Dean Crooks said there is “no way” Orange County will be able to pay the 35 percent local match requirement that goes along with the proposed $1.9 billion Orange County Hurricane Flood Protection Levee unveiled by the U.S. Corps of Engineers last Friday.

“Orange County’s portion would be $665 million,” Crooks said. “We don’t have $665 million. We’ve never had.”

Friday’s announced $4 billion seawall and levee system designed to protect Southeast Texas from storm surge, received partial federal funding last week.

The new plan is essentially the “Ike Dike” envisioned by Rice University scholars after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

It would replace or repair already existing flood walls in south Jefferson County. But planners have in recent years added in projections for an Orange County levee.

It would stretch from north of I-10 along the west side of the Sabine River around Chemical Row plants and back to the west side of the county, ending in Bessie Heights Marsh on the Neches River.

Crooks said at Friday’s announcement, held at the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission in Beaumont and including Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush, some effort was put into minimizing the costs.

“They explained we could spread the costs over 30 years in easy payments of $16.166 million per year,” the county judge said.

“Our annual budget is about $45 million.

“Nobody’s going to be able to afford this. I asked the General Land Office if there was going to be a state agency help pay this. They said no.

“That means the local part would be (for Jefferson and Orange Counties) would be $1.5 billion. Texas doesn’t have $1.5 billion to spend on it, either, as far as I know.”

Crooks pointed out that storm surge wasn’t a main factor with last year’s Tropical Storm Harvey, which turned out to be the rainiest major storm in U.S. history.

Parts of Orange County received 60 inches of rain in five days.

“This is a coastal levee system that is not designed to help with drainage anyway,” the judge said of the Corps’ plans. “In Harvey and these rainstorms [this summer] where people are going to be flooded, this won’t help us at all.

“My suggestion is why don’t they cut it in half and build us a heckuva drainage system for $1 billion?”