Texas lawmakers eye Ike Dike taxes
Last updated 3/30/2021 at 11:09pm
Bills under consideration in both houses of the Texas Legislature this year would create a taxing district to pay for upkeep on the “Ike Dike.”
The five-county Gulf Coast Protection District includes Orange County and the price tag for operating and maintaining the coastal barrier is estimated to exceed $100 million per year.
County Judge John Gothia says taxpayers should take a breath. And definitely not panic.
That cost would be shared by Galveston, Harris, Chambers, Jefferson and Orange counties, according to an aide to State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, who submitted Senate Bill 1160.
A companion bill, HB 3029, was filed in the State House of Representatives by Rep. Dennis Paul, R-Houston.
Harris County, the largest in Texas, is home to 83 percent of the five-county population and it is expected any taxing would be on a per-capita basis.
Further, any maintenance and operation costs would presumably not be collected until the $26 billion project that will extend from South Padre Island to the Louisiana state line is completed, which is not expected before 2026.
But the enacting legislation of the Gulf Coast Protection District, which could be created in Austin this year, would include authority to tax and issue bonds as well as exercise eminent domain power to seize property or land “for the exercise of the district’s functions,” according to the bill’s text.
“On the tax side of it, it calls for a nickel per hundred dollar valuation,” Orange County Judge John Gothia said.
“But people have to vote to approve that. There are several things we have concern with the way the bills are working through the process.
“Right now, it’s a taxing entity. But if the voters don’t give approval, then the federal government has the option to pay it. It’s liable to change eight or 10 times going through the Legislature.”
Funding for Orange County’s share -- $74 million – for the first stage of the project, design and engineering, was granted by the Texas General Land Office last September, the portal through which most federal money passes to cities and counties.
In all, the Orange County Hurricane Flood Protection Levee, the eastern end of the huge project, is forecast to cost $2.4 billion with Orange County responsible for 65 percent -- $287 million – of that.
But the county cannot afford to pay for it
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislature have agreed to fund it in chunks every two years.
The Orange County levee, as planned, will include 27 miles of earthen and concrete levees to protect against future flooding from storm surge or heavy rains.
It will include seven pump stations to push rainwater outside the walls along with 56 drainage structures and 32 closure gates. Two navigable sector gates would be constructed in Adams Bayou and Cow Bayou to reduce surge penetration.