Baker Institute paper Texas Coastal Exchange viable way to safeguard Gulf Coast

first_imgAddThis ShareDavid [email protected] [email protected] Institute paper: Texas Coastal Exchange viable way to safeguard Gulf CoastHOUSTON – (Oct. 28, 2016) – The Texas Coastal Exchange, a mechanism by which landowners would be compensated for restoring natural ecosystems, would safeguard the Gulf Coast from hurricane and severe storm damage as well as climate change effects, according to a research paper by energy, engineering and environmental experts at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.The Texas Coastal Exchange would safeguard the Gulf Coast from hurricane and severe storm damage as well as climate change effects. Credit: UniversityThe paper, “Texas Coastal Exchange,” examines the potential market for the exchange. The concept was developed by the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center at Rice.“What began as an effort to find a mechanism to provide income to coastal landowners within a 2 million-acre swath along the coast in Chambers, Galveston, Brazoria and Matagorda counties has grown into a much larger project as the SSPEED Center team got deeper into this research,” said paper co-author Jim Blackburn, a professor in the practice of environmental law at Rice, Baker Institute Rice Faculty Scholar and SSPEED co-director. “The pursuit and implementation of these ecosystem service transaction concepts have the potential to transform the Houston-Galveston area, the state of Texas, the United States and, potentially, the world.”The idea for the exchange emerged from observations of aerial flyovers of the flooded areas east of Galveston Bay after Hurricane Ike as well as the FEMA-funded recovery plan prepared for the Bolivar Peninsula post-Ike. These flyovers showed that hurricane surge water came ashore with Ike and poured off of the low-lying coastal plain and wetlands back into the Gulf of Mexico several days after Ike made landfall. From this aerial view and subsequent computer modeling, it became clear that this low-lying coastal plain stored vast quantities of surge water without incurring the massive damages experienced elsewhere on the coast, according to the authors. The post-Ike report from Bolivar indicated that landowners from low-lying wetlands and prairies on the bay side of the peninsula were interested in generating additional sources of income.These two observations led the SSPEED Center team to search for ways in which to store surge water and generate income for landowners; this resulted in the exchange concept.Over the past two years, the project team has been investigating innovative concepts to generate income for landowners of approximately 2 million acres of low-lying coastal prairie, wetlands and woodlots with a goal of either storing or attenuating hurricane surge flooding. This in turn led the project team to investigate several different types of natural systems, including oyster reefs, coastal wetlands, coastal prairies and bottomland hardwoods, as well as specialty habitat creation options. The initial area of interest was the approximately 2 million acres of land at or below the 20-foot elevation contour adjacent to the bay and/or Gulf in Chambers, Galveston, Brazoria and Matagorda counties.This 20-foot elevation was chosen because it represents the current reasonable worst-case hurricane surge along the coast – a scenario that does not include consideration of future sea level rise or increasing storm intensity.“This geographic area could provide a significant buffer for the rest of the region,” Blackburn said. “However, given the strong negative perception of new regulation, our team concluded that this buffer can only be (rapidly) established through market-based mechanisms. The Texas Coastal Exchange is such a mechanism.”The authors said that in the Houston area, flood abatement would be a major benefit, both along the coast and in areas such as the Katy Prairie west of Houston, which has great potential for retaining storm water and protecting the Addicks Reservoir and the Buffalo Bayou and Cypress Creek watersheds. The carbon footprint of Harris County, which at 18.6 million tons of carbon dioxide is the highest of all U.S. counties, could be offset by restoring about 6 million to 9 million acres of prairie, a task that is doable in the land areas surrounding Harris County, according to the authors. They said the city of Houston could begin to protect its long-term drinking water sources in the San Jacinto and Trinity rivers by securing natural filtration rights from landowners restoring and/or protecting native prairies and forests.“The Texas Coastal Exchange is based upon the concept that natural ecological systems provide services to communities,” the authors wrote. “However, in the past, these services generally have been taken for granted, and typically no dollar value has been accorded to this work, except for cases of resource harvesting, such as timber sale, hunting leases or cattle raising. It is increasingly becoming apparent that there is a dollar value in these ecological services and that markets can be developed to allow landowners to reap compensation from restoring, protecting and stewarding the ecosystems that provide these services. In this way, protection, income and conservation goals merge to produce a fascinating potential for the upper Texas coast, as well as the rest of Texas and the United States.”The paper was co-authored by SPEED Center researchers Henk Mooiweer, adjunct professor in Rice’s Department of Chemistry; Elizabeth Winston Jones, principal at Resource Strategy Partners; Megan Parks, principal at AMB Parks Consulting; and Frances Kellerman, doctoral student at the University of Texas School of Public Health.To interview the authors, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at [email protected] or 713-348-6775.-30-Follow the Baker Institute via Twitter @BakerInstitute.Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.Related materials:Research paper:” alt=”last_img” /> read more