In Hurricane Harvey, Texas saw the worst of storms; but in its aftermath, the world saw the best of Texas. Last week, I spent a couple days in the Coastal Bend area with Texans who are living through the devastation. I went to assess the damage and, more importantly, let the people of our great state know we see them, and we’re here to help. I came away inspired by the quiet courage of so many Texans.
I witnessed the all-to-familiar heartbreaking destruction. We have a long recovery ahead of us. In the aftermath of this disaster, we’ll continue to hear reports of total economic damages and how many homes flooded in our great state. And while our people have showed great heroism in the storm’s aftermath, they will need our help.
As someone who has lived through hurricanes, I know the losses from disasters are felt personally by families and communities.
Much has been and will be written about the economic impact Harvey will have on the country; but not enough will be written about the impact it will have on people who have lost their homes and belongings.
How do we give the people of Texas the tools they need to rebuild their communities and their lives? We are already off to a good start.
Rebuilding the Texas coast will mean funding. And I commend the governor and the president for working so quickly to declare an emergency and get resources into the state.
But rebuilding our coastal communities will also take the efforts of the Texas General Land Office (GLO). Not only is recovery part of our mission, but many of our GLO team members live in these communities. For them, this mission is deeply personal.
How does the GLO help? Part of the work we do takes place long before the storm ever hits. The GLO partners with coastal communities all along the Gulf of Mexico on storm surge mitigation projects such as beach dune creation. Several coastal communities that took the direct hit of Hurricane Harvey’s 130 mph winds and 12-foot storm surges teamed with the GLO to build Gulf-facing dunes in the years before the storm. At 20 to 30 feet high, those dunes helped protect people, homes and businesses from potential flooding, which caused the most catastrophic hurricane damage. The winds still caused significant damage, but these preventive measures worked.
But the GLO’s work does not end there.
Now the GLO Community Development and Revitalization (GLO-CDR) long-term disaster recovery team steps in. While our Oil Spill Prevention and Response team responds to emergencies along the Gulf Coast, cleans up debris and removes derelict vessels, GLO-CDR is prepared to begin the work of rebuilding communities, just as they have following Hurricanes Rita, Ike and Dolly.
Our first priority continues to be the safety of everyone on the coast. We will continue to assist first responders until every man, woman and child is found and accounted for.
The GLO’s work also includes looking ahead to the future. Today is the time to plan for tomorrow’s storms. That’s why earlier this year, dozens of local officials and business leaders joined me in writing a letter to the Trump Administration stressing the importance of coastal protection in Texas. The administration contacted us within days asking how we can work together to make sure our coast is protected for generations to come. Working together, we can be ready for the next storm. We can protect our coast.
I've only been land commissioner a short time, but I've never been prouder of this agency and I've never been prouder to be a Texan. We have a long road ahead of us; but we are on the right path. Together, we are going to recover and rebuild.