GeoCarta Has Moved

Mar 19, 2007

Map Detailing Galveston Island's Risk Unveiled

The first map detailing geological hazards on Galveston Island has been completed and has set the stage for the inevitable clash between developers and environmentalists, the Houston Chronicle reported. Jim Gibeaut who serves as state geologist for the State of Texas says the map may be the first to document the hazards on a populated barrier island.

The map divides the island into four hazard zones ranging from imminent hazard potential to low hazard potential. Several subdivisions already sit in imminent hazard areas of the island, and more are planned.

More from the Chronicle:

The Galveston Chamber of Commerce predicts that 3,800 new residential homes will be built this year, and most are likely to be built on the west end of the island where the map shows the most hazardous areas.

Supporters of new regulations say they are needed to protect homebuyers, wetlands that are vital to the shrimp and sports fishing industries, and wildlife and natural features that attract tourists.

Others view the map with skepticism and see potential regulations as an infringement on private property rights and a hindrance to economic development.
Gibeaut said data from the study used to create the map shows that the island will gradually shrink within the next 60 years as it sinks while sea levels rise and the waves slowly chop away the beach.

"The island is in a squeeze play," Gibeaut said.

The sea level is rising at about 6.5 millimeters, or about one-quarter inch, a year, based on data recorded since 1909 from a tide gauge at Pier 21 in Galveston, he said. Gibeaut called the rise "scary" in his appearance before the City Council and Planning Commission on March 8.

Dr. Gibeaut said Galveston Island is sinking due to the weight of its silt deposits and oil and gas drilling. At the same time, the Gulf or Mexico is eroding as much as 10 feet per year in some places on the island he said.

On September 8, 1900, a hurricane struck the island, killing between 6,000 and 12,000 people. That hurricane was the deadliest natural disaster in the history of the United States.

See also: Galveston Island Sinking Faster Than Previously Thought
Waterfront Property May Be Closer Than You Think