Green infrastructure can protect ports from growing environmental risks. here’s how

With over 80% of the world’s trade volume transported by sea, ports are crucial infrastructure for delivering everything from food to fuel, electronics to cars. As we have seen with the disruption of supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic, a compromised port can have far-reaching consequences.

Strengthen port resilience
According to a recent study of US ports, only ten out of 300 ports have developed a resilience plan. A 2016 report concluded that few ports around the world are prepared for rising sea levels, powerful hurricanes and severe storms. The current global cost of protecting all ports is estimated at US$205 billion by 2100, yet the reduction in global trade without this investment would be worse.

Given the slow response of most national governments to secure ports, local solutions are beginning to fill the void. And these solutions tend to be more innovative and less expensive while providing protection as well as local conveniences. From the Port of Tallinn in Estonia to the Port of San Diego in Southern California to the Port of Houston on the Texas coast, a handful of ports are creating public-private collaborations to combine green solutions with more physical infrastructure. traditional which is the ideal solution. to be addressed by most national governments.

Create a green infrastructure model for ports
One of the biggest green infrastructure plans that could become a model for ports around the world is emerging from Galveston Bay, Texas. Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel are home to one of the largest oil refining and petrochemical production complexes in the world, contributing more than 13% of the United States’ refining capacity, much of the jet fuel and military, as well as more than 25% of the production of key chemicals such as ethylene and propylene. There are over 4,000 petroleum and petrochemical storage tanks along the Houston Ship Channel and thousands more in the surrounding area.
Rice University Houston’s SSPEED Center (Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Disaster Evacuation) calculated that a direct hit from a Category 4 hurricane would be devastating, causing the worst environmental disaster in state history. -United. Moreover, it would seriously threaten national security as well as regional and national economies due to the loss of the region’s refining and chemical production. With more than 800,000 people living along the bay’s west coast subject to major flooding, the loss of life and environmental degradation would be staggering.

What the US government has proposed is that the Army Corp of Engineers build a system of barriers and gates in the Gulf of Mexico. It is certainly necessary. The project, the largest environmental engineering development in US history, will take two decades to build and is estimated at $31 billion. And yet, the current plan would not provide protection to the upper bay if a CAT 4 or greater storm hit directly. Entire communities would be severely damaged by flooding and contamination from the influx of petrochemical facilities along the bay and the connected Houston Ship Channel.

The Galveston Bay Park Plan
To address this issue, the SSPEED Center launched a storm protection initiative that became The Galveston Bay Park Plan – a robust, locally-led public-private collaboration that promises to be the largest green infrastructure project in the States. -United. The Port Authority of Houston, City of Houston, Harris County and Joe Swinbank, a Houston contractor, have funded a new study to determine how to prepare the project to begin the permitting process. The Rice University SSPEED Center team includes Rice University, Walter P. Moore, an international consulting engineering firm; and Rob Rogers, a city planner and architect who developed the “park” vision for the plan along with a host of other universities, scholars, ecologists, economists and other contributors to the plan.

The Galveston Bay park plan is a simple, pragmatic and economical idea. The shipping channel already needs to be widened to safely accommodate larger vessels as they enter and leave the bay. Opening the channel 700 to 900 feet will produce substantial amounts of dredged material, including plenty of virgin clay suitable for casting a surge barrier along the Houston Ship Channel.

Instead of dumping the dredged material at significant cost, the plan would use it to build barrier islands and turn them into a massive public amenity – a 10,000-acre park, restored wetlands and new rock reefs. oysters – while protecting people and industry for decades to come. The Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects named the plan the regional vision winner.

Extended responsibility model
This multi-stakeholder-led initiative has secured funding from the City of Houston, Harris County, Port of Houston and Joe Swinbank for the next phase of the Galveston Bay Park Plan: work that will focus on confirming costs initial construction cost of the project estimated at $3. $6 billion. While the Army Corp plan will provide general protection, the Galveston Bay Park plan provides security for the Upper Bay through locally led public-private collaboration.

The Houston and Galveston Bay area is not alone. To achieve real protection against the growing risk of monster hurricanes, local governments need to be more creative and increase their cooperation with the private sector. Galveston Bay’s extended liability model could be the way forward for many ports. This approach is not only feasible, but also shows how port infrastructure should be built in the 21st century: doing more with less, providing public facilities and involving all stakeholders, especially those with skin in the game.
Source: World Economic Forum