Report Jan 18, 2012

Opportunity Knocks

Hurricane Ike tore through the upper Texas Gulf coast in 2008, unleashing devastation on communities and economies. Yet portions of the region fared better, showing that undeveloped lands along the coast serve as a natural buffer for a tremendous amount of storm surge tide.

This natural landscape, from sea level to as much as 15 feet elevation, is an integral part of a long-term, nonstructural flood mitigation system. In other words, the water-storage capacity of these low-lying areas can help reduce flooding and property damage inland.

Creating a new recreation area under joint management of local partners and the National Park Service has been proposed as one strategy for enhancing community safety while deriving additional economic benefits from these lands. This new national recreation area would include voluntary land-owning participants in the coastal buffer zone. Behind this proposal is the idea that enhanced recreational use of these lands would draw additional economic value from maintaining this aspect of the region’s flood mitigation system.

This report examines the potential economic impacts of the proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area on Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, and Matagorda counties. It does not assess additional benefits from enhanced flood protection; however these benefits are likely to be sizable.

A national recreation area would offer the region’s communities significant economic advantages. At the same time, it could provide a framework for coordinated protection of critical natural flood control capacity and natural-resource-based industries along the upper Texas Gulf coast.