Texas uses seaweed  to fight storm surge

FILE - In this June 26, 2013 file photo seaweed scraped from the beach near 17th Street in Galveston, Texas, is piled into dunes where vegetation is already growing over decomposing seaweed. The Park Board of Trustees voted unanimously to support projects that will create seaweed-enhanced sand dunes on the island. (APhoto Photo/The Galveston County Daily News, Jennifer Reynolds)
FILE - In this June 26, 2013 file photo seaweed scraped from the beach near 17th Street in Galveston, Texas, is piled into dunes where vegetation is already growing over decomposing seaweed. The Park Board of Trustees voted unanimously to support projects that will create seaweed-enhanced sand dunes on the island. (APhoto Photo/The Galveston County Daily News, Jennifer Reynolds)

GALVESTON, Texas — Galveston beach-goers have long tiptoed around massive piles of seaweed, often using their children’s plastic beach toys and a few well-chosen expletives to rake away the stinky, dark muck that arrives daily like an unrequested gift from the Sargassum Sea.

But after years of having midnight workers try to clear the beaches of tons of seaweed delivered by the currents, the Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees and Texas A&M University are launching a pilot program aimed at using the sticky muck to build a buttress against severe weather.

The pilot program will test a theory that sand dunes fortified by compressed seaweed will be more resilient to storm surges and high tides, protecting the fragile community that has been pounded by countless hurricanes.

The $140,000 project is just one of several ongoing programs along the Texas Gulf Coast designed to use natural resources and the existing habitat to fight rising sea levels and future hurricanes, ideas that have become more popular since 2008, when Hurricane Ike breached Galveston’s man-made, multimillion dollar seawall, flooding the inner city and causing more than $20 billion in damage.

The hypothesis is that similar to plant-covered sand piles, a dune that has a strong base of seaweed also will better withstand the force of ocean waves and massive storm surges.