At-Large Position 5
Hurricane Harvey landed in Texas in 2017, bringing over 50 inches of rain to Houston and flooding thousands of homes and businesses across the region. In the aftermath, we had an opportunity to rebuild Houston as a stronger, more resilient city better prepared for future storms. A summary of what’s been done since Harvey:
- $572 million invested in drainage-related capital improvement projects, with 42 completed and an additional 13 currently under construction.
- $61 million invested in local drainage projects, with 218 completed and 75 active projects underway. These are projects usually cost less than $2 million and are delivered at a faster pace.
- $53.2 million in storm water action team (SWAT) projects, with 156 completed and an additional 22 due to be completed by the end of this fiscal year. SWAT projects reduce localized drainage problems not directly subject to riverine/ bayou overbank flooding by rehabbing/upgrading the existing drainage system to improve conveyance of day-to-day storm events and expanding maintenance capabilities.
- $109 million in large scale Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone inter-agency drainage infrastructure projects, with three completed and five underway.
- $70.5 million spent on acquiring property, resulting in 357.6 acres of added detention.
- $120M in state and federal funds spent on dredging, removing three million cubic yards of sand and sediment from the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.
- Green Infrastructure
- 30 green stormwater infrastructure projects were implemented in 2020.
- With the launch of three out of the four incentives for green development, we expect this number to increase every year as we combat flooding at every scale.
- Five pilot park projects will integrate park amenities with dry detention.
- Year 6 and Beyond
- Begin Municipal Courts reconstruction/relocation
- Obtain Phase II approval for four Hazard Mitigation Grant Program projects
- Finalize federal recovery reimbursement for the wastewater system
- Complete eight Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery-17D ($100 million) multifamily projects
In October, FEMA granted the city final approval for the Inwood Forest flood mitigation project. The $52.6 million construction phase of this project will provide for improvements to the Inwood Forest stormwater detention basins. The project will reduce localized flood risk following the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. This is one of four major flood mitigation projects the city is developing pending FEMA funding. The Inwood project will protect over 4,400 structures in the White Oak Bayou and Vogel Creek watersheds. Jointly, the city and county aim to build 12 floodwater detention basins to hold about 1,200 acre-feet of water (roughly 592 Olympic swimming pools, or enough water to fill the Astrodome).
On December 7, city council voted to purchase 73 acres of land from the city of West University Place to be used for the Ruffino stormwater detention project. The project will increase protection during future severe storms and result in significant flood damage reduction to residential and commercial properties in Southwest Houston. The Ruffino Hills site was once used as a landfill that has been out of commission for 30 years.
Flood Mitigation Funding
I am a board member of the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), our region’s council of governments. I serve together with leaders from our 13-county region and make decisions about spending federal and state funds for workforce development, flood mitigation, and community and environmental planning.
This year there was much discussion about how H-GAC would divide up $488 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds dedicated for flood mitigation (CDBG-MIT). Unfortunately, the board voted to give Houston only a small percentage of this funding. Many board members felt since Harris County was getting a direct allocation of $750 million of CDBG-MIT, Houston and other cities within Harris County would benefit from the county’s allocation. I contend Houston needs its own large allotment of funds to address our urban drainage needs.
I will continue to advocate at the regional level for additional flood mitigation funds for Houston. It defies logic that both the state and H-GAC left Houston out of meaningful funding for flood projects. Houston bore the brunt of Harvey, and we should receive our fair share of funds.