March 6 Town Hall Addresses Flood Concerns
By Bill Fowler, Co-Chair, Lake Houston Area Grassroots Flood Prevention Initiative
City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner recently provided Kingwood and other Lake Houston Area residents encouragement future flooding concerns triggered by buildup of sand and sediment on the West and East Forks of the San Jacinto River as well as adding 10 gates to allow for more rapid releases at the Lake Houston Dam were to be addressed in the near term, rather than over a period of several years.
Turner’s comments were delivered at a Town Hall meeting hosted by Councilman Dave Martin and attended by several hundred local residents on March 6 at the Kingwood Community Center.
Turner offered he had on that same day spoken to Governor Greg Abbott about the urgent need to remove sediment from the San Jacinto River.
He cited the recent low-level rains that brought the San Jacinto out of its banks and re-flooded parts of River Grove Park were examples of the urgent need for river dredging as well as additional gates at the Lake Houston Dam.
Turner also observed the sand mining along both Forks of the San Jacinto was a huge problem in need of regulation and pointed out dredging would be pointless in the long-term if the source of the sedimentation was not addressed.
The Mayor stated potential sources of the funds included the recently approved $90 billion flood relief associated with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria as well as the $1billion from the Hazard Development Fund recently announced by the Governor. Additionally, he suggested the City could borrow the funds from the Texas Water Development Fund in order to expedite remediation efforts.
Additional local officials addressing the gathering were Mark Micheletti, Kingwood resident and SJRA Board Member; Stephen Costello, City of Houston Chief Resiliency Officer; Carol Haddock, City of Houston Director Public Works; Matt Zeve, Harris County Flood Control; and Stan Sarman, Chairman, TIRZ 10.
Micheletti gave an update regarding his initial impressions of the SJRA following his recent appointment to the Board. He stressed he is committed to obtaining a full understanding of SJRA procedures and protocols and working to obtain any modifications that will lessen the potential of future flooding in the Lake Houston Area.
Costello offered comments related to the City’s efforts to address the Lake Houston Area’s flooding issues—including ongoing and proposed studies focusing on flood avoidance and mitigation.
Zeve introduced HCFCD’s flood website and pointed out the portion of the site dedicated to Kingwood. He also mentioned HCFCD is focusing determining the ownership and maintenance responsibilities for all 29 miles of open channels in the Kingwood area including determining immediate projects needed to provide positive drainage as soon as possible.
Haddock spoke on the City’s proposed changes to flood regulation regarding expanding regulation beyond the 100-year flood plain to include the 500-year flood plain. She stressed these changes would only effect new construction—not existing homes and businesses.
Sarman gave an update on the Northpark Drive expansion project.
Martin closed with a warning that without investment in major flood-protection measures, “Kingwood as it exists today is gone forever, and with it that tax base is gone forever.”
Posted 189 days after hurricane Harvey