Harris County to Vote on $2.5 Billion Flood Bond Referendum on Harvey Anniversary

On May 1, Harris County Commissioner’s Court unanimously approved holding a special election on August 25, 2018 for a $2.5 billion flood-bond referendum. August 25th is the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey which affected an estimated 150,000 structures in the region according to FEMA. Ninety thousand of those structures, 60 percent, were outside the 500 year flood plain.

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Clearly, Harris County needs to improve drainage. County Judge Ed Emmett says that money in the bond referendum will address needs in all of the Harris county’s 22 watersheds. However, an exact list of projects included in the bond has not yet been defined.

Guiding Principles for Flood Bond

Judge Emmett says he is committed to both transparency and equity in the flood bond package. Historically, the Humble/Kingwood area has been underfunded. The first report by the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium found that this area contains 3 percent of the region’s population, sustained 14 percent of the region’s damage during Harvey, and historically has received zero percent of the region’s funding. It’s not zero dollars, but the dollars are so small, they get rounded down to zero percent.

What the Flood Bond Includes

Language in the draft bond proposal states in part, “The proceeds from the Bonds will be used for projects to hold or convey storm water, including land acquisition, including buyouts, and the design and construction of reservoirs, detention/retention ponds, channel improvements, restoration, and other improvements (“Flood Protection”) within the following watersheds and their tributaries…” The list of watersheds and tributaries includes the San Jacinto river and three of its tributaries including Cypress Creek, Spring Creek and Luce Bayou.

The proposed bond would increase county taxes a maximum of approximately four cents per $100 of assessed valuation. 

This Houston Chronicle article explains more about the flood bond proposal.

Improvements This Area Could Use

If, at this time, I were compiling a list of local projects to mitigate our area’s flooding, the projects would include:

  • Additional upstream detention
  • Additional dredging not currently being covered by the Army Corps, i.e., the East Fork and internal drainage ditches
  • Additional gauges to provide earlier and more accurate warnings before the next flood
  • Adding tainter gates to the Lake Houston dam, to lower the level of the lake in anticipation of major storms, so that we can shed water faster and earlier to provide an additional buffer against flooding
  • Partnering with the SJRA on projects that their watershed-wide flood prevention study identifies, especially those that can help the greatest number of people.

Others may have different opinions. What do you think? Contact me through the web form on the contact page.

Posted by Bob Rehak

May 3, 2018, 247 days since Hurricane Harvey