Top Priorities for Lake Houston Area Flood Mitigation

The fast-approaching Harris County Flood Bond referendum on August 25 is forcing people to focus on their top mitigation priorities.

Harris County Flood Control Bond Page at

Here is the current list of projects included in the Bond Proposal. Scroll down to page 7 to see those associated with the San Jacinto Watershed as of 6/1/18. Only one item from MY top four is currently on the County’s priority list.

Here are four things that I think would make the biggest impact for this area. Do you agree?

Top Priorities

  1. More river dredging. We must restore the velocity and carrying capacity of the entire river, not just a small portion of the West Fork and not just to pre-Harvey conditions.  The Army Corps of Engineers is restoring a 2-mile stretch to pre-Harvey conditions. But we need to dredge deeper and further. And we need to do it on a regular basis. In 2000, Brown & Root recommended dredging and periodic maintenance as the best option they examined to mitigate flooding. Neither was ever done. That’s a huge part of the reason why we face increased flood risk today. Personally, I’d like to see the East and West Forks restored to their 2000 condition.
  2. More floodgates on Lake Houston. Freese and Nichols found that 14 additional gates could have lowered the flood level during Harvey by up to 1.9 feet. That could help reduce flooding both upstream and downstream from the dam. It could also help reduce flooding downstream. By releasing water before a storm hits in a gradual, controlled fashion, you can create more capacity within the lake so you can discharge water at a lower rate as the reservoir fills back up.
  3. More upstream detention. Offset Lake Conroe releases by capturing and holding water elsewhere. Everybody from here to Waller County seems to be lobbying for this. Small dams along the streams and bayous could temporarily hold back flood waters before they reach highly populated areas. Spring and Cypress Creeks are popular candidates. Lake Creek has also been mentioned. Finally, TACA pointed out that sand mines could make excellent detention ponds – my favorite alternative.
  4. Better ditch maintenance. Before Harvey, many of our drainage ditches became silted and clogged with fallen trees. Some, like Ben’s Branch, near the public library, still have islands and standing water in them. Keeping these ditches clear and free flowing should be a high priority at all times to eliminate internal flooding.

Consensus Starting to Emerge

Monday, at separate meetings of the Lake Houston Area Grass Roots Flood Prevention Initiative and the Recover Lake Houston Task Fork, I saw consensus emerging around these flood mitigation measures. Together, these top priorities seem to have the best chance of actually reducing flooding in the Lake Houston area.

What are your top priorities? Whether you agree or disagree with these, please communicate your thoughts to Harris County Flood Control ASAP. The County is actively soliciting ideas for the bond proposal right now.

According to Community Impact, Judge Ed Emmett said the county hopes to have a final list of projects to share with the public by Aug. 1. Early voting will begin on Aug. 8. Thus, we have only six weeks to influence the project list.

Leveraging Local Dollars

County bond money can be used to leverage Federal matching funds from FEMA and HUD grants. These grants usually operate on a 75/25 or 90/10 basis, returning $3 to $9 for every dollar put up. If voters approve the$2.5 billion referendum, it could potentially bring in tens of billions of additional dollars. This flow chart explains how the Flood Control District’s funding works.

Federal dollars for Harvey flood mitigation efforts are available now, but may go elsewhere if we don’t act. So it’s important that we:

  • Make sure the language in the proposed bond accommodates our needs
  • Pass the bond
  • Focus the money where it will do the most good

Here is where the proposed bond language stands as of this date. See BondLanguageAsOf6.13.18.  It will most likely be modified before voting begins, based on what officials hear from citizens at a series of meetings being held in all 22 watersheds throughout Harris County.

Give the County Your Thoughts

Remember, according the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, the Lake Houston area historically has received 0% of the region’s flood mitigation dollars, but sustained 14% of the region’s damage during Harvey. Let’s make sure we get our fair share of flood control dollars this time around.

Call 713-684-4107 or mail comments to 9900 Northwest Freeway, Houston, Texas 77092, ATTN: Bond Program Communications.

Come to the meeting with Judge Ed Emmett at the Kingwood Community Center on July 10 from 6 to 8 pm. Learn more about bond proposal and give the Judge your feedback directly.

Posted by Bob Rehak 6/13/2018

288 days since Hurricane Harvey