Yesterday, the final project list was released for the Harris County Flood Bond. There was only one change affecting the San Jacinto Watershed and it was positive. The number of homes covered by subdivision drainage improvements increased tenfold. Early voting starts tomorrow on the flood bond referendum and I hope to be one of the first people at Kingwood Community Center at 8 a.m. because the flood bond is getting my wholehearted endorsement.
Reasons to Vote “For” Are Numerous
I like this bond for many reasons:
- We lobbied long and hard as a community to make sure the things that would mitigate flooding in the Lake Houston area were included. The county responded by including additional upstream detention, dredging, and floodgates for Lake Houston. They’ve given us what we asked for.
- Additional detention will decrease the input during a flood. Additional dredging will increase the throughput. Additional gates will increase the output. Hopefully, all of that will reduce flooding.
- The County has also included money to improve internal drainage ditches so water can get to the river faster.
- Together, these measures should help get us back to the point where a 100-year storm produces a 100-year flood. That’s the goal. Over the years, siltation has reduced drainage capacity and upstream development has increased peak flows. Baseline assumptions have changed since most of us bought our homes. Measures in the flood bond should help our drainage systems respond to heavy rains the way they were intended to.
- If we don’t address flooding, home values will not increase the way they normally would simply because of proximity to flooding. We must send a signal to the rest of the world that we are dealing with this problem.
- No one can afford another storm like Harvey, which USGS just re-classified as a 42-year storm (based on its West Fork gage at the Grand Parkway).
- The bond will provide seed money for many projects that bring in billions of additional dollars in matching funds.
- For instance, bond money could help us get started on dredging the West Fork mouth bar which is not within the scope of the Army Corps’ current dredging project.
- The cost per household is not a budget-breaker. It should cost far less than flood insurance and, unlike flood insurance, will actually reduce flooding.
- It will help protect homes, schools, businesses, and infrastructure, and make this entire area more secure and resilient.
Reasons to Vote Against are Weak
The main arguments that I have heard against the bond have to do with distrust of government; flexibility that allows officials to cancel or change projects; misplaced anger; and a tax increase.
- I have had the opportunity to meet for hours with the County Judge, the County Engineer and the Director of Operations for the Flood Control District. I have been impressed by how open, candid and receptive they have all been. I’m just not getting a negative vibe.
- We are holding them accountable for preventing another disaster, but without the money to do it, we’re tying their hands. That’s a prescription for another disaster.
It’s true that projects on the list could be changed or cancelled. I may not like that flexibility because it could potentially result in cancellation of what I perceive to be key projects, but I get it. Officials have rushed to respond to an urgent need; preliminary engineering reports have yet to be started on most of these projects. Things will change. No one can tell exactly how every penny will be spent ten years from now. Officials need flexibility to ensure our money is well spent. Sometimes you just have to trust people to use their judgment and do the right thing. I trust these people.
Re: misplaced anger:
Some people are conflating the Harris County Flood Bond with the City of Houston Drainage Fee. Don’t. They’re from two different groups.
Re: a tax increase:
- Some people have claimed the bond will double property taxes. Not true! You are NOT doubling your entire tax BILL. You would only double a tiny portion of it, the 1.4% that goes to flood control. Some people – depending on age, exemptions, and home value – won’t see any increase at all. See the typical examples provided by Bill Fowler at this link.
- Any increase will be phased in over time as projects get ready to launch.
- Yes, I might pay another $100 bucks a year. But it’s an investment in the security of my home – my biggest investment. It will pay me (or my heirs) back many times over. You wouldn’t hesitate to put a new coat of paint on your house if it needed it. Why would you vote against the one thing that might keep your neighborhood from flooding again?
Sleep Better, Look Better, Too
The biggest reason to vote for the bond is that you’ll sleep better. And maybe even look better. My wife keeps telling me that I look better without grocery bags under my eyes. That’s why the flood bond gets her endorsement, too.
Posted by Bob Rehak on August 7, 2018
343 Days since Hurricane Harvey