Harris County Flood Bond Approved by 6:1. What’s Next?

On August 25th, voters overwhelmingly approved the Harris County flood bond. The bond didn’t just pass, it passed overwhelmingly. 85.64 percent of the votes were FOR and only 14.36% were against. That made the margin of victory almost 6:1. Near midnight, the county clerk posted these results for the Bond

Breakdown of Vote

Not many people voted. Only 152,305 of 2,285,881 registered voters cast ballots. That’s 6.66%.

Approximately 94,000 people voted by mail or during early voting. Another 57,000 people voted on Election Day, August 25th, the semi-official anniversary of Hurricane Harvey.*

The total number of voters equaled the number of homes in Harris county that were destroyed – about 150,000 – but only half the number of cars that were destroyed – about 300,000. Perhaps everyone just assumed passage and stayed home.

Local Tallies Not Yet Available

Officials have not yet posted results by precinct. Therefore it’s not immediately clear how the Lake Houston Area voted compared to the rest of the county.

Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests the Lake Houston area had higher percentages of voters and positive voters than the rest of the county. One precinct in Kingwood had ten times more voters than an Aldine precinct and only 3% who voted against the bond. We’ll have to wait for the official results to tell more.

Everything Approved for Lake Houston

The turnout may have been disappointing, but the results were not. This will mean critical funding for projects that the Lake Houston Area needs for flood mitigation: more detention, dredging and gates. The bond also includes money to improve long neglected ditches and money to buy out homes that flood repeatedly.

Implementing Priorities

In the year since Harvey, we defined the problems, developed consensus around solutions, and secured funding.

Now starts the hard work. We actually have to implement the plans.

On Friday, August 24, the first of two dredges entered the river for the completion of assembly, The dredge is 27 feet wide, 90 feet long and weighs 270 tons. 

Additional Dredging Approved

I’m hoping that additional dredging will be one of the first items on the agenda for the Lake Houston Area. Currently, the Army Corps is about to start dredging 2.1 miles worth of “hot spots” in the river. Twenty-five percent of the cost of that project or about $17.9 million is for mobilization and demobilization. If we can launch a follow-on project to address the mouth bar before that project is completed next April, we may be able to redeploy all the equipment and dredge pipe without incurring all of those mobilization charges again.

Additional Gates Approved

The additional flood gates for Lake Houston will most likely be the next highest priority. Reportedly, the project received a very high score from the Texas Division of Emergency Management and FEMA. Engineering is already underway. However, this is a massive capital project that could easily take several years.

Additional Detention Approved

Adding more upstream detention will require a watershed survey (also in the flood bond budget) to determine the best place or places. Reportedly a vendor has already been selected and is standing by to start work the minute funding is assured.

To see the complete project list, click here and scroll down to the San Jacinto Watershed.

I contacted Matt Zeve tonight to congratulate him on the outcome of the vote. I think he was already hard at work on the projects. Within seconds, I received this response. “We are ready to deliver for everyone in Harris County.”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/26/17

362 Days since Hurricane Harvey

*PS: You may note that my anniversary date is a little out of sync with what others are calling the anniversary of Harvey, My calendar started ticking when water started creeping in my neighbors homes, not when the storm first approached Corpus Christi.