On March 16, 2020, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) finally started accepting applications for flood infrastructure projects under Senate Bill 7 signed by the Governor on June 13, 2019. We’re now at 941 days since Hurricane Harvey.
What Took So Long
What took so long?
- Harvey happened shortly after the 2017 legislature concluded.
- The Governor would immediately release money from the Rainy Day Fund.
- The next legislature met in January of 2019.
- It took until the end of May, 2019 for SB7 to work it’s way through the Senate and House.
- The Governor signed the bill in June.
- The bill stipulated that the fund had to be approved to voters in November 2019. It was.
- Then the TWDB had to develop rules for what types of projects would be eligible for assistance, how they would be prioritized, etc.
We Aren’t to Goal Line Yet
What happens next?
- Cities and counties have until May 14 to submit preliminary, abridged applications.
- By early Summer 2020, the board will prioritize the abridged applications.
- They will then invite applicants whose project meet criteria and fit within available funding to submit complete applications.
- Complete applications will be due by early August 2020, about three years after Harvey.
- Financial assistance commitments will begin in October 2020.
- Closings begin later in the fall. Commitments have a six-month expiration period.
Construction of projects can then begin. If they were construction projects. Some grants will cover planning activities such as:
- Preliminary engineering
- Project design
- Feasibility assessments
- Coordination and development of regional projects
- Obtaining regulatory approvals
- Hydraulic and hydrologic studies
Different Types of Projects Eligible
The Flood Infrastructure Fund established by SB7 provides grants and 0% loans totaling $793 million. Eligible projects fall into four categories.
- Category 1 – Flood Protection Planning for Watersheds
- Category 2 – Planning, Acquisition, Design, Construction, Rehabilitation.
- Category 3 – Federal Award Matching Funds
- Category 4 – Measures Immediately Effective in Protecting Life and Property
Here’s a 36-minute video that explains the incredibly complicated rules for distribution of the funds. Warning: the video is not geared toward the public, but toward City and County employees who will apply for grants. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. Here’s a printed version of the Flood Infrastructure Fund Intended Use Plan that also describes all the rules.
Need to Move Quickly
With construction on many projects taking a year or more, the earliest citizens may see benefits from many of these grants will be 4 years post Harvey.
I understand the need to be cautious when handing out close to a billion dollars. But I also feel the need to act quickly with yet another hurricane season boring down on us. We should not forget that just last September, the fourth wettest storm in US history, Imelda, wiped out large areas between Houston and Beaumont. Sixty-two percent of the homes flooded during Imelda were outside of the 100-year floodplain. So we have lots of room for improvement.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/27/2020
941 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 190 since Imelda