Huberty Files HB2525 to Create Lake Houston Dredging and Maintenance District

State Representative Dan Huberty filed HB2525 on March 1, 2021 to create a dredging district to perform ongoing maintenance dredging on Lake Houston. However, the boundaries of the District will be the boundaries of Harris County. As of March 2, Huberty’s bill does not yet have a senate sponsor, nor has it yet been referred to a committee.

Back in 2018, before the Army Corps finished its emergency dredging program, the Corps recommended a maintenance dredging program. Since then, the City has continued dredging with financial assistance from FEMA and a TWDB grant stemming from Huberty’s amendment to SB500, a senate appropriations bill in the 2019 legislative session. That amendment provided $30 million for additional dredging. The Harris County Flood Bond also provided money for additional dredging.

Need for Maintenance Dredging Recognized Decades Ago

Back in 2000, the Brown & Root Report, which came out of the 1994 flood, recommending maintenance dredging to prevent the kind of sediment buildups that contributed to Harvey flooding. But nothing was ever done until after thousands of homes and businesses flooded during Harvey.

Meanwhile, more sediment comes downstream with each flood. And that 2019 money won’t last forever. So ever since the last legislative session, Huberty has sought a permanent solution.

City of Houston has had three mechanical dredges working in the vicinity of the West Fork Mouth Bar for a year.

What HB2525 Does and Doesn’t Do

Here are the details of HB2525. The bill will:

  • Create a special purpose dredging and maintenance district whose operations are limited to Harris County and Lake Houston (including East Fork, West Fork and mouths of tributaries such as Rogers Gully, Luce Bayou and Ben’s Branch.
  • Maintenance will consist of the removal of floating debris, such as trees that clogged the waterways after Harvey.
  • The district will be governed by a board of seven.
  • Harris County Commissioners will appoint three directors.
  • Houston City Council will appoint three.
  • The County Judge and Mayor will jointly name the board’s presiding officer.
The District may:
  • Form interlocal agreements with other political subdivisions and corporate entities or persons to perform the work.
  • Seek grants of money, equipment or other resources to assist in its operations.
It may not:
  • Finance, develop or maintain a recreational facility.
  • Exercise eminent domain.
  • Perform the same functions as an overlapping conservation or reclamation district.

Financial Provisions

In addition to raising money from grants, HB2525 gives the District power to issue revenue bonds, but it may NOT levy a tax.

In formulating this bill, financing District operations received considerable discussion. Casey Christman, Huberty’s assistant, said, “We will have a committee substitute on this bill that makes several changes. But this bill would let the Lake Houston Dredging and Maintenance District (LHDMD) create individual interlocal agreements with each entity that purchases water, which at last count was about 68 organizations.”

“The terms of each agreement may differ (i.e. commercial vs. residential) but will outline how and where the fees are assessed. Also, LHDMD would be eligible to apply for grants or funds from other governmental entities, like FEMA or TWDB. Lastly, the new language will permit LHDMD to sell any materials collected. All options could help pay down bonds,” said Christman.

For the full text of the bill, amendments to it, and to track its progress through the legislature, see this page at Texas Legislature Online.

Thanks to Representative Dan Huberty for his persistence and leadership on this issue.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/2/2021

1281 Days since Hurricane Harvey