Last Friday, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) issued a 37-page report detailing spending on 2018 flood-bond projects to date. It was attached to the agenda for the Harris County Commissioner’s Court meeting on Tuesday, August 24, 2021.
Late this week and early next will be the fourth anniversary of Harvey’s four day rampage through the Houston area. The storm broke so many records that NOAA retired its name. A year later, still reeling from the storm’s effects, Harris County voters approved a $2.5 billion bond issue to catch up with decades of chronic underfunding for HCFCD.
Since then, the rate of spending on flood mitigation projects has more than doubled. And the rate will accelerate even more as more projects move from engineering to construction.
Three years into a 10-year bond, HCFCD has spent slightly more than 30% of the money. That puts them exactly on track time-wise.
Among other things, the full report released last Friday shows that:
- 175 of 181 bond projects have been initiated
- $251 million in contracts have been awarded to engineering companies
- $552 million in contracts have been awarded for construction of capital improvements and repairs.
- 27 projects have completed, removing 11,000 homes from 100-year floodplains
- Another 660 buyouts have been completed with another 662 in process.
Back in 2018, the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) vowed to be open and transparent with bond funds. This report shows how, when, and where it spent the public’s money.
Accurate Snapshot of Progress
Until now, HCFCD’s website was the primary means for communicating with the public. But information was scattered across hundreds of pages and updates took place incrementally. That meant information on some watersheds was current and others could be months old. That made it difficult to get an accurate snapshot of progress.
To rectify this problem, HCFCD last week released the first in a series of new monthly reports. It gives everybody in every watershed information about what’s happening that affects them…at a glance.
Types of Information Included
The first report is 37 pages and tracks spending through the end of July 2021.
It’s broken down into a series of sections that include:
- An introduction that summarizes active bond projects, grants, local partner funding, buyouts, contracts awarded, projects completed, community engagement, floodplain preservation, selective clearing and turf establishment
- A visual timeline that tracks the progress of projects by month and year
- Key performance metrics
- Recent news
- A GANNT chart showing the stages and progress of every single project approved by voters
- Eight maps showing cumulative spending from different sources of funding
- Two maps showing the location and spending to date on all active construction and maintenance projects in the county.
The Ultimate Go-To Doc on Where Your Money Has Gone
This is the ultimate go-to document for everyone who wants to know what’s happening near them. And HCFCD vows to update it monthly.
If you compare this to articles I previously published on funding, keep in mind that this data includes:
- Four more months of spending
- Only spending starting August 2018 (approval of the bond fund).
So numbers may vary from posts you see on ReduceFlooding’s Funding page. I also included historical spending going back to 2000 to help put the current spending in context.
Replacing Fear with Facts
All in all, HCFCD’s monthly spending reports will advance the public dialog. It will be good to have discussions based on facts, not just fear.
Flooding is one of the most terrible things that can happen to someone. It produces lasting trauma and alters the trajectory of lives.
To complicate matters, not many people understand what a flood control project is. They may see a jogging trail in a park and not realize it is a massive flood detention basin. They may not realize that a channel through their neighborhood has been widened. And they likely don’t know how to track historical gage data to see if their neighborhoods are flooding from bayous or streets.
This report won’t solve all those problems. But it will go a long way toward helping people understand they have not been forgotten.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/22/2021
1454 Days since Hurricane Harvey