Harris County Making Another Attempt to Shift Flood Mitigation Funds
Harris County is making another attempt to shift flood mitigation funds from outlying neighborhoods toward the city center. Here’s the latest proposal that will be considered by the Community Resilience Flood Task Force at a noon meeting today.
Key Concerns About Proposal
This proposal attempts to establish new rules for the Equity Prioritization Framework adopted by commissioners in 2019 and changed several times since. These new rules were provided to Task Force members only within the last few days even though the document is dated December 14, 2021, more than a month ago.
The rule changes apply mostly to the distribution of Trust Fund money established to supplement the flood bond if partner funding did not materialize as expected. However, the proposed changes could affect the distribution of flood bond funds that voters approved by 86% in 2018.
Place more emphasis on number of people, using structures as a proxy for people. Benefit = efficiency.
This may disadvantage LMI neighborhoods as those projects tend to cost more and the neighborhoods have more apartments. They also have large numbers of homes crowding channels and floodplains. So, buyout costs will be higher. And historically, buyouts cost almost as much as construction. Also, apartments cost far more than single family homes. We need time to look at data on this.
Potential partner funding should not be considered in prioritization for use of trust funds.
What if you could make trust fund dollars go nine times further? Typically, HUD grants require only a 10% match.
Use trust funds for projects, like street flooding, not even mentioned in the bond.
- The County proposes using FEMA damage data back to 1977 to determine “Existing Level of Service.” This is a blatant attempt to tilt the playing field toward the inner city. In 1977, Beltway 8 and Intercontinental airport were still under construction. US59 was a 2-lane blacktop road. Outlying neighborhoods like Kingwood barely existed. This makes it impossible for any outlying neighborhoods to qualify for help with Trust Funds.
- Choosing 1977 as the starting point ignores 45 years of flood mitigation spending totaling approximately $5 billion.
- We don’t have enough money in the trust fund to complete all the bond projects. So, if we spend trust fund money on projects not in the bond – without partner help – it will mean cancelling bond projects somewhere else.
- Implementing this proposal will make it very difficult to get voters to approve future flood bonds.
How To Be Heard
Here is a presentation that the Community Resilience Flood Task Force will review at noon today. It provides a little more detail than the County Administrator’s description.
If this proposal concerns you, please send your comments to: CFRTFpubliccomment@gmail.com.
To view the meeting online, register at Cfrtf.harriscountytx.gov. It goes from 12-2 today.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/19/2022
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