Flood Bond Progress: 35% Time Elapsed, 19.4% Money Spent

A February update by Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) on the status of the 2018 Flood Bond showed that 35% of the way into the program (42 out of 120 months), 19.4% of the funds from all sources (including grants and partnerships) had been spent. That percentage was based on $967 million spent out of $5 billion projected.

Cost of Studies vs. Construction

While one percentage seems to lag the other by a factor of almost 2X, HCFCD estimates it is virtually on schedule. That’s because studies conducted up front cost far less than construction. And only 44 of 181 Bond program projects have entered construction at this point (24%). As more projects enter the construction phase, the pace of spending should accelerate.

From High-Level Summary to Nitty-Gritty Detail

The 13-page update features three major sections:

  • Summary statistics for the entire bond program
  • Project flow charts showing status of all projects
  • Watershed maps showing the amount spent to date; funded to date; and the values of all active maintenance and capital projects.
Spending by watershed on HCFCD flood bond projects through the end of February 2022.

Skewed Distribution of Capital Improvement Projects

Out of 75 active capital improvement projects, I counted only 13 in Precincts 3 and 4 which have Republican commissioners. Those contracts totaled only about $82 million out of about $249 million. That’s a testament to how thoroughly the Democrat-controlled Commissioners Court has relentlessly tweaked the Equity Prioritization Framework. For instance…

In northeastern Harris County, the update shows only two active capital projects valued at a whopping $1,000 each.

Of the 13 active capital projects in Precincts 3 and 4, six are E&R contracts valued at just $6,125 altogether. See page 13. The report lists no E&R contracts in Precincts 1 and 2.

Excavation and removal contracts let contractors sell dirt they remove from a site as a way of making back their normal profit margin. They’re a good deal for taxpayers as long as the demand for fill dirt remains high. But if demand slows, excavation progress could stall. In other words, they come with uncertainty attached.

Breakdown of San Jacinto Watershed Projects

Of ten bond projects listed in the San Jacinto Watershed, schedules show:

  • 4 in the feasibility-study phase
  • 2 in preliminary-engineering reviews
  • 1 in construction
  • 3 not yet started.

To see the full February Update presented at the March 22, 2022 Commissioner’s Court Meeting, click here.

The February report did not address a method of distribution for $750 million allocated by HUD and the GLO for flood mitigation to Harris County. The award happened on March 18, 2022 and will likely be covered next month.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/30/2022

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