Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) delivered its March 2022 Flood Bond Spending Update yesterday to Commissioners Court. It shows $226,476,745 dollars worth of active capital construction projects underway throughout the county. But only two of those valued at a grand total of $2,000 are in the Lake Houston Area.
Maintenance Costs Harder to Determine
The update also includes active maintenance projects. However, those are grouped in ways that make it difficult to determine the exact cost of each. The Lake Houston Area had 3 out of 36 of those. At least one of the three is now complete. It consisted of cleaning a block-long stretch of the drainage ditch that parallels Stonehollow Drive in Kingwood. Judging by the group costs, none of the three qualifies as major.
The update does not disclose the value of past projects. Nor does it break out the value of studies, right-of-way acquisition, or future improvements.
For the full update, click here. I compiled the numbers above from the last two pages in the PDF. To see the location of projects, check the HCFCD’s Flood Education Mapping Tool. It shows the number of every ditch and stream in Harris County.
The report yields many insights.
- 19.7% of the bond work has been completed as of the end of March. That’s up from 19.4% at the end of February. That percentage should increase faster as HCFCD completes more preliminary studies and moves into the expensive phases of projects, such as right-of-way acquisition and construction.
- Of 1175 buyouts identified, 457 have completed – 39%.
- Biggest winners to date in the flood-bond, mitigation-funding sweepstakes have been:
- Brays Bayou – $173.1 million
- Cypress Creek – $87.4 million
- Greens Bayou – $82.7 million
- Addicks Reservoir – $75.4 million
- Little Cypress Creek – $53.7 million
- White Oak Bayou – $53.2 million
- Clear Creek – $38 million
- Halls Bayou – $35.4 million
- Hunting Bayou – $34.1 million
- Willow Creek – $33.5 million
- The San Jacinto River watershed has received $20.7 million despite being the largest in the county.
- HCFCD completed two projects during the month and began construction on one other.
- Eight other projects changed stages, i.e., from feasibility study to preliminary engineering.
“Partner Funds” To Date Virtually Equal “Bond Funds”
Virtually half of flood bond spending through the end of March 2022 came from partner funds. Local funds plus grants totaled $483 million. Money spent out of the bond itself has totaled $492 million. So, 49.5% of spending to date came from partner funds. It has gone largely to watersheds supposedly disadvantaged by partnership requirements. A popular political narrative claims low-to-moderate income watersheds get no partner funding and more affluent watersheds get it all. But that simply isn’t true.
The narrative is being used to accelerate the start of projects in LMI neighborhoods by decoupling grant approval and project initiation. However, as these numbers show, turning our backs on partnership funds could potentially double the cost of flood mitigation.
Glaring $750 Million Omission
Although the March update contained a discussion of several partnership grants, it failed to mention $750 million allocated to Harris County by HUD and the GLO for flood mitigation on March 18. The March update did, however, discuss several smaller grants, earmarks and partner funds. Those took up two and a half pages.
The $750 million, together with the flood resilience trust approved last year, would fully fund the flood bond. That means that no watershed should have to wait on partner funding for construction projects to begin once engineering is completed.
Only one step remains before Harris County can start using the money – approval of a “method of distribution.” That’s a final plan for how and where the money will be used.
Posted by Bob Rehak on May 11, 2022
1716 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.