flood bond update, spending drought in Lake Houston Area

May Flood-Bond Update Shows Spending Drought in Lake Houston Area Continues

The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) posted the June 2022 status of 2018 flood-bond expenditures for Commissioners Court last Friday. Among the report’s highlights: the spending drought continues in the Lake Houston Area where only two capital improvement construction projects are active. Their total reported value: $2 thousand. That’s out of more than $235 million in active construction projects during the month of June.

Said another way, the Lake Houston Area is getting less than one-thousandth of 1% of the construction budget (0.000851%). March and April updates show that no new capital improvement construction projects have started in the Lake Houston Area in months.

See last page of full report for high resolution version. Note spending drought in NE portion of county.

Project Highlights

In the good news category, HCFCD:

  • Completed the $480 million Project Brays
  • Finished detention Basins near Little York and Hopper in the Halls Bayou Watershed, with combined 200 acre-feet of storage.
  • Wrapped up Halls Bayou conveyance improvements
  • Began demolition of the old Raveneaux Country Club on Cypress Creek
  • Started drainage repairs in the Carpenters Bayou watershed
  • Issued a purchase order for the Atascocita Area Drainage Study, which had been approved on February 8.
  • Released the Phase II, 1800-page report on flood tunnel feasibility

Spending Breakdowns by Watershed

Harris County contains 23 major watersheds shown below.

The 23 watersheds in Harris County and the amount spent to date from all sources under the 2018 flood bond.

The table and bar graph below make the rank-order and relative magnitude of spending in various watersheds more apparent.

Spending by watershed ranked from high to low. San Jacinto is middle of pack despite being largest watershed in county,
Bar graph of table above.

Factors Affecting Watershed Spending

Several factors affect the magnitude of spending in each watershed. They include:

  • Equity Prioritization Framework – This scoring matrix gives higher priority to projects in low-to-moderate income watersheds that have a high social vulnerability index. Projects with high scores started sooner.
  • Project Lifecycle Stage – Generally speaking, the earlier a project kicked off, the further along it is in its lifecycle. Studies have completed and construction has started or even completed. Some areas that flood repetitively had engineering studies completed and were already shovel-ready after Harvey.
  • Repetitive damage to population centers – More damage in highly populated areas gets more attention.
  • Prior Investment – Sims had massive investment by the Army Corps before Harvey and, comparatively speaking, had less flooding than other watersheds.
  • Partner Funding Availability – Projects with committed local, state or federal matches get higher priority.
  • Buyouts/Right of Way Acquisition – Sometimes entire subdivisions must be bought out to make room for flood mitigation projects. This can delay construction for years.
  • Lobbying – Squeaky wheels play a role on multiple levels.

Usually, no one factor accounts for a project’s or an area’s ranking. But multiple factors – working together – can push an area up or down the list.

Certainly, some areas have suffered spending-wise because of political priorities.

Other Highlights

HCFCD spent a total of $1.05 billion through the end of May. That compares to $1.025 billion through the end of April. So HCFCD spent $25 million in May.

Of the $1.05 billion spent to date, bond funds comprised $545 million. Grants comprised $367 million. And $140 came from other local funds.

HCFCD reported a schedule performance index of .97. That means projects are running slightly behind schedule. On-schedule performance would have earned a 1.0.

Overall, HCFCD has completed 21.8% of the bond projects when we’re 37.5% of the way through the 10-year program (45 months out of 120).

For the complete June update on bond spending, click here. Remember to review the last page. It shows capital improvement construction projects throughout the county and the spending drought in the Lake Houston Area.

Posted by Bob Rehak on June 26, 2022

1762 Days since Hurricane Harvey