Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) transmitted an update to Commissioners Court today that shows the progress of the flood bond through September 2022. The report shows slowing activity. Specifically:
- No new construction contracts or other agreements were awarded in the last month.
- Total spending increased only $21 million – from $1.104 billion to $1.125 billion.
- Overall progress remained unchanged from August. It’s holding at 23.5% complete.
- The amount of “Professional Services Invoices Paid” declined from $4.8 million to $1.7 million.
- Home buyouts “in progress” declined from 331 to 305 (-26).
Improvements Since Harvey
The update also included a list of accomplishments since Harvey. HCFCD has:
- Completed 229 project components, reducing the risk of flooding for more than 14,000 homes and businesses
- Removed an estimated 4.7 million cubic yards of sediment from channels across Harris County through maintenance efforts – the equivalent of approximately 335,000 dump truck loads – to ensure stormwater can move through channels efficiently
- Acquired more than 21,500 acres of land for projects, floodplain preservation and buyouts to ensure floodwaters can spread out safely without structures that can flood
- Secured more than $1.35 billion in partnership funding while pursuing more funding opportunities at the federal, state and local levels.
- Started the third batch of major maintenance activities along Cypress Creek.
Where Money Has Gone
Note that the September update (reported in October) actually contains figures compiled through the end of August. The map below shows where more than $1.1 billion has gone.
Here’s how that spending looks in table form arranged in order from highest to lowest based on spending through the end of August (column 3).
This spending shows a huge disparity among watersheds. The ratio between Brays and Vince is 335 to 1.
The table also shows the effect of “equity prioritization” – concentrating on watersheds with a high percentage of low-to-moderate income (LMI) residents.
Eight LMI watersheds have received a total of $447.5 million for an average of $55.9 million each.
Yet the 15 other watersheds have received a total of $460.2 million for an average of $30.7 million each – roughly half as much.
The entire Lake Houston Area still has only two active capital improvement construction projects – valued at $1,000 each. Both are Excavation and Removal Contracts – one in Woodridge Village and the other in the Cedar Bayou Watershed.
Slowdown in Spending Bears More Investigation
The most worrisome aspect of this update is a continued slowdown in activity. At the current rate of spending, HCFCD would spend less than half the money in the bond in the next six years. Remember, we’re four years into a ten-year, $5 billion program. At $20 million per month for the next 60 months, HCFCD would spend only another $1.2 billion. That would cover only about half the projects in the bond.
However, note that in project management, sometimes pauses are built into projects for things such as approvals, right-of-way acquisition, etc. The real question is whether such pauses can explain the current slowdown. HCFCD is investigating to see how much, if any of the slowdown, is planned. More on that next month.
To see the complete bond update, click here.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/12/22
1169 Days since Hurricane Harvey
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