After Hurricane Harvey, Harris County Engineering examined regulations throughout the region and recommended minimum drainage standards to reduce future flooding in the region’s cities and counties. Harris County even offered to pay the cost of inventorying existing standards and having an engineering firm draft recommended revisions. But almost 2000 days after Harvey, only half of the area’s cities and counties have taken action. Among those not acting: Montgomery and Liberty Counties. Here’s a breakdown of who has done what as of January 18, 2023, according to Harris County.
Twenty took Harris County up on its offer. They have already successfully updated their drainage regulations. They include:
- Cities of
- Bunker Hill Village
- Deer Park
- El Lago
- Galena Park
- Hilshire Village
- Jersey Village
- La Porte
- Piney Point Village
- Southside Place
- Taylor Lake Village
- Waller County
Considered Updates But Haven’t Acted
Twelve had requested and received an analysis, but had not yet implemented recommendations. They include:
- Cities of:
- Hedwig Village
- Jacinto City
- League City
- Missouri City
- Nassau Bay
- South Houston
- Spring Valley
- West University
- Fort Bend County
Eight have not updated ordinances and regulations. These include communities that did not respond to and those that refused Harris County’s offer. They include:
- Hunter’s Creek Village
- Morgan’s Point
In fairness, Montgomery County did hire a firm in August 2022 to update/revise its drainage criteria manual and subdivision rules. The scope of work included examining some of the recommendations below made by Harris County. But work was expected to take at least a year.
Recommendations for Minimum Drainage Standards
The minimum drainage standards recommended by Harris County included:
- Use Atlas 14 rainfall rates for sizing storm water conveyance and detention systems.
- Require a minimum detention rate of 0.55 acre feet per acre for any new development on tracts one acre or larger. However, single-family residential structures and accessory buildings on existing lots would be exempt.
- Prohibit the use of hydrographic timing as a substitute for detention on any project, unless it directly outfalls into Galveston Bay.
- Require “no net fill” in the current mapped 500-year flood plain, except in areas identified as coastal zones only.
- Require minimum Finished Floor Elevation (FFE) of new habitable structures be established at or waterproofed to the 500-year flood elevation as shown on the effective Flood Insurance Study.
I would add one more to the list:
- No clearing or grading before environmental and drainage studies are completed, and during grading, measures are taken to protect neighbors from runoff.
This seems to be particularly troublesome issue for those surrounding new developments.
Harris County Engineering originally positioned adoption of the minimum drainage standards as a condition for receiving partnership money from the 2018 flood bond.
Clearly, not everyone sees that has a powerful incentive. Those outside Harris County likely see little benefit, especially since the Equity Prioritization Framework has delayed funding in those areas.
Perhaps Harris County should have emphasized how adoption of the minimum standards could help reduce flooding for ALL people in the region – including those within Montgomery and Liberty Counties.
During heavy rains in late January, I received dozens of reports of flooding in Montgomery and Liberty Counties. As growth in surrounding areas explodes, lax regulations are starting to inflict suffering on those area’s own citizens.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/5/23
1986 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.