flood mitigation funding through Q4 22

Flood-Mitigation Funding: San Jacinto Falls Further Behind

According to Fourth Quarter 2022 data obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD), the San Jacinto Watershed has fallen further behind other watersheds in flood-mitigation funding on a number of measures.

Since 2000, HCFCD has spent $3.437 billion. The San Jacinto Watershed is the county’s largest and had the deepest flooding during Harvey as measured by feet above flood stage.

worst first
Chart showing feet above flood stage of 33 gages of misc. bayous in Harris County during Harvey.

The Minnow’s Share of Funding

Yet it has received only $65.5 million in flood mitigation funding since 2000, ranking it 14th among the county’s 23 watersheds. The 215-square mile San Jacinto Watershed received only $1.5 million out of $54.6 million spent by HFCD in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, all of the following watersheds are surging ahead in the funding sweepstakes:

  • Addicks Reservoir received $1.9 million
  • Brays Bayou – $3.6 million
  • Buffalo Bayou – $4 million
  • Cypress Creek – $6.3 million
  • Greens Bayou – $5.3 million
  • Halls Bayou – $6.3 million
  • Hunting Bayou – $2.3 million
  • Little Cypress Creek – $3 million
  • Luce Bayou – $2.5 million
  • Sims Bayou – $4.6 million
  • White Oak Bayou – $2.1 million.

Most of these watersheds have received extensive funding in the past. For instance, Brays Bayou has received more than half a billion dollars since 2000 and $175 million since Harvey.

Low-to-Moderate Income Watersheds Leave the Pack Behind

And since 2000, four low-to-moderate income (LMI) watersheds have received virtually half of all funding. Brays, Greens, White Oak and Sims received half of $2.4 billion – as much as all 19 other watersheds combined.

Brays, Greens White Oak and Sims have consumed half of all flood-mitigation funding since 2000.

If you compare ALL watersheds with a majority LMI population, 8 LMI watersheds received 60% compared to 40% for 15 others.

This next table shows watersheds ranked by LMI percentage and the amount spent on each. Halls is one fifth the size of the San Jacinto and has about half the population. But it has almost double the LMI population and received almost twice as much money.

Omits $1 Billion in countywide spending to compare watersheds better.

The Slippery Slope

The chart below shows the rank order of all watersheds based on total funding – both before and after Harvey.

Since Harvey, the San Jacinto has fallen below both the average and median spending per watershed.

An almost 90X disparity exists between the high and low since Harvey. The difference between Brays and San Jacinto is almost 5X.

Here’s the breakdown in a table format of who got how much.

Flood mitigation funding totals by watershed from 1/1/2000 to 12/31/2022.

Percent of Planned Spending

Another way to look at spending is by comparing the percentages of planned to actual for each watershed.

The San Jacinto has received approximately $30 million from the flood bond as of Flood Control’s last update. That’s out of $360 million on the project list – only one twelfth of the planned total for the San Jacinto.

Compare that with $185 million in flood-mitigation funding so far from the flood bond for Brays Bayou. That’s out of a planned total of $286 million. Brays has already received two thirds of its flood-bond total. That’s the power of equity.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/7/2023

1988 Days since Hurricane Harvey