Harris County doesn’t have enough money to complete the 2018 Flood Bond, but is not committing all of a $750 million grant from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) for Hurricane Harvey flood mitigation.
In the last Harris County Commissioners Court Meeting, Lina Hidalgo admitted that Harris County doesn’t have enough money to finish all projects in the 2018 Flood Bond. See the video starting at 5 hours and 10 minutes.
The $2.5 billion 2018 Harris County Flood Bond program actually contained flood-mitigation projects worth $5 billion dollars. The County anticipated using a third of the original $2.5 billion to attract matching funds from Federal, State and other partners worth another $2.5 billion. However, to date, only about $1.7 billion in partnership funds have been committed. (See page 11 of last bond update.) That leaves a shortfall of about $800 million.
Yet Harris County has had $750 million of HUD Harvey Mitigation Funds sitting on the table for 20 months now. During that time, the County has only submitted a vague, high-level outline for how it wants to spend the money with no specifics. The County wants:
- 10% for planning and administration ($75 million)
- 45% for the Flood Control District ($325 million)
- 45% for “Harris County” ($325 million)
Where Will Next Half Billion Come From?
$800 minus $325 equals a $475 million shortfall. So only using $325 million for flood control projects still leaves us about half a billion in unfunded projects. The flood resilience trust won’t cover all that. And those calculations, by the way, don’t even include inflation. Project overages are running about 10% to date, according to Dr. Tina Petersen, Executive Director of the Harris County Flood Control District. As more years go by, that 10% is likely to increase given the cumulative impact of inflation.
The entire $325 million being allocated to HCFCD out of the $750 million would not even cover the $335 million of unfinished bond projects in the Halls Bayou watershed alone. Nothing would be left for anyone else.
The outline did not specify how the second $325 million for Harris County would be used. However, the County did reserve the right to shift money to cities (which already had opportunities to submit grant requests to the Texas General Land Office and the Houston-Galveston Area Council).
Get Your Promised Share of the 2018 Flood Bond
Please protest the diversion of these funds. Submit a public comment to Harris County Community Services Department (HCCSD), which prepared the plan. You must submit it by February 21 at 5PM via:
Attn: HCCSD Planning Section
13105 Northwest Freeway, Suite 400
Houston, Texas 77040
You may also comment at in-person public hearings on Wednesday, February 15, 2023, at 10 a.m. or 5:30 p.m.:
Harris County Community Services Department
9418 Jensen, Houston, Texas, 77093
Original letters always carry more weight than form letters. But if you don’t have time to write your own, copy or adapt the one below and email it to Harris County Community Services Department. By law, Community Services must forward ALL public comments to the Texas General Land Office and HUD. They will give final approval to any plan.
Sample Letter with Key Points
To whom it may concern:
I strongly protest the outline that Harris County Community Services presented to the GLO for the distribution of $750 million in HUD CDBG-MIT Harvey flood-mitigation funds.
Since adoption of Harris County’s Equity Prioritization Framework, the County has been funneling 2018 Flood Bond money and other local funds to projects in high LMI and SVI areas.
Now, however, there likely won’t be enough money to finish all of the defined flood-bond projects that voters approved by 88%.
Therefore, I suggest:
- The entire $750 million should go to Harris County Flood Control District to complete unfunded flood-mitigation projects in the bond.
- Earmark half that money for projects in watersheds with more affluent residents (less than 50% LMI) who have been largely ignored until now.
- Prioritize projects by:
- The number of damaged structures during Harvey
- Depth of flooding during Harvey
- Remaining, unmitigated flood risk
- Ability to reduce threats to infrastructure, such as bridges, schools, hospitals, and sewage treatment plants.
- Lack of previous flood-mitigation investment in watershed
- The County, GLO and HUD need to be fair to all people of Harris County as HUD’s rules allow. Half of the flood-mitigation funding in Harris County since 2000 has gone to just four watersheds (Brays, Greens, White Oak, and Sims). Other areas have needs, too.
- CSD should present a detailed plan and stick to it. Vague generalities invite suspicion and undermine trust in government.
- Ensure transparency. Harris County CSD has a poor record of transparency and website updates. Create a dashboard that publicly displays:
- Spending to date on every project
- Who gets how much money, when, for what
- Each project’s progress
- Monthly updates
- The MOD should include guarantees that the county will meet performance deadlines. Because of the 20 months already squandered since the County became aware of the $750 million, I question the county’s ability to spend the money by HUD’s deadline.
Thank you for considering these thoughts.
Don’t forget to add your contact information so Community Services can tell the General Land Office and HUD where the comment came from.
For more supporting information, including charts and graphs that you can use to create a custom letter, click here.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/13/2023
1994 days since Hurricane Harvey