Five Pieces of Legislation That Could Reduce Flooding
Currently in Austin, there are five pieces of pending legislation that could reduce flooding in the Lake Houston Area, Harris County and the entire region. Here’s a rundown on each.
SB2431 and HB5338
Senate Bill 2431 and House Bill 5338 are companion bills that would transform the Harris County Flood Control District into the Gulf Coast Resiliency District with a board appointed by the governor. This would take the District out from under the thumb of Harris County Commissioners court.
The net impact could be a fairer distribution of funds to the areas hardest hit by flooding and a regional focus that reduces flooding for all, not just those in Democratic precincts.
Of the 18 active capital improvement construction projects currently underway by HCFCD, not one is in the last remaining precinct led by a Republican commissioners in Harris County. See below.
The yellow precinct on the west side of the county (P4) used to be Republican-led until this January. It has only one capital improvement construction project.
The other 17 active capital improvement construction projects are split between the two precincts led by Democratic Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia.
After Harvey, both the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto River became clogged with sand. Sand mines along the banks of rivers were large contributors.
House Bill 1093 would ensure that when sand mines are played out, the operators have enough financial reserves to clean up the property and replant vegetation before walking away.
Some miners simply abandon property, leaving rusting dredges, excavators, bulldozers, processing equipment, and more to litter the landscape. Likewise, they are supposed to regrade property to eliminate stockpiles that could be swept away in floods. And they are supposed to replant vegetation that could reduce the rates of erosion. But not all do.
HB1093 would force miners to provide financial surety that guarantees cleanup won’t fall on the shoulders of taxpayers. Surety is a common practice in the construction trades. Think of it as a form of insurance. If the miner can’t afford reclamation, the surety company is on the hook, not ordinary citizens.
Without this bill, some irresponsible miners will continue littering the shores of our rivers – the rivers that provide drinking water to 2 million people.
House Bill 5341 would create a Lake Houston Dredging and Maintenance District. Its purpose would be to remove sediment, debris, sand, and gravel from Lake Houston and its tributaries to restore, maintain, and expand the Lake to mitigate storm flows.
After Harvey, the Army Corps of engineers recommended a regular maintenance dredging program to reduce future flooding. This is it.
The District would have a board appointed by Harris County Commissioners, the Houston City Council, the Houston Mayor and the Harris County Judge.
The District would remove debris under and on the water of Lake Houston and its tributaries, but would be prohibited from doing so in such a way that it would impact water quality or water treatment costs. Dredgers would have to obtain approval from Houston Public Works before conducting any operations.
They could take sand and gravel from Lake Houston and its tributaries without paying a fee or tax.
Before beginning operations, the District would also conduct a funding study. Presumably at a minimum, that would estimate how much money it could make by selling dirt removed from the lake. Such dirt could be used as fill to raise homes and roads.
The District would also have authority to issue revenue bonds and could receive up to $25 million per year for the next two years from the state during that start-up period. It could not impose any taxes or fees.
Senate Bill 1366 redirects surplus revenue from the economic stabilization fund to the Flood Infrastructure Fund. The State’s Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) has turned into one of the main sources of funding for Texas Water Development Board grants and one of the main ways that smaller counties and cities can fund flood projects.
FIF covers a wide variety of projects related to flood mitigation and resilience.
Because both revenue estimates and budgets are still in flux, it’s unclear at this point exactly how much would be transferred, according to Senator Brandon Creighton’s office. Creighton sponsored this bill.
Check back often for more about legislation that could reduce flooding.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/12/2023
2053 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.