Tag Archive for: bond

Flood- and Garcia-Bond Updates

The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) August update to County Commissioners on the progress of the 2018 flood bond shows a continued lopsided distribution of funds in favor of low-to-moderate income (LMI) watersheds. It also showed slowing activity overall.

Separately, the County has posted a new website and scheduled input sessions for Adrian Garcia’s proposed new $1.2 billion bond proposition(s). The dates of input sessions relative to the legislative deadline for bond language make it clear that the bond language will not reflect much voter input.

Lopsided Distribution of Funds Continues for Flood Bond

Five watersheds with a majority of LMI residents have received 39% of all the flood bond spending. LMI is defined as “below median income for the region.” Brays, Greens, White Oak, Halls and Hunting watersheds received a total of $430.4 million – an average of $86 million each. Together, the other 18 watersheds received $443.5 million – an average of $24.6 million each. Countywide projects received the rest – $217 million.

Page 9 from the August Flood Bond Update.
Data transferred from map above and arranged by total spending per watershed.

I’ve said it before. Facts do not support the political narrative that affluent watersheds get all the funding. To see what the funding in those five LMI watersheds helped buy, see the photos in these posts.

Flood-Bond Progress Appears to Slow

During the month, HCFCD:

  • Awarded only one new construction contract valued at $1 million.
  • Awarded three new agreements with other contractors but spent $0 with them.
  • Completed 19 buyouts compared to 21 the previous month.
  • Spent $2.4 million on buyouts compared to $6.6 million the previous month.

The total value of active capital improvement construction projects fell to $225.8 million from $231.9 million in July and $235.6 million in June. Out of that, the Lake Houston Area still only has $2,000 or 0.0009% of the total. Although that should improve in the future, it could also worsen, depending on election outcomes in November.

Page 12 from full update.

Total reported bond spending increased to $1.1 billion, up from $1.06 billion the previous month, an increase (with rounding) of slightly more than $40 million.

Overall progress of the bond program? 23.5% complete – four years into a 10-year program.

However, HCFCD believes it is only slightly behind schedule. The District’s key performance indicators stayed steady at .97 percent.

Major-Maintenance Flood-Bond Spending Holds Steady, but Still Lopsided

Major maintenance projects held fairly steady. HCFCD spent $78.4 million in August compared to $78.8 million in July. But there’s only one maintenance project in the entire northeastern section of the county – some drainage system repairs in the Jackson Bayou watershed with an unspecified value. It’s unspecified because the report lumps it together with two projects in the Halls Bayou watershed. The total for all three is about $1 million. Assuming each project got one third of that million, the entire northeastern section of the county received 0.42% of all the maintenance spending from the bond last month.

Active maintenance projects reported on page 11 of full report.

The largest group of maintenance projects is along Cypress Creek and its tributaries. There are 14 projects valued at $48.1 million. That’s 61.4% of the major-maintenance total.

Input Sessions for Garcia-Bond

Separately, Adrian Garcia has proposed another $1.2 billion bond – even though hundreds of millions remain from the 2015 bond. Unlike the 2018 Flood Bond, which specified projects in each watershed so people knew what they were supposedly getting, Garcia’s bond contains only three high-level categories split up into Propositions A, B, and C. They include:

  • A) Public safety: $100 million
  • B) Transportation: $900 million
  • C) Parks and Trails: $200 million

That’s right. Garcia wants to spend twice as much on hike-and-bike trails as public safety.

The county will hold four open houses in each of the four precincts during the next five weeks. It will also hold four virtual open houses. For a complete schedule, see HarrisCounty2022Bond.org.

The one input session in the northeastern section of Precinct 3 will be at the Humble Civic Center at 6PM on October 4th. Neither Kingwood, Huffman, Atascocita, nor Crosby will have its own input session.

Bond Language Will Not Reflect Voter Input

The county must post bond language by September 30 at the latest. But the input sessions run until October 20th. Early voting starts on October 24. And Election Day is November 8. So the bond language will not reflect much voter input. Neither the county, nor media, will have much time to digest voter input. It’s pure political theater.

The bond website simply says that “Input will be shared with Harris County Precinct staff as they make decisions regarding future projects.”


The bond website provides absolutely no detail about SPECIFIC PROJECTS or WHERE projects would be – despite promises made by the County Administrator to Commissioners Court.

In contrast, my records show that Harris County Flood Control under Judge Ed Emmett posted a comprehensive list of projects almost two full months before the Flood Bond Referendum in 2018.

Equity and Political Leaning Will Guide Distribution of Garcia-Bond Funds

Commissioners Ramsey and Cagle argued for months to delay the bond referendum until details could be nailed down, but Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis refused.

During debate in Commissioners Court, it became clear that Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis intend to use “equity principles” to divvy up the money, not just to prioritize the start date of projects as they did with the 2018 flood bond. Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis even passed a motion that would give Democratic-leaning Precincts about 40% more money than Republican-leaning Precincts. For instance, Precinct 3 would be guaranteed only $220 million. That’s 18% of the total even though P3 has 47% of the county’s unincorporated area to maintain, improve and patrol.

Why Trust in Government is Eroding

During debate, Rodney Ellis even bragged about how he redefined “equitable distribution of funds” in the 2018 Flood Bond text after the election.

My takeaway: Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis don’t want to be held accountable. They talk transparency, but this is nothing more than a slush fund. And this is why trust in government is eroding in my humble opinion.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/20/22

1848 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.

Your Best Investment in Your Biggest Investment: Vote FOR the Flood Bond

My wife and I were the first in line for early voting on the Count Flood Bond today. By 8:01, were were voting. By 8:02, the Harris County Flood Bond had surged out to a commanding 2-0 margin in the Kingwood area.

Even if your home didn’t flood, the perception that it might will affect your home’s value.

That’s why the Harris County flood bond is likely to be your best investment in your biggest investment – your home.

We need to show the world that we’re serious about fixing our drainage problems, not just pretending they don’t exist.

After Months of Successful Lobbying, Now is the Time to Vote

After months of successful lobbying, residents of the Lake Houston area managed to get key projects included in the Harris County Flood Bond that will reduce the likelihood and severity of flooding in our area. Now it’s time to seal the deal. Get out and vote FOR the bond.

More than 800 Lake Houston area residents submitted input on the bond. As a result, additional detention, dredging, and gates were added to the project list. They will reduce the input during a flood, increase the throughput, and speed up the output.

We’ve all heard the arguments for and against the bond. We’ve learned what the impact of the bond will be on taxes. Now we just need to approve it.

If approved, the bond will provide vital money that provides the local match for critical projects, such as dredging the west fork mouth bar and the addition of ten new flood gates to the Lake Houston Dam.

Please don’t take anything for granted. Get on the phone. Call all your neighbors, all your relatives, all your friends. Get them to vote for the bond. AND get them to contact all of their neighbors, relatives and friends, too. Especially those who did not flood. 

Lake Houston Area Can Swing This Election

ONE FOURTH of the 3000 people county-wide that showed up at 23 watershed meetings with county officials were from the Lake Houston area. That’s huge, considering that we have only about ONE TWELFTH of the county’s population. Our voting power can swing this referendum one way or the other. Let’s use it. Vote FOR.

Early Voting Dates and Hours

Early voting started August 8, at the Kingwood Community Center and continues through 4:30 today. Here is the complete list of early voting dates and hours.

Wednesday, August 8, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, August 9, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Friday, August 10, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Monday, August 13, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, August 14, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, August 15, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, August 16, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Friday, August 17, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 18, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 19, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Monday, August 20, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, August 21, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The final day for voting is August 25 at your normal polling place. If you wait until August 25 to vote, it will be at your normal polling place. To find your polling place, follow this link.

Posted by Bob Rehak, August 8, 2018

344 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Lake Houston Area’s Most Pressing Needs for Flood Bond Referendum

On August 25, Harris County residents will vote on a historic flood bond proposal. Everyone asks, “Will the bond include projects that help this area?”

That of course, raises the question, “What does the Lake Houston Area need?”

We Must Address Root Causes of Flooding HERE

Several factors make flooding here different from other parts of the region. Since Harvey, I’ve corresponded almost daily with experts in geology, hydrology, sedimentation, meteorology, city planning, engineering, mining, and disaster relief. The goal: to identify root causes of flooding in THIS area. They fall into three main “buckets”:

  • Sedimentation. Sand and silt clog the San Jacinto everywhere. The Army Corps’ emergency dredging project will remove only part of the sand from a 2.1 mile stretch of the West Fork, and not even touch the East Fork. One of the largest blockages at the mouth of the West Fork will remain. And the Corps will only restore the areas it dredges to pre-Harvey conditions, not pre-1994 conditions.
  • Releases from the dam at Lake Conroe can increase the volume of water flowing between Humble and Kingwood by ONE-THIRD. Of the roughly 240,000 cubic feet per second flowing down the west fork, 80,000 cubic feet of water per second came from the Lake Conroe dam. Many Lake Houston area residents say the onset of flooding coincided with release from Lake Conroe.
  • We have a bottleneck at Lake Houston. In a flood, much more water converges on Lake Houston than Lake Conroe. At the peak of Harvey, Lake Houston took in 492,000 cubic feet per second whileLake Conroe took in only 130,000 CFS. Seven different watersheds converge on Lake Houston. Yet until water reaches the spillway of the dam, our floodgates have one-tenth the discharge capacity of Lake Conroe’s. This effectively eliminates pre-release as a mitigation strategy.

We Need Specific Solutions, Not Generic

True solutions to flooding in the Lake Houston area must address these unique challenges. Generic solutions, such as buyouts with bond money  will help, but won’t affect many people. Pushing new development further away from rivers will help, but will not restore the carrying capacity of the San Jacinto, increase the discharge rate of the Lake Houston dam, or offset discharges from Lake Conroe.

We Need: Dredging, Detention, More Gates

The objective of the Lake Houston Area’s flood mitigation efforts should be, in my opinion and the opinion of many engineers, to restore our drainage systems to their original design capacity. Homes located outside of the 1% (100-year) risk area should not flood until we get a 1% flood. The same goes for the .02% level (500-year flood).

Experts generally focus on three categories of solutions that will help achieve those objectives: dredging, detention and greater discharge capacity for the dam, i.e., adding more gates. We need all three. No one solution will do the job by itself.

Additional DREDGING can remove sediment, restore carrying capacity, eliminate water backing up, and get us back to level of the original design assumptions.

Additional  DETENTION on the West Fork will help offset discharges from the Lake Conroe dam, which affected the heavily populated area between Humble and Kingwood, where the worst and most damage took place.

Additional GATES on Lake Houston will help relieve the bottleneck created by the different discharge rates between Lake Conroe and Lake Houston.

Here’s a diagram that shows what we need in the flood bond, where we need it, and why.

Reduce flooding in the Lake Houston Area with additional dredging, detention and drainage.

Of the three types of projects, dredging is the easiest and fastest to implement. It can buy us time while we build additional dams and gates. That could take years.

More Explanation to Follow

I will elaborate on each of these in coming days.

Harris County Commissioners and executives from the Flood Control District will hold a meeting in Kingwood on July 10 to solicit input from the community on the flood bond.

Hopefully, this series of posts will help focus discussion on the things that will do the most good for the largest number of people at the lowest cost.

Mark Your Calendars for July 10

In the meantime, mark your calendars for July 10. The County wants your input. Get your friends and neighbors to do the same. If you want peace of mind, we need to restore our ditches, rivers, and drainage systems to their original design capacity.

The location of the bond meeting may change because of the expected turnout and need for parking. So check back often.

Posted June 26, 2018, by Bob Rehak, 14 days before the flood bond meeting and…

301 days since Hurricane Harvey.

Update on County Flood Bond Status and Some Proposed Projects

The fast-approaching Harris County Flood Bond referendum scheduled for August 25 is forcing people to focus on their top mitigation priorities. The Flood Control District is actively soliciting community input on projects that we think are needed in this watershed.

Harris County includes 22 different watersheds within 1,756 square miles. Each watershed has its own independent flooding problems and presents unique challenges. We need to communicate with the District to ensure that:

  • Solutions for our area benefit the largest number of people possible
  • The language in the bond proposal, if adopted, would let the county address our needs

That’s why the County established a flood bond website and hotline. That’s also why County Judge Ed Emmett is meeting with Kingwood residents on July 10 at 6 pm at the Kingwood Community Center.

Harris County Flood Control Bond Page at https://www.hcfcd.org/bond-program/.

Here is the current list of projects included in the Bond Proposal. Scroll down to page 7 to see those associated with the San Jacinto Watershed as of 6/1/18.

You can also click on the interactive map of the county’s bond program website. Zoom in on our area and start clicking on icons to reveal the location and details of projects.

  • Do those sound like your top priorities?
  • Would the current language in the bond proposal even allow the County to address your top priorities?

Here are four ideas that have been proposed for this area that could have a huge impact on flooding.

Four Important Projects

  1. More river dredging. We must restore the velocity and carrying capacity of the entire river, not just a small portion of the West Fork and not just to pre-Harvey conditions.  The Army Corps of Engineers is restoring a 2-mile stretch to pre-Harvey conditions. But we need to dredge deeper and further. And we need to do it on a regular basis. In 2000, Brown & Root recommended dredging and periodic maintenance as the best option they examined to mitigate flooding. Neither was ever done. That’s a huge part of the reason why we face increased flood risk today. Personally, I’d like to see the East and West Forks restored at least to their condition in the Year 2000.
  2. More floodgates on Lake Houston. Freese and Nichols found that 14 additional gates could have lowered the flood level during Harvey by up to 1.9 feet. That could help reduce flooding both upstream and downstream from the dam. How? By releasing water before a storm in a gradual, controlled fashion, you can create more capacity within the lake, so you can discharge water at a lower rate as the reservoir fills back up.
  3. More upstream detention. The idea is to offset Lake Conroe Dam releases by holding up water elsewhere. Spring,  Cypress and Lake Creeks have all been mentioned as possibilities. TACA also pointed out that sand mines could make excellent detention lakes.
  4. Better ditch maintenance. Before Harvey, many of our drainage ditches became silted and clogged with fallen trees. Some, like Ben’s Branch, near the public library, still have islands and standing water in them. Keeping these ditches clear and free flowing should be a high priority. We must ensure water has a way to get to the river without spilling out of the ditches.

Does Language in Bond Proposal Support These Ideas?

Here is the the most recent iteration of the language in the County Flood Bond Proposal.  Matt Zeve, Director of Operations for the Flood Control District said he expects several more minor changes before the text gets locked down.

Because the text is written for lawyers, by lawyers, I asked an expert to see if this language would allow the projects above to even be considered. One of the answers surprised me.

  1. Dredging? Yes. Language allows “channel improvements” in cooperation with “City of Houston.”
  2. Floodgates? Yes. Language allows “construction of improvements” in connection with “flood damage reduction” to “hold or convey storm water” in cooperation with “City of Houston.”
  3. Upstream Detention? Yes. Language allows “purchasing lands, easements and rights of way” and constructing “detention basins” in “any county adjacent to Harris County.”
  4. Ditch Maintenance? No. Language pertaining to maintenance was specifically taken out of this iteration of the proposal. HOWEVER…my expert pointed out this surprising twist. Currently, half of the Flood Control District’s $120 million budget is allocated to capital projects and about $20 million to maintenance other than mowing. If the bond proposal is approved, the $60 million currently allocated for capital improvements could be re-allocated to maintenance. That would almost quadruple the budget available for ditch maintenance. That extra money could be used to hire contractors to accelerate ditch repairs.

What are Your Top Priorities?

What do you think would help the most? According to Community Impact, County Judge Ed Emmett said the county hopes to have a final list of projects to share with the public by Aug. 1. Early voting will begin on Aug. 8. Thus, you have only six weeks to influence the project list if you want to.

Give the County Your Thoughts

Speak now or forever hold your peace. Join the conversation. Please communicate your thoughts to Harris County Flood Control ASAP. The County is actively soliciting ideas for the bond proposal right now.

Remember, according the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, the Lake Houston area historically has received 0% of the region’s flood mitigation dollars, but sustained 14% of the region’s damage during Harvey. Let’s make sure we get our fair share of flood control dollars this time around and that they’re focused where they will do the most good.

Call 713-684-4107 or mail comments to 9900 Northwest Freeway, Houston, Texas 77092, ATTN: Bond Program Communications.

Also, please mark your calendar. Come to the meeting with Judge Ed Emmett at the Kingwood Community Center on July 10 from 6 to 8 pm. Learn more about the bond proposal and give the Judge your feedback directly. Bring everyone in your neighborhood!

Posted by Bob Rehak 6/14/2018

289 days since Hurricane Harvey