Tag Archive for: Community Services

November Flood-News Roundup

Below is a roundup of flood news this week – seven quick stories.

Montgomery County Buyout Deadline Fast Approaching

The deadline for the current round of buyout applications in Montgomery County is November 30, 2022.

The Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management still has money left in a Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Texas General Land Office (GLO) allocated the money to buy out homes flooded during 2016 and 2017 (Harvey).

There are strict eligibility requirements; see the applications online. However, MoCo is now taking applications from homeowners who flooded repeatedly regardless of income level. Previously, the county was giving preference to low-to-middle income (LMI) families meet HUD’s LMI quotas.

While HUD does cap maximum buyout costs, Montgomery County offers several “credits” that can help people. Those include, but are not limited to special credits for seniors and veterans, and for moving expenses.

The county is hosting a series of meetings to help residents understand their options. More details to follow in a separate post on this subject.

Tammy Gunnels home in Porter flooded 13 times in 11 years before finally getting a buyout last year through the programs mentioned above.

Regional Flood Planning Group Draft Plan

The public comment period for the San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group’s draft plan closed on October 29th. Here’s an overview of their recommendations. One was developing detention on and channelizing portions of Spring Creek. The Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC), one of the Houston region’s leading conservation groups, had concerns with that.

BLC submitted this letter. It details the dangers of channelization to the 14,000 acres it preserves. In particular, BLC feels the report does not adequately consider erosion that could be caused by speeding up floodwaters. They say that detention and channelization projects could destabilize the entire natural system along Spring Creek. They urge more study on sedimentation and erosion before moving forward with construction.

The next step: the Regional Flood Planning Group will consider all comments received and modify the draft plan as needed.

$750 Million HUD Grant to Harris County

After promising to submit its $750 million Method of Distribution (MOD) to the GLO by the end of September, Harris County still has not yet submitted it. GLO first said it planned to allocate the money to Harris County in May, 2021 – 17 months ago!

The MOD is a plan that shows how Harris County would allocate the money. Who gets how much for what? MOD approval is necessary to ensure the County spends the money in accordance with HUD and GLO requirements.

The money could cover all under- and unfunded projects in the 2018 Flood Bond. But in April, Harris County’s new administrator assigned the task of developing the MOD to the Community Services Department instead of the Flood Control District – even though Community Services has had four leadership changes under Lina Hidalgo.

Community Services said that it planned to deliver the MOD to GLO by the end of September and publish the draft MOD by the end of October. Neither happened. The last response from Community Services was at the start of October.

At that time, the department head said the group had determined a “process” for developing the MOD. But they had yet to define any projects. For that, they were waiting for “direction from leadership.” As a result, $750 million that could mitigate flooding in Harris County is still sitting in Washington at HUD.

Meanwhile, GLO also notified H-GAC of a $488 million dollar allocation on the same day in May, 2021. H-GAC has already developed its MOD and gotten it approved. And H-GAC sub-recipients are reportedly already taking bids on projects.

There’s a lot of flood-mitigation money waiting in the wings that could accelerate Harris County projects. The longer Community Services waits, the more it places the money in jeopardy. Fifty percent must be spent in the next three years.

“Water Has a Memory”

New York 1 published a fascinating story about an ecologist tracing New York flooding back to its roots with old maps. The title: “A map of New York City before it was a city could provide answers to today’s flooding.”

The central figure in this detective story is Eric Sanderson. He cross-references current flooding issues with a historical chart of “the city’s buried, drained, filled-in or paved-over waterways.”

In every case, he says, the problems have the same roots. 

People built lives in places that used to be underwater. And water, he says, has a memory. 

“Maybe there was a wetland there, maybe there was a stream there, maybe there was a pond there, and people have forgotten,” Sanderson said in the interview.

We see this constantly in Houston. In one extreme case, a developer cleared property, filled in wetlands and THEN conducted an environmental survey.


All but a few of the 131 mini-homes at the Preserve at Woodridge are now framed out. The closer this site gets to completion, the more I question the accuracy of the engineer’s claim of only 66% impervious cover.

The Preserve at Woodridge will feature some homes as large as 660 square feet and four feet apart. Photo October 31, 2022.
Kids will love this area for Halloween. More candy per footstep.

Flood-Insurance Flap

The Houston Chronicle recently published an editorial about new flood Insurance rates designed to stanch financial hemorrhaging in the National Flood Insurance Plan. The title: “What happened to affordable flood insurance?”

For the first time this year, FEMA is trying to put flood insurance rates on an actuarial basis. But weening people off nationally subsidized insurance is proving difficult. The article claims some people have 500% rate increases even though increases are capped at a far lower rate.

While bemoaning the unintended consequences of well-intended reforms, the editorial proposes a solution: making flood-insurance rates “income based”!

One wonders about the unintended consequences of that. Will the availability of cheap flood insurance encourage building low-income housing only in the riskiest areas?

We shouldn’t forget that it was the availability of cheap flood insurance that encouraged building in flood-prone areas to begin with.

There may be no good solutions to this problem. Many feel government should have never have gotten involved in flood insurance from the start.

One insurance agent I talked to suggested this. “Worst case: offer buyouts to people who can’t afford flood insurance with the understanding that if declined, then there will be no more assistance for financial losses due to flooding.”

I personally favor a two-tiered public/private approach similar to Medicare. Cap the federally subsidized insurance at a level that stops the hemorrhaging. Then, let private insurers fill the gaps up to the full value of expensive homes.

This debate could take years.

New Netflix Series: High Water

Sally Geis, a former Kingwood resident, wrote me about a new Netflix show called “High Water.” It’s based on true events in 1997. It describes a massive flood that took place in Wrocław, Poland. The flood caused $3.5 billion in damages and put almost half of the city underwater.

However, it could have been smaller if one of the villages had allowed the incoming flood waters to be diverted onto their fields. Their “not-in-my-backyard” refusal and the disastrous individual and community consequences are the theme of the series. Sound familiar?

The acting and production design are first-rate, according to Geis. “It’s a story about a real disaster and real problems that can happen anywhere on the globe right now,” she says.

Click here for the trailer.


Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/4/22

1893 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.

$750 Million MOD Going to GLO

Correction: since posting this, I have learned that Community Services has not even started compiling a list of projects that will comprise the Method of Distribution. The department has only defined a “process” for compiling the list and is waiting for “direction from leadership.”

On September 8th, the Harris County Community Services Department (CSD) distributed a schedule showing that it would complete the first draft of its Method of Distribution (MOD) for spending $750 million in mitigation funding by the end of the month.

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated the money to Harris County earlier last year. The draft MOD will now hopefully go to the GLO for review and approval by the end of October.

What MOD Entails

Early last year, the GLO allocated the money to Harris County along with another $450 million to the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

A MOD lists projects and amounts. It shows how Harris County wants to distribute the money, i.e., who will get how much for what from the $750 million.

will this get any of the $750 million in CDBG-MIT funds from the GLO?
US 59 at Townsen Boulevard during Hurricane Harvey

The GLO must verify that all planned expenditures meet requirements of the funding allocated by HUD and Congress.

MOD Developed With Public Input

Harris County CSD held online and in-person meetings to share information with the public. English-language meetings were held on August 17th,  25th, and 31st. CSD also held a Spanish meeting on September 1st. They then gathered written and oral comments from the public. (The deadline to submit comments has passed.)

Next Steps

After a public planning meeting on September 8th, CSD spent the rest of September developing a draft Method of Distribution (MOD) for the $750 million. The department will now submit it to the GLO for review and preliminary approval. Steps after that include:

  • Publish Draft MOD by October 30
  • Nov 15-Dec 2 – 15-day public comment Period and hearing
  • Contract entities included in the MOD with funding level and gain confirmation of participation via Funding Acknowledgement Letter from entity
  • Dec 5-7 – Document Responses to Public Comment, add to Draft MOD document
  • December or January- Draft MOD document approved at Commissioners Court
  • January 2023 – Final MOD document submitted to GLO
  • GLO approval of final MOD and MOD allocated entities complete project information package process
  • March/April 2023 – MOD Entity project information packets submitted to GLO for review and approval
  • Kick-off contract development for projects.

So, the GLO has until the end of the month to review and approve the draft MOD. Once approved, CSD can publish it. Then CSD will hold more public meetings and submit any revisions to Commissioners Court and the GLO for final approval.

Pressure On to Develop Projects Quickly

Expect projects to begin sometime in the second quarter of 2023. But keep in mind that all dates are subject to change.

Starting to develop projects almost six years after Harvey will put some pressure on Harris County Flood Control and any other entities designated as recipients.

  • 50% of the grant must be expended by Jan. 12, 2027.
  • 100% must be expended by January 12, 2032 – 15 years after Harvey

Half of the $750 million must be spent within four years. To put that in perspective, Flood Control estimates it’s only 23.5% done with a 10-year flood-bond package four years after it was approved by voters.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/1/2022

1859 Days since Hurricane Harvey

How Would You Spend $750 Million on Flood Mitigation?

Harris County’s Community Services Department wants to know how you would spend $750 million? The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Texas General Land Office (GLO) allocated that amount to the County for flood mitigation in the wake of Harvey.

Flood Mitigation funds (MIT) go to projects that help communities reduce future flooding. They differ from Disaster Relief funds (DR). The latter help individuals recover from past floods.

GLO announced the $750 million allocation on March 18. HUD is NOT giving the money to Harris County outright. The County must first submit a plan of how and where it will use the money. Both HUD and GLO must approve that plan, called the Method of Distribution (MOD) before work can begin. Then, as vendors submit invoices, Harris County will submit them for reimbursement.

Notification of Planning Meeting For CDBG-MIT funding

Harris County wants your input on the plan. The Community Services Department will accept written and oral input regarding the use of funding and development of Harris County’s MOD at a planning meeting scheduled for:

Thursday, May 19, 2022

1:30 pm to 2:30 pm

Harris County Community Services Department (HCCSD) Office

9418 Jensen, Houston, Texas, 77093

Harris County will accept written input before May 30, 2022, 5:00 pm. via mail to Attn:  HCCSD Planning Section, 13105 Northwest Freeway Suite 400, Houston, Texas 77040 or by email to DRplancomments@csd.hctx.net.

To Request Special Accommodations at Meeting

Harris County will provide for reasonable accommodations for persons attending Harris County functions. Requests from persons needing special accommodations should be received by Harris County staff 48-hours prior to the function. The public hearing will be conducted in English and requests for language interpreters or other special communication needs should be made at least 72 hours prior to a function.

Please call 832-927-4700 or email DRplancomments@csd.hctx.net for assistance or additional information about this posting.

Restrictions on Use of Money

The funds represent an opportunity to mitigate disaster risks and reduce future losses in areas impacted by Harvey.

HUD defines mitigation as: “Those activities that increase resilience to disasters and reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of loss of life, injury, damage to and loss of property, and suffering and hardship, by lessening the impact of future disasters.”

Virtually all Harris County Flood Control District Bond Projects would qualify under that definition.

Eligible recipients include units of local government, special purpose districts, and port and river authorities.

The GLO encourages the prioritization of regional investments with regional impacts. Those include:

  • Projects that reduce risk from hurricanes, tropical storms and depressions, flooding, wind and other hazards
  • Disaster-resistant infrastructure
  • Upgrading water, sewer, solid waste, communications, energy, transportation, health and medical, and other public infrastructure
  • Multi-use infrastructure
  • Green or natural mitigation infrastructure.

Low-to-Moderate Income Requirement

At least fifty (50) percent of Harris County Mitigation MOD funds must benefit low-to-moderate income (LMI) persons.

Section of Texas Action Plan Amendment 1

The table below shows the percentage of LMI Residents in each of Harris County’s 23 watersheds and the number of structures damaged in those watersheds by Harvey. Cross reference this information with the list of flood bond projects in making your recommendations for how to allocate the $750 million. And, of course, you don’t have to restrict yourself to flood bond projects.

Information obtained from Harris County Flood Control District Via FOIA Request.

Brittany Eck, GLO spokesperson, emphasized that the LMI requirement applies to “beneficiaries of a project.” She also said that GLO encouraged Harris County to look both upstream and downstream for beneficiaries. Not everybody in a watershed may benefit.

New Halls bayou detention pond
Just west of Keith Weiss Park along Halls Bayou, this new floodwater detention basin is taking shape. Detention basins, channel widening, and green infrastructure are all examples of types of projects the $750 million could help fund.

Pages 250-256 of the Action Plan contain the exact text of all requirements.

Time Limitation on Expenditure of Funds

No less than 50% of the $750,000,000 CDBG-MIT allocated to Harris County must be expended by January 12, 2027, with the full balance expended by January 12, 2032.

While this may sound like plenty of time, remember that today almost five years have passed since Harvey. And only 45 of 181 projects originally in the flood bond have begun construction. The rest are in still in feasibility surveys, engineering, or right-of-way acquisition.

All flood bond projects have already started and passed through one or more of those preliminary phases.

This Money Could Fully Fund the Bond Program

This $750 million, together with the Flood Resilience Trust approved last year by Commissioners Court last year, should be enough to fully fund every project in the bond program.

However, the County Administrator chose the Community Services Department (CSD) to recommend projects for the MOD. The thinking was that CSD was more in touch with the needs of LMI neighborhoods. Of course, CSD will consult with HCFCD on the final recommendations.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/14/2022

1719 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Harris County Opens Temporary Disaster Recovery Center In Kingwood to Help Recent Flood Victims

Home on Shady Maple in Elm Grove destroyed by flood on May 7. So where do you find help?

Harris County has opened a temporary Disaster Recovery Center in Kingwood at the United Methodist Church, 1799 Woodland Hills Drive, Room K105. Hours will be from 9 to 6 weekdays and 9 to 1 this coming Saturday. The Center will close for Memorial Day on May 27.

Flyer prepared by Harris County Community Services Department

“Resource Navigators” Will Help Flood Victims Find Help They Need

Early May flooding, while tragic, was not widespread enough to meet the requirements for a disaster declaration. So in the absence of a federal declaration, Harris County Community Services Department is referring individuals to multiple local resources – primarily churches and non-profits – that can provide assistance.

Harris County’s Community Services Department will use their Resource Navigators who handle similar requests on a daily basis.

Save Time While Seeking Help

Red Cross still remains the primary responder in the absence of a federal declaration. Community Services is only trying to assemble and refer to local providers who have capacity to assist. The county will hook you up with the people they’ve found through this Disaster Recovery Center.

Eligibility will depend on individual providers for specific requirements. But the Resource Navigators should be able to help you with those. Think of them as a way to save time while seeking help.

For More Information about Disaster Recovery Center

Call Harris County Community Services Department at 832-927-4955. Or email hrc@csd.hctx.net.

Posted by Bob Rehak on May 21, 2019

631 Days since Hurricane Harvey