Tag Archive for: Dawn Buckingham

GLO Announces Bolivar Beach Restoration Project to Protect Highway

On 12/13/23, Texas General Land Office (GLO) Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, M.D. announced the approval of Coastal Erosion Planning & Response Act (CEPRA) funding for a Bolivar Peninsula Beach and Dune Restoration project.

The beach-restoration project seeks to:

  • Restore additional essential beach and dune systems
  • Provide crucial protection for Highway 87, Bolivar Peninsula’s only hurricane evacuation route

According to the GLO, the CEPRA funds – initially aimed at an engineering study – will provide both economic and coastal resilience benefits.

Part of SH 87 Already Washed Away

Highway 87 once had a stretch between Sea Rim State Park and High Island that washed out repeatedly over the decades. TXDoT closed it permanently in 1990. Today, eastbound SH 87 stops at High Island. Evacuees must then turn north on SH 124 toward I-10.

The stretch being protected provides the only remaining land-based evacuation route for the 2,800 residents of the Bolivar Peninsula. Seventeen people died there on September 13, 2008, during Hurricane Ike.

The scope of this project: to develop focused beach nourishment engineering design specifications for a U.S. Army Corps permit. Beach nourishment will alleviate tidal impacts threatening SH 87’s eastern terminus on Bolivar Peninsula near High Island.

Satellite Image Sequence Shows Severity of Shoreline Erosion

This series of Google Earth images shows how shoreline erosion now has waves lapping at the shoulder of the highway in this area.

State Highway 87 near High Island in 1974. Note dunes between highway and broad beach.
Same area immediately after Ike. Note erosion of beach and deposition inland from SH87.
Same area in 2023. Note continued erosion of beach toward highway.
Enlargement of nearby stretch shows high tide lapping at riprap which maintenance crews are replenishing (2023).

The beach nourishment engineering design specifications under this project are focused on an approximately four miles of the Bolivar Gulf-facing shoreline beginning at the Galveston-Chambers County line and extending west toward Gilchrist. This is where tides come closest to Hwy. 87 on a recurring basis.

Improving Resilience

“Ultimate benefits from this beach nourishment design work would include protection of the peninsula’s only hurricane evacuation route,” said a GLO spokesperson.

The CEPRA Program helps communities across the Texas coast implement erosion response projects and related studies to understand and reduce coastal erosion as it threatens public beaches, natural resources, coastal development, public infrastructure, and public and private property. 

The Bolivar Peninsula Special Utility District, Bolivar Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Galveston County Road Administrator Lee Crowder, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, and Galveston County Precinct 2 Commissioner Joe Giusti played pivotal roles in securing this funding.

Nature-Based Solutions Help Protect People and Wildlife

Commissioner Buckingham said, “As a Texan who grew up near the coast and lived on Galveston Island for more than a decade, preserving our state’s precious shorelines and their communities is a top priority.”

FEMA has found that such nature-based solutions increase quality of life for both humans and wildlife. And make no mistake. This is an important wintering and nesting area for many species of wildfowl that depend on the wetlands in this area.

Snow geese flocking near High Island in December 2008, shortly after Ike.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/1/24

2316 Days since Hurricane Harvey

This Disaster Preparedness Video Will Make You Smile

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) has produced a disaster preparedness video guaranteed to make you smile. It features GLO Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, MD, unpacking a disaster preparedness kit with several very young and very cute Texans. The 3-minute video is both informative and fun. Make sure you watch it with your children or grandchildren.

Every Texan, regardless of age should know how to pack a go-bag.  Said Buckingham, “Including your children in your planning and preparations helps ensure the next generation will be ready for potential severe weather events. Plus, you just never know what they’ll say!”

Click here to watch the video on YouTube.

Importance of Disaster Preparedness

Whether excessive heat waves, powerful tornadoes or damaging hurricanes, it is important to be prepared to evacuate. Texas has had 372 declared disasters since 1953. That’s more than five per year!

Of Texas’ total declarations, more than 30% happened in August or later. Evacuations are more common than most may think, and few disasters come with a lot of warning time.

Important Steps

As we approach the peak of hurricane season in the next month, the GLO encourages all Texans to prepare by doing the following:

  • Know Your Risk – Sign up for your community’s emergency warning system. The Harris County Flood Warning System lets you customize flood alerts by the watershed you live in, the gages nearest you, the amount of rainfall, and the water level in the nearest stream/river. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
  • Make Your Evacuation Plan – Check with local officials about updated evacuation shelters for this year. Know where your family will meet up if you are separated and where you will stay. Pack a “go bag” including items you need to take with you if you evacuate. A “go bag” should be easy to carry and kept in a place where you can grab it quickly. Check with drivetexas.org to find routes near you. To find a shelter near you, download the FEMA app at fema.gov/mobile-app.
  • Gather Supplies – Plan for your entire household including children, people with disabilities or access/functional needs, and pets.
  • Secure Documents – Remember to secure copies of important personal documents. Filing for government assistance requires documentation. Be sure to keep documents in a secure location and take them with you if you need to evacuate. Place these documents in a waterproof bag and back them up on cloud storage or a thumb drive.
  • Photograph the condition of your home and the items in it. That may prove valuable when making insurance claims.

For More Disaster Preparedness Information

Download the GLO’s Disaster Evacuation Checklist for more information. Find resources for family and pet preparedness at www.recovery.texas.gov/preparedness.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/14/2023

2176 Days since Hurricane Harvey

GLO Announces Regional Mitigation-Project Approvals Totaling $128 Million

Two pieces of good news came out of the Texas General Land Office (GLO) in two days! Yesterday, the GLO announced that both Houston and Harris County met their respective expenditure goals for Harvey disaster-relief funds. Today, Commissioner Dawn Buckingham M.D. announced the approval of more than another $128 million worth of flood-mitigation projects in the region.

This batch of funds includes several major projects in the north Houston region:

  • City of Dayton received $1.45 million for sewer rehabilitation.
  • Liberty County received $21.27 million to develop a master-drainage plan and make drainage improvements.
  • Waller County received $6.7 million for drainage improvements and another $2 million for Prairie View Water Improvements and a Planning study.

Of these, the Liberty County batch stands out for its sheer size. And Liberty County will need it. That’s because of the recently completed Grand Parkway. It cuts a wide arc through the county’s farms and fields. Thousands of acres are currently under development thanks to improved transportation. And they will stress local watersheds, such as the San Jacinto East Fork and Luce Bayou.

Intersection of State Highway 99 (Grand Parkway) and FM1960 shortly before grand opening last year.
Just north of the Grand Parkway, Colony Ridge is doubling in size.

Another Liberty County example.

FM2090 at East Fork of the San Jacinto in Liberty County on May 3, 2021. New development has flooded Plum Grove and areas farther south along the East Fork.

And another.

FM 1010
Also in Plum Grove, FM1010 washed out at Rocky Branch during Harvey and has yet to be repaired.

Scope of HUD/GLO Awards

The GLO awarded the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds to improve street, water and drainage facilities in Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Jefferson, Liberty, Matagorda, Nueces, Polk, San Jacinto, and Waller Counties.

This is a separate tranche of money from the Houston and Harris County disaster-relief funds discussed in yesterday’s post.

$128,208,664 will benefit 19 federally eligible infrastructure projects to improve streets as well as water and drainage facilities. The cities of Aransas Pass, Coldspring, Corrigan, Dayton, Freeport, Hitchcock, Iowa Colony, Katy, La Marque, Palacios, Pearland, Richwood, Rosenberg, Shepherd, Texas City, and the counties of Jefferson, Liberty, and Waller will all receive the mitigation dollars.

Difference Between Disaster Relief and Flood Mitigation

Disaster relief dollars help individuals recover from past floods. Mitigation dollars, on the other hand, help strengthen infrastructure against future floods.

According to the GLO, HUD defines mitigation as “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.”

Locally-Led Methods of Distribution

The approvals announced today will filter down to cities and counties through regional councils of governments (COGs), such as the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC).

Through its Regional Mitigation Program, the GLO enabled local prioritization. This local prioritization will have a tremendous impact across multiple regions, according to Commissioner Buckingham.

“Locally-led prioritization of mitigation projects is important because it strengthens critical infrastructure and protects communities against the impacts of natural disasters,” said Buckingham. “At the Texas General Land Office, we are not only helping those in need, but also supporting our communities as they grow.”

Who Will Get What

The table below shows a high-level description and the award amount for each of the 19 projects. For detailed descriptions of each project, click the caption below the table.

For project descriptions, click here.

How the Money Got from D.C. to Texas Projects on the Ground

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) allocated $1,166,997,000 in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the Regional Mitigation Program. The program aims to reduce the risks and impacts of future natural disasters.

Each Council of Government (COG) with HUD-designated eligible counties developed a method of distribution (MOD) for allocation of funds to units of local governments. Each COG developed its MOD through extensive public participation.

HUD requires that at least 50% of total funds must be used for activities benefiting low- to moderate-income (LMI) persons.

For more information, please visit recovery.texas.gov/mitigation.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/20/23

2121 Days since Hurricane Harvey

A First: Houston, Harris County Both Meet HUD/GLO Disaster-Relief Benchmarks in Same Time Period

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) announced today that for the first time ever since Hurricane Harvey, both Houston and Harris County have each met their benchmarks for expending disaster relief funds – in the SAME time period. They may have individually met performance benchmarks before, but never together in the same review period.

Both Harris County and Houston have semiannual expenditure benchmarks in their Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief funding contracts with the GLO, per HUD guidance. “These milestones were set by the City and County and approved by the GLO to ensure all programs will be completed as timely as possible,” said a GLO spokesperson.

A New Era of Cooperation Yielding Results Already

Dawn Buckingham, M.D., the new GLO Commissioner credits open communications and focused cooperation. “The GLO is dedicated to helping Harris County and the City of Houston put these vital funds to good use.”

GLO Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, M.D., speaking at a joint press conference in March. Others L to R: Harris County Community Services Interim Exec Director Thao Costis, HCFCD Exec Director Dr. Tina Petersen, P4 Commissioner Lesley Briones, P2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, P3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey PE, P1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, County Attorney Christian Menefee.

This is good news. In years past, the relationship between Houston, Harris County, GLO and HUD foundered over performance benchmarks, cooperation and communication. But now, new players are in place. And 5+ years after Harvey, the City, County and State all face “use it or lose it” deadlines from HUD.

More Money Hangs in Balance

While the performance benchmarks in question have to do only with unexpended, Harvey-related, disaster-relief funds, much more money hangs in the balance.

The success of the relationship will also affect $750 million in CDBG-mitigation funds and another $322 million in unspent funds that the GLO shifted from expiring projects to Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD).

Earlier this month, HCFCD presented Commissioners Court with a proposed project list for those funds. HCFCD is reportedly still trying to define the areas benefited by each of those projects before final approval. However, HUD and the GLO seem pleased with both the progress and the collaborative working relationships that have developed.

Everyone seems to respond positively to Dr. Buckingham’s working style – described as “supportive,” yet “results oriented.”

  • Commissioner Adrian Garcia stated publicly, “I want to give a shout out to the GLO and Commissioner Buckingham for her support of Harris County and giving us a degree of trust.”
  • Commissioner Tom Ramsey complimented the fairness of project list, noting that it worked out to about 25% for each precinct. He stated, “job well done by the whole.” 
  • Commissioner Lesley Briones said, “This is so wonderful that we were able to hit reset and really focus on the progress going forward.” 

Nature Provides Its Own Deadlines

It can’t happen soon enough for Harris County residents who live under constant threat of floods. Monday afternoon, Tropical Storm Brett formed in the Atlantic. Another storm with an 80% chance of formation in the next 7 days follows closely behind. That’s up from 50% yesterday afternoon.

National Hurricane Center update as of 10:45AM EDT Tuesday, June 20, 2023

It’s too early to tell with any reliability where/whether/when either of these disturbances will make landfall.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/19/2023

2120 Days since Hurricane Harvey and Updated on 6/20/2023 with new storm information and photo.

Plum Grove, Splendora, Liberty, Others Receive HUD Grants Through GLO

GLO Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, M.D., announced yesterday more than $43 million in HUD grants for 44 infrastructure projects stemming from 2019 Disasters. The $43 million is the combined total of grants made to counties and cities stretching from the Rio Grande Valley to southeast Texas.

Counties where 2019 community development block grant disaster-relief (CDBG-DR) money will be distributed for infrastructure projects.

The infrastructure-project grants will help communities recover from the 2019 South Texas Floods as well as Tropical Storm Imelda, which devastated SE Texas.

List of Recipients

The funds will be used to improve streets as well as water and drainage facilities in:

  • Counties:
    • Cameron
    • Chambers
    • Harris
    • Hidalgo
    • Jefferson
    • Liberty
    • Montgomery
    • Orange
    • San Jacinto
    • Willacy
  • Cities
    • Beaumont
    • China
    • Combes
    • Daisetta
    • La Feria
    • La Villa
    • Laguna Vista
    • Liberty
    • Mercedes
    • Mission
    • Nome
    • Old River-Winfree
    • Orange
    • Palmview
    • Pasadena
    • Pine Forest
    • Pinehurst
    • Plum Grove
    • Port Arthur
    • Port Isabel
    • Primera
    • Rio Hondo
    • Santa Rosa
    • Splendora
    • Vidor
    • West Orange
    • Woodloch 

“Here to Help”

“Consecutive disasters have devastated communities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Southeast Texas, but the Texas General Land Office is here to help,” said Commissioner Buckingham. “These critical infrastructure awards will divert floodwaters away from homes, increase the resiliency of communities to respond to natural disasters, and restore peace of mind when the next storm hits.”

Texas GLO 2019 Disaster-Recovery Funds

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) is administering $227,510,000 in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) related to 2019 flooding. This is separate from the $750 million in mitigation funding related to Harvey and Harris County.

Out of the $227.5 million, GLO allocated $61,430,000 in disaster recovery funds for infrastructure projects. They will assist disaster relief, long-term recovery, and restoration of infrastructure for local communities. The rest of $227 million was allocated to grants that help individuals recover.

GLO announced the opening of the application for eligible counties and cities on March 15, 2022. Applications closed on August 1, 2022. Each applicant was eligible to submit a total of two applications. All activities had to contribute to the long-term recovery and restoration of infrastructure.

The GLO recognizes that repair and enhancements of local infrastructure are crucial components of long-term recovery and viability of communities.

To learn more, visit https://recovery.texas.gov/2018-floods-2019-disasters/programs/2019-disasters-infrastructure-competition/index.html.

Plum Grove Drainage Improvements – $1,000,000

Tropical Storm Imelda released an unprecedented 3-day total rainfall amount of 28 inches on Plum Grove. That limited the city’s ability to provide an immediate response due to the inundation of flood water. As a result, this project will provide much-needed drainage improvements within Orange Branch Creek which is located in the middle of the city and runs from the northeast down to the southeast. The project will install culverts and restore roads.

Splendora Lift Station Drainage Improvements – $596,625

Imelda flooding submerged the Pinewood Lift Station site, as well as its emergency generator and electrical switchgear located at the northern intersection of Pinewood Drive and First Street. Loss of both primary and emergency back-up power led to a sanitary sewer overflow at Pinewood lift station. Vehicular access, including emergency vehicle access, was not possible because of the depth of flooding in the area. This project includes drainage and generator improvements at the Pinewood Lift Station.

Construction will include the following activities:

  • Regrade ditch and install double headwalls
  • Install reinforced concrete pipe culverts under First Street with road restoration and ditch regrading 
  • Install new natural gas generator and automatic transfer switch
  • Install an elevated metal platform, staircase and skid for generator

Liberty Water, Sewer Improvements – $1,000,000

The project will provide for water and sewer line improvements located within the eastern side of the city along Beaumont Road, Minglewood Road, Glenn Street and Tanner Street. These should reduce overflow concerns for residents and businesses along these streets. The project will make improvements to sewer lines and water lines and remove and replace existing lift stations with gravity sanitary sewer lines.

Descriptions of Other Grants

For a full description of other grants in this batch, see the GLO website.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/22/2023 based on information from the Texas General Land Office

2031 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1280 Days since Imelda

$750 Million May Be Swirling the Drain

Yesterday morning at a joint press conference, the Texas General Land Office and Harris County Commissioners pledged to work more closely together to speed up flood mitigation. But four hours later, a chaotic 90-minute discussion in Commissioners Court made me wonder whether the rapprochement would ever bear fruit. At risk: $750 million.

Almost 22 months after the Texas General Land Office (GLO) requested $750 million from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Harris County Harvey flood mitigation, County Commissioners still haven’t agreed among themselves on which projects to support.

That’s important because GLO must determine that any proposed plan meets HUD requirements before the County can begin spending money…half of which must be spent in the next 33 months.

Harris County must spend all funds by August 31, 2027 and 50% by December 31, 2025.

Harris County Community Services Department

Given how things have gone so far, I’m beginning to wonder about those deadlines. However, hope remains. Read on.

County, GLO Pledge Cooperation

At a joint press conference early on 3/14/23 that featured four Harris County Commissioners and the new GLO Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, Buckingham emphasized the need for speed. In an effort to mend the GLO’s relationship with Harris County, Buckingham also pledged to work more closely with the county to help speed things up. To hear the entire 15-minute press conference, click here.

One of Buckingham’s top priorities is improving communication with local leaders to expedite funds available to benefit local residents.

Joint press conference between GLO and Harris County Commissioners
Joint Press Conference: Thao Costis, Interim Executive Director of CSD; Dr. Tina Petersen, Executive Director HCFCD; Lesley Briones, Precinct 4; Dawn Buckingham MD, GLO Commissioner; Adrian Garcia, Precinct 2; Tom Ramsey PE, Precinct 3; Rodney Ellis, Precinct 1; and Christian Menefee, County Attorney.

History of Grant

The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) had projects that met the current HUD criteria for hazard mitigation funds back in 2020.

Most just weren’t competitive with other areas’ requests given the rules in the first round of statewide competition. But we’re in a different situation now. After getting so little in Round One, the GLO requested a $750 million allocation to Harris County in May 2021.

Shortly after that, Judge Hidalgo, Commissioner Adrian Garcia and Commissioner Rodney Ellis assigned planning responsibilities to the County’s Community Services Department (CSD) instead of HCFCD. But both organizations have had several changes in leadership since then. CSD has had a total of six different directors under Hidalgo so far.

It’s hard to get up much speed in a revolving door. So instead of a plan, we’ve gotten excuses.

“We’re working on it.” “We’ll have that for you in September.” “…in October.” “Before the end of the year.” “Definitely in February.” “Final plan in March.” Now it’s April!

Outline of Plan Approved Without Projects

Yesterday, Commissioners Court actually agreed on a high-level outline of the plan – but without any projects or partners defined.

CSD Interim Director Thao Costis proposed a confusing scoring matrix for potential projects and a spending breakdown that included:

  • $97.5 million for administration and planning
  • $502.5 million for 2018 Flood Control Bond Projects
  • $100 million for Partnership Projects
  • $50 million for Other County Flood Mitigation Projects.

That increased HCFCD’s allocation compared to her last presentation.

And as soon as discussion on the outline began, Commissioners started peppering it with amendments – for almost 90 minutes. In the end, it finally passed, but it was difficult to tell exactly what commissioners were voting on.

So they sent staff away to compile a marked up version of one section – partnership requirements – that reflected numerous changes requested by all commissioners. They brought the marked up version back several hours later and commissioners voted to replace the original partner section they had just approved with the marked up version. But as of this instant, the County Clerk still has not published the text of the final approved version. Good luck to the County Clerk.

Partnership Criteria Refined in Meeting

Re: partnerships, at Commissioner Ramsey’s request, the Court expanded the list of eligible entities beyond municipalities. It now includes MUDs, Public Improvement Districts, School Districts, Public Transit Providers, Economic Development Corporations, TIRZs, Management Districts and Public Ports located within Harris County.

Commissioners also preliminarily approved an amended list of draft criteria for partnership projects. According to Commissioner Ramsey’s staff, they include:

  • Preliminary engineering must be complete or almost so.
  • If right of way is needed, the applicant must already own it.
  • Applicants must adopt the minimum standards for communities in Harris County.
  • Projects can range in size from $3 – $20 million.
  • Partners must agree to cover all cost overruns.
  • Projects will be graded on:
    • Readiness
    • Percent of low-to-moderate income population
    • Efficiency (a combination of cost per person and cost per structure benefitted)
    • Ancillary benefits, i.e., protection of hospitals, schools, etc.
    • Partner’s contribution as percent of total project cost.

Next Steps

CSD will develop an application form for partners. Then:

  • CSD will invite potential partners to a workshop outlining requirements for any deal.
  • Potential partners must submit applications.
  • A consultant will score all applications and develop partnership recommendations.
  • CSD must publish the results and invite public comment.
  • Commissioners, GLO and HUD must approve projects before work can begin.

All that could take years that we don’t have.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the partner application process (which hasn’t even started yet), it’s hard to see how anyone could develop a definitive project list by April 4th, the next commissioner’s court meeting. Hats off to CSD’s Interim Director Costis if she can do it.

Frankly, the chaotic discussion surrounding the $750 million yesterday bewildered me. It was a civics lesson in the value of Robert’s Rules of Order.

The free-for-all starts at about 2:47:09 into the meeting video and goes for almost 90 minutes. Given how long it has taken to get this far and all the steps still ahead, one wonders about the county’s ability to make the final deadline.

Rays of Hope

At the press conference Tuesday morning, GLO offered to work more closely with CSD to compress timelines. Commissioners appeared to welcome the idea.

The GLO also mentioned that more funding might be possible for flood mitigation. However, Commissioner Buckingham could not give a specific figure.

As Harvey disaster relief efforts wind down, the GLO will roll any unused money into flood mitigation, so that it doesn’t have to return to Washington.

The difference between the two buckets? Disaster relief funds go to individuals for repairing damage from past floods. Flood mitigation funds go to government entities for reducing future flooding.

More about the status of disaster relief in a future post. The GLO will hold another press conference in Harris County Thursday on disaster relief efforts.

Posted by Bob Rehak on March 15, 2023

2024 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.