On June 6, 2023, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) recommended to Commissioners Court a flood-mitigation and disaster-relief project list totaling $825 million. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated the funds to Harris County via the Texas General Land Office (GLO). The projects will require another $145 million in local-match funds from the 2018 Flood Bond. Thus, the projects are worth close to a billion dollars.
Commissioners Court unanimously approved the project list with little discussion. Each precinct will receive a relatively equal amount of projects and funding, according to Commissioner Ramsey.
Two Buckets of Money
The money comes in two buckets: Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds totaling $322.5 million and hazard mitigation funds totaling $502.5 million. HCFCD intends to use both primarily for channel improvements and stormwater-detention-basin projects.
Further, HCFCD has divided its project list into primary and backup recommendations.
Factors Used to Determine Recommendations
HCFCD developed the project list with the following factors in mind:
- Deadline requirements (ability to implement quickly/near shovel ready)
- Low-to-moderate income (LMI) scores
- Prioritization-framework ranking
- Social-vulnerability index (SVI) scores
- Racial composition of areas receiving mitigation benefits.
HUD normally gives priority to projects that help minority and low-income areas. However, the two major buckets have different LMI requirements. They also have different deadlines.
HCFCD must spend 100% of the Disaster-Relief (DR) funds by August 2026. And they must benefit areas where 70% of the residents qualify as LMI (below the average income for the region).
The Mitigation funds have more time and a 50% LMI requirement. No less than 50% of the $750,000,000 – from which the $502.5 is carved – must be expended by January 12, 2027, with the full balance expended by January 12, 2032.
So the DR funds have more urgency attached to them and that list includes projects closest to “construction ready.”
Reason for Backup Projects
According to HCFCD, the project list will likely evolve based on review by GLO, project schedules and project costs. Budgets are estimates based upon today’s dollars. They will change as projects advance.
Fatal flaws may also become visible as projects advance toward construction. So, HCFCD requested and received permission to substitute alternate projects as needed if the intended projects become non-viable.
1 Recommended, 1 Alternate Project in Lake Houston Area
The “recommended” list includes one primary project in the Lake Houston Area: Taylor Gully Improvements.
It also includes one project on the alternate list: the Woodridge Village Stormwater Detention Basin, part of which is already under construction.
9 Upstream Projects
HCFCD is also recommending nine upstream projects on tributaries that feed into Lake Houston.
Primary recommendations include:
- Upper Cypress Creek Floodplain Preservation
- Part 3 of the Kluge Stormwater Detention Basin on Little Cypress Creek
- Rehabilitation of the Kickerillo Mischer Preserve Channel on Cypress Creek
- Boudreaux Stormwater Detention Basin Part 1 on Willow Creek
- Channel Rehabilitation, Batch 5 on the Main Stem of Cypress Creek
- East and West TC Jester Detention Basins on the Main Stem of Cypress Creek
- Detention for Channel Rehabilitation on the Main Stem of Cypress Creek, Batch 5
Alternate recommendations include:
- Boudreaux Stormwater Detention Basin Phase II on Willow Creek
- Mercer Stormwater Detention Basin on Cypress Creek
Project-Specific Data Available Soon
The project list does not include information on how much these projects would contribute to flood reduction – either locally or downstream. However, HCFCD expects to post that information to its website before the projects go to the GLO for approval in the coming months.
Partnership-Funding Gap Affected
Likewise, HCFCD did not include with this list an estimate of how much it would affect the partner-funding gap.
Some time ago, HCFCD projected that it could finish all the projects in the flood bond using a combination of:
- Taxpayer approved funds
- Partner funds already committed
- Harris County Toll Road Authority money allocated to the Flood Resilience Trust.
But to finish all the projects in the Flood Bond, HCFCD “phased” some projects. It knew it wouldn’t have enough money to complete 100% of some large projects. So, several phases might have been included and others deferred.
It appears that several projects on today’s list include some deferred phases. So the “partner-funding gap” may not be reduced as much as originally thought. Net: HCFCD may or may not have to look for additional funds. The District expects it will know more after GLO approves the list.
HCFCD must also come back to Commissioners Court by July 18 with an estimate for ongoing maintenance and land management costs for all the projects.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/6/2023
2107 Days since Hurricane Harvey