Every once in a while, thoughts collide in a way that makes you see the world more clearly. Such a collision happened today. I suddenly realized that Texas, the state that leads the nation in billion-dollar, weather-and-climate related disasters, also has many developers plus city and county officials pushing back against higher minimum drainage standards that would reduce flooding. At a time when those disasters are increasing in frequency!
How Proposed Drainage Standards Will Affect Developers
My last post talked about “Minimum Drainage Standard Recommendations for Communities In or Draining Into Harris County.” A reader asked how the proposed changes would affect developers.
I replied, “The proposed changes would force developers in the future to install detention ponds and storm drains large enough to help reduce flooding. It would also prohibit them from reducing the floodwater storage capacity of the 500 year floodplain. Finally, it would force them to raise the level of homes above the 500-year floodplain or flood-proof them.”
Then I added, “From a flood prevention point of view, these are all good things. But from a developer’s point of view, they add expense. If you buy a home in an area that complies with these standards, it will probably mean a higher-priced, but much safer home. I hear that developers and some civic officials are already pushing back against these proposed changes.”
Natural Disaster Costs, Frequencies
After sending the reply, I went to the NOAA site to find information about natural disasters, their costs, their frequency and their primary locations.
I found this fascinating story about the increasing frequency of billion-dollar weather disasters. I pulled the three charts below from it.
The last decade had twice as many billion-dollar weather disasters as the previous decade and four times more than the decade of the 1980s. The last five years had 69% of all such disasters in the entire 40 year period.
Tropical Cyclones and flooding comprised 29.5% all these billion-dollar disasters.
Reason for Increasing Costs, Even After Adjusting for Inflation
In explaining these rising costs, NOAA says, “These trends are … complicated by the fact that much of the growth has taken place in vulnerable areas like coasts and river floodplains. Vulnerability is especially high where building codes are insufficient for reducing damage from extreme events.”
Texas Leads Nation
And who leads the nation in billion-dollar, weather-and-climate-related disasters? Texas.
Connecting Some Tragic Dots
So there you have it.
The state with the most billion-dollar disasters has many developers and civic leaders pushing back against higher minimum drainage standards at a time when major weather disasters are increasing.
Food for thought as this debate begins. Kind of makes you wonder about the wisdom of permitting starter homes in flood plains next to raging rivers, building 2200 acre developments without any detention ponds, and encouraging developers to get their water to rivers faster in floods.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/8/2020
1014 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 263 after Imelda