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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dredging? Yes. Language allows “channel improvements” in cooperation with “City of Houston.”
- 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.”
- Upstream Detention? Yes. Language allows “purchasing lands, easements and rights of way” and constructing “detention basins” in “any county adjacent to Harris County.”
- 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