According to Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) latest flood-bond update, 19 of 19 active capital improvement construction projects are now in Democratic precincts (1, 2 and 4). None is in the County’s lone Republican-led Precinct 3, the county’s largest.
Moreover, the update also shows that the San Jacinto watershed now has NO active maintenance OR construction projects.
Latest Update Restates Numbers for 12 Months Ending 11/22
Every month, Harris County Flood Control District issues an update on 2018 Flood-Bond projects. The updates typically cover:
Newsworthy items from the previous month
A master schedule of all projects
Funding and spending to date by watershed
Active Maintenance Projects
Active Construction Projects.
This month, the update also includes restated figures for 2022 reports. The last page corrects several figures in previous monthly reports. Some of the reports contained incorrect figures related to confusing labels.
The corrected figures show that from December 2021 through November 2022 (the last month covered in this report), HCFCD:
Awarded 7 constructsruction contracts valued at a total of $60 million.
Awarded 91 other agreements for things, such as engineering studies and design, valued at a total of $140 million
Spent a total of $1.151 billion on all bond projects since 2018. That includes:
$602 million of bond funds
$392 million in grants
$157 million of other local funds
Completed 24.1% of the bond projects in 44% of the time allotted.
Gives itself a schedule performance index of .95
Completed 913 buyouts for $174 million total (Average = $190,000 each)
No Active Construction Projects Shown in P3
Under Active Capital Improvement Construction Projects, HCFCD shows none (zero, nada, zilch, bupkis, diddly-squat, zip, i.e., nothing at all) in Precinct 3, the county’s largest precinct and one of the most heavily flood damaged.
However, elsewhere on the Commissioner’s Court agenda for Tuesday, Rodney Ellis is asking for $2.66 million for hike-and-bike trails around Willow Water Hole on South Post Oak in his Precinct 2. See Item 303. Precinct 2 Commissioner Ellis is reportedly an avid bicyclist. He lives near there.
No Active Construction OR Maintenance Projects in San Jacinto Watershed
Also, the update shows NO active construction or maintenance projects anywhere in the San Jacinto Watershed, the county’s largest and one of the most heavily flood damaged.
Updated Spending Totals by Watershed
Here are the latest spending totals by watershed per the update.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/27/23 based on the November 2022 HCFCD Bond Update
1978 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Screenshot-2023-01-27-at-8.48.56-PM.png?fit=1910%2C1240&ssl=112401910adminadmin2023-01-27 21:34:392023-01-28 18:00:15All Active HCFCD Construction Projects Now in Democratic Precincts
September, monthly spending was only $8.1 million.
All this comes at a time when many projects are wrapping up engineering and moving into the more expensive land-acquisition and construction phases. Also, construction has not been slowed by heavy rains; we’re still on the verge of drought. So the trend is opposite of what you would expect.
Spending by Watershed
The table below shows spending by watershed reported in the last two flood-bond updates. Note: The update presented to commissioners is delayed about six weeks. In the November 15th meeting, commissioners received the “October” update which actually showed bond spending through the end of September. Calculating the difference from the last two updates shows how much money HCFCD spent in each watershed during the last reported month (September).
This shows that five watersheds received NO money. And Luce received only $250. So, a quarter of the county’s 23 watersheds had virtually no activity.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the watersheds’ locations, see the map below from the Bond Update.
Spending Decrease in Perspective
Let’s put $8 million into perspective. The recent “running rate” through July was more than $60 million per month. September is about 1/8th of that.
Harris County originally conceived the bond as a 10-year effort.
“Spending to Date” is not the only indicator that things may be starting to come off the rails.
Construction contracts awarded somehow decreased from 48 to 40 even though the value increased from $393 million to $415 million.
HCFCD awarded 11 new “agreements” for a total of $11.6 million during the month, but the totals to date don’t add up with those reported the previous month.
Professional services invoices paid decreased from $4.8 million to $253 thousand – a 94% decrease.
Reported “overall progress” didn’t budge. It remained at 23.5% of the total bond.
“Key performance indicators” decreased again – this time from .97 to .95. This is a project management measure of on-schedule performance. Above 1 indicates “ahead of schedule.” Below 1 indicates “behind schedule.”
“Home buyouts in progress” decreased from 331 to 285. But HCFCD has spent only 31% of buyout funding secured to date. So there are many more to go.
The San Jacinto watershed is the county’s largest. It received less than $50,000, but had the deepest flooding during Harvey. The only spending shown in the update for the San Jacinto is for “drainage system repairs” at an unspecified location.
The update shows no other active maintenance projects and no active capital-improvement projects in the entire Lake Houston Area.
The entire watershed’s percentage of all flood-bond spending for the month was 0.58%.
Why the Slowdown?
Several sources have indicated a variety of reasons:
Management Turnover – HCFCD lost its top three leaders recently: Russ Poppe, Matt Zeve, and Alan Black. These architects of the flood bond had decades of experience between them. They had conducted input sessions in each watershed, had a deep understanding of the issues, and were imbued with a sense of urgency.
Less Experienced Management – Two of the three have been replaced by an academic who formerly managed the Subsidence District and an administrator from Washington DC. Neither has direct Flood-Control experience. Reportedly, it takes them weeks to make decisions that used to be handled immediately. The Subsidence District has a budget one-thousandth the size of the 2018 flood bond. Can you say “apples and oranges?”
More Layers of Management – There’s now a whole new department – County Administration – between Flood Control and Commissioners Court.
Although Democrats on Commissioners Court previously reaffirmed their intent to develop all projects in the original flood bond, that was with a close election hanging over their heads. With the election behind them and a super-majority in hand, they can now do anything they want with impunity – including cancel projects in the Lake Houston Area to fund projects in other precincts.
It hasn’t happened yet, but given the history of recent money-grab attempts, as with Garcia’s attempted diversion of $191 million from Cedar Bayou, it could. Stay tuned.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/16/22
1906 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.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Screenshot-2022-11-17-at-12.40.04-PM.png?fit=1094%2C1242&ssl=112421094adminadmin2022-11-17 16:42:132023-02-19 18:24:00Flood-Bond Update Shows Progress Slowing…Even More