Tag Archive for: flood planning

Conservation Flood Planning in Texas

Texas has a dubious distinction that not many people realize. We lead the nation in flood events and their impacts. Not one of Texas’ 254 counties has escaped flooding. Despite our prowess in engineering, engineering alone has not prevented flooding. As a growing number of leaders are now starting to recognize, success will require the marriage of engineering and conservation.

Historical flood impact since 1996, by county. Each of the state’s 254 counties has plenty of experience with flooding, and the state leads the nation in number of recorded flood events. Visualization by FEMA Historical Risk and Costs. Data from NOAA Storm Events Database.

In 2019, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Legislature set the stage for future flood-mitigation efforts. A diverse collection of stakeholders worked with legislators to include language for conservation-based projects in both the flood planning process and project funding framework overseen by the Texas Water Development Board.

Recently, Dr. Matthew Berg published a paper describing the roles that conservation projects are starting to play in flood planning.

Dr. Berg is the CEO & Principal Scientist or Simfero Consultants. He has given ReduceFlooding.com the right to review and reproduce his copyrighted paper which first appeared in the Texas Water Journal.

Wide Spectrum of Conservation Solutions

Berg begins by describing the wide spectrum of conservation projects related to flood mitigation. They include:

  • Preservation and restoration toward one end
  • Smaller-scale features like bioswales, green roofs, and rain gardens somewhere in the middle
  • Revegetating with native plant species after construction of otherwise traditional structural projects on the other end.

Berg sees a role for nature-based approaches as a component of virtually every flood mitigation project.

Programs Aligning to Promote Use of Natural Solutions

Berg also cites research that has found these strategies can return $7 in benefits for every $1 in project costs.

Benefits range from flood reduction and improved water quality to erosion control, heat moderation, wildlife habitat, property value increases, recreation, reduced maintenance costs, topping up groundwater storage and more.

As a result, Berg is able to cite dozens of nature-based solutions from all around Texas. The sheer volume, diversity and practicality of these examples is a real eye opener.

Even the Army Corps of Engineers is embracing the effort with its “Engineering with Nature Program.” The Corps designed it to bring conservationists and engineers together.

In addition, FEMA introduced a program last year called BRIC (Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities). It emphasizes boosting resilience before a disaster strikes rather than reacting after the damage has already been done. 

The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 ensures a meaningful evaluation of nature-based solutions and clarifies the eligibility of natural infrastructure for cost-sharing. 

President Biden has joined the bandwagon, too. On his first day in office, he signed an executive order requiring federally funded buildings and facilities to be located away from flood corridors.

These are just a tiny sampling of the dozens of conservation efforts reviewed by Berg.

To See Full Study

To see Dr. Berg’s entire publication, click here. It’s a catalog of solutions right under our feet. All we need to do is recognize the opportunities and seize them.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/28/2021 with thanks to Dr. Matthew Berg and the Texas Water Journal

1429 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Flood Planning: How Would You Spend $793 million?

The 86th Texas Legislature charged the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) with implementing flood-related legislation, including Senate Bill (SB) 7, SB 8, SB 500, and House Joint Resolution 4. This legislation greatly expanded the TWDB’s role in flood planning and financing.

Planning the New State Flood Plan

The TWDB will administer a new state flood planning program. This program establishes a state and regional flood planning process, with flood planning regions based on river basins. The TWDB aims to have the first regional flood plans by 2023, and the first state flood plan by September 1, 2024.

Light pole near River Bend in North Shore as Harvey receded. Note the "wet marks" several feet up on pole. Photo by Jim Balcom.
Light pole near River Bend in North Shore as Harvey receded. Note the “wet marks” several feet up on pole. Photo by Jim Balcom.

The legislature also authorized a one-time transfer of $793 million from the state’s Economic Stabilization or “Rainy Day” Fund to create a new flood mitigation funding program that the TWDB will administer. The goal: to make drainage and flood projects more affordable and to meet immediate needs for funding. The funding will become available in 2020.

Statewide Call for Input

Says Jeff Walker, Executive Director, “The TWDB is working to get these programs up and running as quickly as possible and to hire staff for these new roles. Prior to formal rulemaking activities this fall, we are seeking input on a variety of issues, including but not limited to:

  • Administration of funding for flood control planning and drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects
  • Creation of regional and state flood planning process and related requirements
  • Potential flood planning region boundaries
  • State and regional flood planning guidance principles”

The information included in this PDF is intended to generate discussion and to solicit specific feedback that will inform formal rulemaking and other implementation efforts.

Written feedback is requested by August 30, 2019 and should be submitted to rulescomments@twdb.texas.gov.

Issues Being Considered

TWDB will also host stakeholder workshops around the state the first two weeks of August; these will include presentations on implementation efforts and issues for stakeholder consideration as well as opportunities for giving formal comments and for informal discussions with TWDB staff and board members.

TWDB invites you to join these discussions. In the coming months, you can help create new state programs that will better protect Texans against the loss of life and property from flooding.

Spending close to a billion dollars is not easy. Given that funding is finite and needs are not, it will require establishing rules. This PDF explains many of the issues that the TDWB will review at its upcoming public meeting in Tomball on August 9. They include, but are not limited to:

  1. What will be the most effective form of financial assistance? Grants or loans?
  2. Should they require local matches?
  3. What types of projects should get the highest priority?
  4. Should state funds complement federal buyout funds?
  5. How can the TDWB ensure cooperation of all political entities in a watershed?
  6. How can we avoid conflicts between state and regional flood plans?
  7. How can we ensure that flood mitigation measures in one area don’t exacerbate flooding in another?

Regional Workshop in Tomball on August 9

The information included in the PDF linked above is intended to generate discussion and to solicit specific feedback that will inform formal rulemaking and other implementation efforts.

Written feedback is requested by August 30, 2019 and should be submitted to rulescomments@twdb.texas.gov.

If you have thoughts you would like to volunteer on these or other planning issues, you can also discuss them in person at:

  • Beckendorf Conference Center at Lone Star College–Tomball
  • 30555 Tomball Pkwy. 
  • Tomball, TX 77375
  • 9:30-11:30 a.m.
  • Friday, August 9

Sign up for more information about these meetings and other flood information at the TWDB’s website. You can also contact the TWDB at (512) 463-8725 or flood@twdb.texas.gov.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/30/2019 with photo by Jim Balcom

700 Days since Hurricane Harvey