Tag Archive for: glo

Plum Grove, Splendora, Liberty, Others Receive HUD Grants Through GLO

GLO Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, M.D., announced yesterday more than $43 million in HUD grants for 44 infrastructure projects stemming from 2019 Disasters. The $43 million is the combined total of grants made to counties and cities stretching from the Rio Grande Valley to southeast Texas.

Counties where 2019 community development block grant disaster-relief (CDBG-DR) money will be distributed for infrastructure projects.

The infrastructure-project grants will help communities recover from the 2019 South Texas Floods as well as Tropical Storm Imelda, which devastated SE Texas.

List of Recipients

The funds will be used to improve streets as well as water and drainage facilities in:

  • Counties:
    • Cameron
    • Chambers
    • Harris
    • Hidalgo
    • Jefferson
    • Liberty
    • Montgomery
    • Orange
    • San Jacinto
    • Willacy
  • Cities
    • Beaumont
    • China
    • Combes
    • Daisetta
    • La Feria
    • La Villa
    • Laguna Vista
    • Liberty
    • Mercedes
    • Mission
    • Nome
    • Old River-Winfree
    • Orange
    • Palmview
    • Pasadena
    • Pine Forest
    • Pinehurst
    • Plum Grove
    • Port Arthur
    • Port Isabel
    • Primera
    • Rio Hondo
    • Santa Rosa
    • Splendora
    • Vidor
    • West Orange
    • Woodloch 

“Here to Help”

“Consecutive disasters have devastated communities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Southeast Texas, but the Texas General Land Office is here to help,” said Commissioner Buckingham. “These critical infrastructure awards will divert floodwaters away from homes, increase the resiliency of communities to respond to natural disasters, and restore peace of mind when the next storm hits.”

Texas GLO 2019 Disaster-Recovery Funds

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) is administering $227,510,000 in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) related to 2019 flooding. This is separate from the $750 million in mitigation funding related to Harvey and Harris County.

Out of the $227.5 million, GLO allocated $61,430,000 in disaster recovery funds for infrastructure projects. They will assist disaster relief, long-term recovery, and restoration of infrastructure for local communities. The rest of $227 million was allocated to grants that help individuals recover.

GLO announced the opening of the application for eligible counties and cities on March 15, 2022. Applications closed on August 1, 2022. Each applicant was eligible to submit a total of two applications. All activities had to contribute to the long-term recovery and restoration of infrastructure.

The GLO recognizes that repair and enhancements of local infrastructure are crucial components of long-term recovery and viability of communities.

To learn more, visit https://recovery.texas.gov/2018-floods-2019-disasters/programs/2019-disasters-infrastructure-competition/index.html.

Plum Grove Drainage Improvements – $1,000,000

Tropical Storm Imelda released an unprecedented 3-day total rainfall amount of 28 inches on Plum Grove. That limited the city’s ability to provide an immediate response due to the inundation of flood water. As a result, this project will provide much-needed drainage improvements within Orange Branch Creek which is located in the middle of the city and runs from the northeast down to the southeast. The project will install culverts and restore roads.

Splendora Lift Station Drainage Improvements – $596,625

Imelda flooding submerged the Pinewood Lift Station site, as well as its emergency generator and electrical switchgear located at the northern intersection of Pinewood Drive and First Street. Loss of both primary and emergency back-up power led to a sanitary sewer overflow at Pinewood lift station. Vehicular access, including emergency vehicle access, was not possible because of the depth of flooding in the area. This project includes drainage and generator improvements at the Pinewood Lift Station.

Construction will include the following activities:

  • Regrade ditch and install double headwalls
  • Install reinforced concrete pipe culverts under First Street with road restoration and ditch regrading 
  • Install new natural gas generator and automatic transfer switch
  • Install an elevated metal platform, staircase and skid for generator

Liberty Water, Sewer Improvements – $1,000,000

The project will provide for water and sewer line improvements located within the eastern side of the city along Beaumont Road, Minglewood Road, Glenn Street and Tanner Street. These should reduce overflow concerns for residents and businesses along these streets. The project will make improvements to sewer lines and water lines and remove and replace existing lift stations with gravity sanitary sewer lines.

Descriptions of Other Grants

For a full description of other grants in this batch, see the GLO website.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/22/2023 based on information from the Texas General Land Office

2031 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1280 Days since Imelda

“Thank You, Lord!” and “Thank You, GLO!”

Today, it wasn’t Republicans vs. Democrats. It was humans helping humans. And how refreshing it was!

86-Year Old, Mobility-Challenged Woman Gets New Home, New Life

Texas General Land Office (GLO) Commissioner Dawn Buckingham and her staff gathered to turn over the keys to the newly rebuilt home of Earnestine Henry. Ms. Henry is an 86-year old African-American great grandmother who relies on a wheelchair and walker to get around. Hurricane Harvey displaced her from the 79-year old home she owned for 50 years.

Neighbors, friends and family – the entire street – all joined in the festivities. It was the 1000th such home that the GLO built in Houston and Harris County in the last two years.

When Commissioner Buckingham gave Ms. Henry a bouquet of flowers as a housewarming gift, Ms. Henry began to cry tears of joy.

Henry left, Buckingham right.

Then, the deeply religious Henry threw up her arm and went silent for a second.

Finally, she shouted “Thank you, Lord.”

She was so overcome with emotion that Commissioner Buckingham reached out to steady her in case she started to fall.

The room went silent as she sobbed and dried her tears. Everyone else dried theirs, too, including seasoned journalists. Yes, even I sniffled.

Then Ms. Henry flashed a beatific smile. The gracious and grateful octogenarian then took her guests on a tour of her new home as she thanked all the GLO staff in attendance.

She never thought she would recover from Harvey and couldn’t believe her beautiful new surroundings.

Before/After Photos

Here’s what the home looked like before the rebuild.

And here’s what it looked like today, including the handicapped ramp. All homes built through the GLO’s Homeowner Assistance plan meet the needs of the residents with mobility challenges. Not only is the homeowner’s investment protected, their safety is as well.

Ms. Henry had originally applied to the City of Houston for help after Harvey, but reportedly never heard back. Her daughter and granddaughter helped her reapply to the GLO when the GLO took over the program in 2021.

Better, Safer

JW Turner Construction built the new home, which is fully code compliant and energy efficient. The rebuild happened as part of the GLO’s Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP).

In accordance with federal law and City of Houston codes, new homes located in a flood plain are elevated to 2 feet above base flood elevation.

Property Values Increase, but Not Taxes

On average, homes rebuilt through the Homeowner Assistance Program increase the value of the property by more than $85,765. To address concerns about increased property taxes, in 2019 the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 812 to protect homeowners from drastic increases after the GLO reconstructs homes.

The GLO’s Homeowner Assistance Program reaches the hardest hit, low- and moderate-income, vulnerable families and individuals.

1000th Rebuild Part of a Continuing Effort

Of all approved applicants, nearly 90 percent identify as Black or Hispanic. 89 percent are considered low-to-moderate income. And 63 percent make less than 30 percent of the area median income.

The GLO currently has another 1000 homes under construction in the Houston area.

“No other state or territory has performed like Texas in the recovery from Harvey,” said Buckingham. “A large part of that credit goes to the GLO. In two years, GLO has rebuilt 18 times as many homes as Houston and Harris County combined.”

“Texas stands to lose billions of available federal disaster recovery dollars if we do not use them before they expire in August 2026,” she added.

“Programs administered by the GLO in assisting the poorest Texans have significantly outperformed the federal requirement,” said Buckingham. 80% of GLO disaster recovery funds help those most in need, even though the US Department of Housing and Urban Development only requires 70%.

Buckingham, upper right, applauds her team and contractors who commemorated the occasion with Ms. Henry.

Thank you, Lord, for people like Ms. Henry and all the others above. They remind us that we’re all in this together.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/16/2023

2025 Days since Hurricane Harvey

$750 Million May Be Swirling the Drain

Yesterday morning at a joint press conference, the Texas General Land Office and Harris County Commissioners pledged to work more closely together to speed up flood mitigation. But four hours later, a chaotic 90-minute discussion in Commissioners Court made me wonder whether the rapprochement would ever bear fruit. At risk: $750 million.

Almost 22 months after the Texas General Land Office (GLO) requested $750 million from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Harris County Harvey flood mitigation, County Commissioners still haven’t agreed among themselves on which projects to support.

That’s important because GLO must determine that any proposed plan meets HUD requirements before the County can begin spending money…half of which must be spent in the next 33 months.

Harris County must spend all funds by August 31, 2027 and 50% by December 31, 2025.

Harris County Community Services Department

Given how things have gone so far, I’m beginning to wonder about those deadlines. However, hope remains. Read on.

County, GLO Pledge Cooperation

At a joint press conference early on 3/14/23 that featured four Harris County Commissioners and the new GLO Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, Buckingham emphasized the need for speed. In an effort to mend the GLO’s relationship with Harris County, Buckingham also pledged to work more closely with the county to help speed things up. To hear the entire 15-minute press conference, click here.

One of Buckingham’s top priorities is improving communication with local leaders to expedite funds available to benefit local residents.

Joint press conference between GLO and Harris County Commissioners
Joint Press Conference: Thao Costis, Interim Executive Director of CSD; Dr. Tina Petersen, Executive Director HCFCD; Lesley Briones, Precinct 4; Dawn Buckingham MD, GLO Commissioner; Adrian Garcia, Precinct 2; Tom Ramsey PE, Precinct 3; Rodney Ellis, Precinct 1; and Christian Menefee, County Attorney.

History of Grant

The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) had projects that met the current HUD criteria for hazard mitigation funds back in 2020.

Most just weren’t competitive with other areas’ requests given the rules in the first round of statewide competition. But we’re in a different situation now. After getting so little in Round One, the GLO requested a $750 million allocation to Harris County in May 2021.

Shortly after that, Judge Hidalgo, Commissioner Adrian Garcia and Commissioner Rodney Ellis assigned planning responsibilities to the County’s Community Services Department (CSD) instead of HCFCD. But both organizations have had several changes in leadership since then. CSD has had a total of six different directors under Hidalgo so far.

It’s hard to get up much speed in a revolving door. So instead of a plan, we’ve gotten excuses.

“We’re working on it.” “We’ll have that for you in September.” “…in October.” “Before the end of the year.” “Definitely in February.” “Final plan in March.” Now it’s April!

Outline of Plan Approved Without Projects

Yesterday, Commissioners Court actually agreed on a high-level outline of the plan – but without any projects or partners defined.

CSD Interim Director Thao Costis proposed a confusing scoring matrix for potential projects and a spending breakdown that included:

  • $97.5 million for administration and planning
  • $502.5 million for 2018 Flood Control Bond Projects
  • $100 million for Partnership Projects
  • $50 million for Other County Flood Mitigation Projects.

That increased HCFCD’s allocation compared to her last presentation.

And as soon as discussion on the outline began, Commissioners started peppering it with amendments – for almost 90 minutes. In the end, it finally passed, but it was difficult to tell exactly what commissioners were voting on.

So they sent staff away to compile a marked up version of one section – partnership requirements – that reflected numerous changes requested by all commissioners. They brought the marked up version back several hours later and commissioners voted to replace the original partner section they had just approved with the marked up version. But as of this instant, the County Clerk still has not published the text of the final approved version. Good luck to the County Clerk.

Partnership Criteria Refined in Meeting

Re: partnerships, at Commissioner Ramsey’s request, the Court expanded the list of eligible entities beyond municipalities. It now includes MUDs, Public Improvement Districts, School Districts, Public Transit Providers, Economic Development Corporations, TIRZs, Management Districts and Public Ports located within Harris County.

Commissioners also preliminarily approved an amended list of draft criteria for partnership projects. According to Commissioner Ramsey’s staff, they include:

  • Preliminary engineering must be complete or almost so.
  • If right of way is needed, the applicant must already own it.
  • Applicants must adopt the minimum standards for communities in Harris County.
  • Projects can range in size from $3 – $20 million.
  • Partners must agree to cover all cost overruns.
  • Projects will be graded on:
    • Readiness
    • Percent of low-to-moderate income population
    • Efficiency (a combination of cost per person and cost per structure benefitted)
    • Ancillary benefits, i.e., protection of hospitals, schools, etc.
    • Partner’s contribution as percent of total project cost.

Next Steps

CSD will develop an application form for partners. Then:

  • CSD will invite potential partners to a workshop outlining requirements for any deal.
  • Potential partners must submit applications.
  • A consultant will score all applications and develop partnership recommendations.
  • CSD must publish the results and invite public comment.
  • Commissioners, GLO and HUD must approve projects before work can begin.

All that could take years that we don’t have.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the partner application process (which hasn’t even started yet), it’s hard to see how anyone could develop a definitive project list by April 4th, the next commissioner’s court meeting. Hats off to CSD’s Interim Director Costis if she can do it.

Frankly, the chaotic discussion surrounding the $750 million yesterday bewildered me. It was a civics lesson in the value of Robert’s Rules of Order.

The free-for-all starts at about 2:47:09 into the meeting video and goes for almost 90 minutes. Given how long it has taken to get this far and all the steps still ahead, one wonders about the county’s ability to make the final deadline.

Rays of Hope

At the press conference Tuesday morning, GLO offered to work more closely with CSD to compress timelines. Commissioners appeared to welcome the idea.

The GLO also mentioned that more funding might be possible for flood mitigation. However, Commissioner Buckingham could not give a specific figure.

As Harvey disaster relief efforts wind down, the GLO will roll any unused money into flood mitigation, so that it doesn’t have to return to Washington.

The difference between the two buckets? Disaster relief funds go to individuals for repairing damage from past floods. Flood mitigation funds go to government entities for reducing future flooding.

More about the status of disaster relief in a future post. The GLO will hold another press conference in Harris County Thursday on disaster relief efforts.

Posted by Bob Rehak on March 15, 2023

2024 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.

Last Chance to Comment on Distribution of $750 Million in HUD Flood-Mitigation Funds

Tuesday 2/21/23 at 5 P.M. will be your last chance to comment on Harris County’s proposed distribution of $750 million in HUD Flood-Mitigation funds.

Harris County Community Services Department (CSD) will request Commissioners Court approval of its plan for allocating $750 million in HUD Harvey mitigation funds Tuesday. (See item 489 on the Agenda.) The Texas General Land Office (GLO) has conditionally approved the preliminary plan and sent it back to Harris County for public comment.

However, the plan still consists only of a high-level outline. The county wants to split the money between itself and Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) after allocating 13% for planning and administration.

CSD doesn’t intend to say exactly what areas will get how much for which projects until AFTER public comments.

Preliminary Plan Still Contains Little Detail

CSD has posted a 15-minute YouTube video that explains the process. See the screen captures below from the video.

Basically, CSD wants your comments on a high-level outline for dividing up the money. Below is what they recommend.

Less than half will go to HCFCD. AFTER approval tomorrow, the County will develop a list of projects for submission to the GLO. See last line in slide below.

CSD’s video discusses the criteria the county intends to use when developing a project list.

Input obtained prior to developing list.

It appears that Harris County wants all of the money to benefit low-to-moderate income, socially vulnerable neighborhoods…the same neighborhoods that have gotten the lion’s share of funding to date.

Sound familiar? Even though 50% of the $750 million can go to higher income areas, up to 100% could go to low-to-moderate income areas. And it looks like the county wants to go in that direction. Again.

Public Comments Close at 5 P.M. Tuesday

The only way to get your fair share is if enough members of the public demand a more even split. We don’t have enough money to finish the flood bond without spending all of the $750 million on flood mitigation. But CSD’s plan would give less than half to HCFCD.

We need the entire $750 million to fully fund the 2018 flood bond. Given the prevailing politics in Harris County these days, if any projects get cancelled for lack of funding, they will likely be those in middle- to higher-income neighborhoods.

Get Your Promised Share of the 2018 Flood Bond

So please protest any diversion of these funds away from flood mitigation.

By law, CSD must forward all comments received by Tuesday at 5 P.M. to the GLO and HUD for review.

So hurry. Email your comments NOW. It will only take five minutes.

Deadline: February 21 at 5PM.  

Email to: DRplancomments@csd.hctx.net

Below is a sample letter with key points to make. Feel free to cut-and-paste or adapt.

Sample Letter

To whom it may concern:

I strongly protest the outline that Harris County Community Services presented to the GLO for the distribution of $750 million in HUD CDBG-MIT Harvey flood-mitigation funds.

Since adoption of Harris County’s Equity Prioritization Framework, the County has been funneling 2018 Flood Bond money and other local funds to projects in high LMI and SVI areas. 

Now, however, without all of the $750 million going to flood mitigation, there likely won’t be enough money to finish all of the defined flood-bond projects that voters approved by 88% in 2018.

Therefore, I suggest:

  1. The entire $750 million should go to Harris County Flood Control District to complete unfunded flood-mitigation projects in the bond. 
  2. Earmark half that money for projects in watersheds with more affluent residents (less than 50% LMI) who have been largely ignored until now.
  3. Prioritize projects by:
    • The number of damaged structures during Harvey
    • Depth of flooding during Harvey
    • Remaining, unmitigated flood risk
    • Ability to reduce threats to infrastructure, such as bridges, schools, hospitals, and sewage treatment plants.
    • Lack of previous flood-mitigation investment in watershed
  4. The County, GLO and HUD need to be fair to all people of Harris County as HUD’s rules allow. Half of the flood-mitigation funding in Harris County since 2000 has gone to just four watersheds (Brays, Greens, White Oak, and Sims). Other areas have needs, too.
  5. CSD should present a detailed plan and stick to it. Vague generalities invite suspicion and undermine trust in government. 
  6. Ensure transparency. Harris County CSD has a poor record of transparency and website updates. Create a dashboard that publicly displays:
    • Encumbrances
    • Spending to date on every project
    • Who gets how much money, when, for what
    • Each project’s progress 
    • Monthly updates
  7. The MOD should include guarantees that the county will meet performance deadlines. Because of the 20 months already squandered since the County became aware of the $750 million, I question the county’s ability to spend the money by HUD’s deadline.

Thank you for considering these thoughts.

Don’t forget to add your contact information so Community Services can tell the General Land Office and HUD where the comment came from.

More Information

The GLO has emphasized the need for Harris County to act quickly. Flood Control has projects already defined that need money. HUD will take the money back if local authorities can’t spend the money within deadlines. So hurry. These projects take a long time. HCFCD has already defined projects in the flood bond. We can’t afford the time to start from scratch to figure out the distribution of $750 million in HUD Flood-Mitigation funds.

For more supporting information, including charts and graphs that you can use to create a custom letter, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/20/23

2001 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.

November Flood-News Roundup

Below is a roundup of flood news this week – seven quick stories.

Montgomery County Buyout Deadline Fast Approaching

The deadline for the current round of buyout applications in Montgomery County is November 30, 2022.

The Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management still has money left in a Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Texas General Land Office (GLO) allocated the money to buy out homes flooded during 2016 and 2017 (Harvey).

There are strict eligibility requirements; see the applications online. However, MoCo is now taking applications from homeowners who flooded repeatedly regardless of income level. Previously, the county was giving preference to low-to-middle income (LMI) families meet HUD’s LMI quotas.

While HUD does cap maximum buyout costs, Montgomery County offers several “credits” that can help people. Those include, but are not limited to special credits for seniors and veterans, and for moving expenses.

The county is hosting a series of meetings to help residents understand their options. More details to follow in a separate post on this subject.

Tammy Gunnels home in Porter flooded 13 times in 11 years before finally getting a buyout last year through the programs mentioned above.

Regional Flood Planning Group Draft Plan

The public comment period for the San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group’s draft plan closed on October 29th. Here’s an overview of their recommendations. One was developing detention on and channelizing portions of Spring Creek. The Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC), one of the Houston region’s leading conservation groups, had concerns with that.

BLC submitted this letter. It details the dangers of channelization to the 14,000 acres it preserves. In particular, BLC feels the report does not adequately consider erosion that could be caused by speeding up floodwaters. They say that detention and channelization projects could destabilize the entire natural system along Spring Creek. They urge more study on sedimentation and erosion before moving forward with construction.

The next step: the Regional Flood Planning Group will consider all comments received and modify the draft plan as needed.

$750 Million HUD Grant to Harris County

After promising to submit its $750 million Method of Distribution (MOD) to the GLO by the end of September, Harris County still has not yet submitted it. GLO first said it planned to allocate the money to Harris County in May, 2021 – 17 months ago!

The MOD is a plan that shows how Harris County would allocate the money. Who gets how much for what? MOD approval is necessary to ensure the County spends the money in accordance with HUD and GLO requirements.

The money could cover all under- and unfunded projects in the 2018 Flood Bond. But in April, Harris County’s new administrator assigned the task of developing the MOD to the Community Services Department instead of the Flood Control District – even though Community Services has had four leadership changes under Lina Hidalgo.

Community Services said that it planned to deliver the MOD to GLO by the end of September and publish the draft MOD by the end of October. Neither happened. The last response from Community Services was at the start of October.

At that time, the department head said the group had determined a “process” for developing the MOD. But they had yet to define any projects. For that, they were waiting for “direction from leadership.” As a result, $750 million that could mitigate flooding in Harris County is still sitting in Washington at HUD.

Meanwhile, GLO also notified H-GAC of a $488 million dollar allocation on the same day in May, 2021. H-GAC has already developed its MOD and gotten it approved. And H-GAC sub-recipients are reportedly already taking bids on projects.

There’s a lot of flood-mitigation money waiting in the wings that could accelerate Harris County projects. The longer Community Services waits, the more it places the money in jeopardy. Fifty percent must be spent in the next three years.

“Water Has a Memory”

New York 1 published a fascinating story about an ecologist tracing New York flooding back to its roots with old maps. The title: “A map of New York City before it was a city could provide answers to today’s flooding.”

The central figure in this detective story is Eric Sanderson. He cross-references current flooding issues with a historical chart of “the city’s buried, drained, filled-in or paved-over waterways.”

In every case, he says, the problems have the same roots. 

People built lives in places that used to be underwater. And water, he says, has a memory. 

“Maybe there was a wetland there, maybe there was a stream there, maybe there was a pond there, and people have forgotten,” Sanderson said in the interview.

We see this constantly in Houston. In one extreme case, a developer cleared property, filled in wetlands and THEN conducted an environmental survey.


All but a few of the 131 mini-homes at the Preserve at Woodridge are now framed out. The closer this site gets to completion, the more I question the accuracy of the engineer’s claim of only 66% impervious cover.

The Preserve at Woodridge will feature some homes as large as 660 square feet and four feet apart. Photo October 31, 2022.
Kids will love this area for Halloween. More candy per footstep.

Flood-Insurance Flap

The Houston Chronicle recently published an editorial about new flood Insurance rates designed to stanch financial hemorrhaging in the National Flood Insurance Plan. The title: “What happened to affordable flood insurance?”

For the first time this year, FEMA is trying to put flood insurance rates on an actuarial basis. But weening people off nationally subsidized insurance is proving difficult. The article claims some people have 500% rate increases even though increases are capped at a far lower rate.

While bemoaning the unintended consequences of well-intended reforms, the editorial proposes a solution: making flood-insurance rates “income based”!

One wonders about the unintended consequences of that. Will the availability of cheap flood insurance encourage building low-income housing only in the riskiest areas?

We shouldn’t forget that it was the availability of cheap flood insurance that encouraged building in flood-prone areas to begin with.

There may be no good solutions to this problem. Many feel government should have never have gotten involved in flood insurance from the start.

One insurance agent I talked to suggested this. “Worst case: offer buyouts to people who can’t afford flood insurance with the understanding that if declined, then there will be no more assistance for financial losses due to flooding.”

I personally favor a two-tiered public/private approach similar to Medicare. Cap the federally subsidized insurance at a level that stops the hemorrhaging. Then, let private insurers fill the gaps up to the full value of expensive homes.

This debate could take years.

New Netflix Series: High Water

Sally Geis, a former Kingwood resident, wrote me about a new Netflix show called “High Water.” It’s based on true events in 1997. It describes a massive flood that took place in Wrocław, Poland. The flood caused $3.5 billion in damages and put almost half of the city underwater.

However, it could have been smaller if one of the villages had allowed the incoming flood waters to be diverted onto their fields. Their “not-in-my-backyard” refusal and the disastrous individual and community consequences are the theme of the series. Sound familiar?

The acting and production design are first-rate, according to Geis. “It’s a story about a real disaster and real problems that can happen anywhere on the globe right now,” she says.

Click here for the trailer.


Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/4/22

1893 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.

GLO Posts Amendment 11 to Harvey Plan Affecting Houston Flood Victims

Amendment 11 from the Texas Hurricane Harvey Action plan will let the Texas General Land Office (GLO) take over unused money from seven Houston disaster relief funds. The money will be reallocated to a state-run Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP) currently administered by the GLO on behalf of Houston residents.

On 10/7/22, GLO posted Amendment 11 to the State’s Action Plan for $5.676 billion in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) related to Hurricane Harvey. View the entire 461-page Action Plan Amendment 11 at https://recovery.texas.gov/public-notices/index.html. Or see the major changes below.

File photo from June 2021. Flood damaged home on Houston’s NE side, still needing repair.

Reallocation of $141 Million

Amendment 11 deals with the $1.2 billion in CDBG-DR funds previously allocated to and administered by the City of Houston. The amendment reallocates $140,930,253 in unused funds from seven City of Houston disaster relief programs. The money will be reallocated to a state-run Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP) administered by the GLO on behalf of Houston residents. 

Reason for the reallocation? The City programs repeatedly failed to meet contract benchmarks and deadlines.

The GLO acted after the City missed contractual benchmarks designed to ensure that funds for City of Houston residents are expended before HUD’s final program deadlines.

GLO currently administers the “City of Houston Homeowner Assistance Program,” nicknamed HAP, the acronym used by the state as opposed to HoAP, which the City used.

Latest City Pipeline Report

The City doesn’t publish statistics for all of its programs in its monthly “Pipeline Reports.” However, the most recent, dated 9/6/2022 shows the following:

The City’s HoAP program included three sub-programs: Reimbursements, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.

According to the City’s own statistics, it helped only 704 homeowners in all three categories in the five years since Harvey. That’s out of 96,410 homes that flooded inside the City limits during the storm. That’s less than three-quarters of 1%.

  • Approximately one out of six families invited to apply for aid submitted applications.
  • Of those who completed applications, approximately two out of three were eligible.
  • But of those, only 807 applications made it to the GLO for approval.
  • The GLO approved all of those but 10.
  • So 9,422 applicants were left in the pipeline (10,229 – 807).

Reallocated Funds Will Stay in Houston

Six hundred and forty six days have elapsed since the City’s Housing and Community Development Department cut off applications at the end of 2020.

This whole issue came to a head several years ago when the GLO attempted to step in once before as programs were expiring. The City sued the GLO to keep the programs. A settlement let the GLO keep some and the City others. But it also stipulated that the City had to meet strict deadlines and quotas.

The City had to clear a certain percentage of its backlogs each month. The City missed those contractual deadlines repeatedly according to the GLO. And now the GLO is stepping in to help as many people as it can with the unused funds.

The GLO will only reallocate funds not already obligated to a project by the City. All funds will stay in Houston to benefit the residents of Houston. Funds should now get to residents in a faster and more efficient manner.

GLO has helped thousands of homeowners statewide in less time than the City has helped several hundred.

Reasons Cited for Delays, Slowness

The City blames the GLO for delays. However, many of the applications submitted by the City to the GLO early on were incomplete, lacked required documentation, or didn’t meet program requirements. Reasons cited for the Houston Housing and Community Development Department problems included bad hiring decisions, poor record keeping, training failures, refusal to accept help, political interference, unwillingness to follow GLO recommendations, making programs overly complicated, late starts, and procedural violations.

A HUD audit in late 2021 also ripped the department for conflicts of interest and failure to document recommendations.

The GLO maintains it has not slowed the City of Houston from using disaster recovery funds – only prevented the City from using them improperly. “Any delays are a result of the City of Houston’s misplaced focus on circumventing rules and requirements,” said a GLO spokesperson.

Attempting to Help Those in Need Faster

Caught in the middle are the most vulnerable among us.

According to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) statistics, nearly 90% of the homeowners served by the affected programs have incomes less than 80% of the area’s median income (AMI).

Nearly two thirds of the Houston homeowners served by the GLO’s program make less than 30% of the AMI. In Houston, this would include families of four living on $26,600 or less.

Also, 64% of the homeowners identify as Black/African American and 25% identify as Hispanic/Latino.

Finally, about 87% of approved homeowners are female heads of households and at least 72% are aged 65 or older.

The GLO’s Houston HAP demographics are updated monthly and available online.

Main Changes in Amendment 11

City of Houston Impacts

The amendment includes the following changes. Funds remaining with the City of Houston for all disaster recovery programs would be reduced to $694,157,590 from $835 million.

The difference – $140,930,253 in uncommitted funds – would be taken from the following City programs, which would be reduced to:

  • Homeowner Assistance Program (HoAP) – $69,188,511.
  • Multifamily Rental Program – $400,855,752.
  • Small Rental Program – $12,943,423.
  • Homebuyer Assistance Program – $18,381,000.
  • Public Service – $20,000,000.
  • Economic Revitalization Program – $18,888,904.
State of Texas Impacts
  • State administered disaster recovery programs increase to $4,064,897,426.
  • The State-administered City of Houston Homeowner Assistance Program increases to $565,601,475.

The last total exceeds the $141 million because the State had previously taken over several programs that the City relinquished.

To Comment on Amendment 11…

The amendment triggers a federally required 30-day public comment period.

Submit all comments to cdr@recovery.texas.gov by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, to be considered. Per federal requirements, the GLO must respond to public comments before the amendment can be sent to HUD for its 45-day final approval.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/8/22

1866 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.

$750 Million MOD Going to GLO

Correction: since posting this, I have learned that Community Services has not even started compiling a list of projects that will comprise the Method of Distribution. The department has only defined a “process” for compiling the list and is waiting for “direction from leadership.”

On September 8th, the Harris County Community Services Department (CSD) distributed a schedule showing that it would complete the first draft of its Method of Distribution (MOD) for spending $750 million in mitigation funding by the end of the month.

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated the money to Harris County earlier last year. The draft MOD will now hopefully go to the GLO for review and approval by the end of October.

What MOD Entails

Early last year, the GLO allocated the money to Harris County along with another $450 million to the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

A MOD lists projects and amounts. It shows how Harris County wants to distribute the money, i.e., who will get how much for what from the $750 million.

will this get any of the $750 million in CDBG-MIT funds from the GLO?
US 59 at Townsen Boulevard during Hurricane Harvey

The GLO must verify that all planned expenditures meet requirements of the funding allocated by HUD and Congress.

MOD Developed With Public Input

Harris County CSD held online and in-person meetings to share information with the public. English-language meetings were held on August 17th,  25th, and 31st. CSD also held a Spanish meeting on September 1st. They then gathered written and oral comments from the public. (The deadline to submit comments has passed.)

Next Steps

After a public planning meeting on September 8th, CSD spent the rest of September developing a draft Method of Distribution (MOD) for the $750 million. The department will now submit it to the GLO for review and preliminary approval. Steps after that include:

  • Publish Draft MOD by October 30
  • Nov 15-Dec 2 – 15-day public comment Period and hearing
  • Contract entities included in the MOD with funding level and gain confirmation of participation via Funding Acknowledgement Letter from entity
  • Dec 5-7 – Document Responses to Public Comment, add to Draft MOD document
  • December or January- Draft MOD document approved at Commissioners Court
  • January 2023 – Final MOD document submitted to GLO
  • GLO approval of final MOD and MOD allocated entities complete project information package process
  • March/April 2023 – MOD Entity project information packets submitted to GLO for review and approval
  • Kick-off contract development for projects.

So, the GLO has until the end of the month to review and approve the draft MOD. Once approved, CSD can publish it. Then CSD will hold more public meetings and submit any revisions to Commissioners Court and the GLO for final approval.

Pressure On to Develop Projects Quickly

Expect projects to begin sometime in the second quarter of 2023. But keep in mind that all dates are subject to change.

Starting to develop projects almost six years after Harvey will put some pressure on Harris County Flood Control and any other entities designated as recipients.

  • 50% of the grant must be expended by Jan. 12, 2027.
  • 100% must be expended by January 12, 2032 – 15 years after Harvey

Half of the $750 million must be spent within four years. To put that in perspective, Flood Control estimates it’s only 23.5% done with a 10-year flood-bond package four years after it was approved by voters.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/1/2022

1859 Days since Hurricane Harvey

August Flood Digest: Brief Summaries of Nine Items in the News

Here’s a short digest of nine flood-related items in the news this month.

Fifth Anniversary of Harvey

This month marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact day for Harvey. The system moved off of Africa on August 13, 2017. It became a tropical storm on the 17th; moved into the Gulf on the 22nd; became a Cat 4 hurricane; and made landfall at Port Aransas on the 25th. The outer bands reached Harris County on the 26th.

Harvey dumped heavy rain over Houston for four days. It started moving back offshore on the 29th and 30th. Ninety percent of the river forecast points in southeast Texas reached flood stage; forty-six percent reached new record levels. Harvey dumped more rain than any storm in the history of North America. For more information, see the Hurricane Harvey tab on the Reports Page.

West Fork San Jacinto During Harvey. Looking NE toward Kingwood from the Townsend Park N Ride.

New SJRA Director From Lake Conroe

Most flooding in the Lake Houston Area during Harvey happened after the SJRA started releasing 79,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) from Lake Conroe to save homes there. Many Lake-Houston-Area residents blamed the absence of downstream representation on the SJRA board for what they saw as disregard for their property.

After touring the extensive damage by helicopter, Governor Abbott appointed two Lake-Houston-Area residents (Kaaren Cambio and Mark Micheletti) to the seven-person board. Cambio later resigned to avoid a conflict of interest when she joined Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s staff. Last month, the Governor appointed a Lake Conroe resident to fill her vacancy, Stephanie Johnson. That now leaves Micheletti as the lone downstream representative.

Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Elections

Sometimes it seems that the main requirements for membership on the LSGCD board are half a brain, a willingness to kiss Simon Sequiera’s ring and indifference to science. Sequiera owns Quadvest, the largest private groundwater pumping company in Montgomery County. And excessive groundwater pumping in MoCo has been linked to subsidence and flooding. But concerned citizens will have a chance to take back the LSGCD board from a slate of directors backed by Sequiera. The deadline for applying is August 22. This page on the LSGCD site is all about the election and how to file if you are interested.

Edgewater Park

Harris County Precinct 3 is trying to jumpstart the development of Edgewater Park at 59 and the San Jacinto West Fork. The county has stated it is hiring a new consultant to re-design the park and that construction could begin 1 to 2 years from now. Quiddity Engineering will get the nod. The project will provide a boat launch, an additional park for the Humble/Kingwood Area, and a connection to the Spring Creek Greenway hike and bike trail. Quiddity’s contract will cover design, engineering, and other pre-construction expenses. Quiddity is the new name for Jones and Carter.

Houston Planning & Development Department News

The Planning and Development Department has a new initiative called Livable Places. The objective: create more housing options for Houstonians. The four options they visualize all increase housing density and impervious cover. I wrote them asking, “Won’t that increase flooding?” In essence, they said, “But it may help other places stay green.” True. But that’s not going to help flooding in the City much. Wasn’t our Drainage Fee designed to provide an incentive to REDUCE impervious cover. Oh well. These are different times. Can we get our drainage fees back now?

Flood Tunnels

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) released Phase 2 of its $30 billion flood tunnel study last month – along with a recommendation to study the recommendations in more detail. The current plan for Phase 3 is to spend the next 4-6 months:

  • Working with the Army Corps to explore possible federal involvement
  • Scoping the Phase 3 study
  • Beginning procurement.

HCFCD hopes to start Phase 3 in early 2023. Said Scott Elmer, P.E. CFM and Assistant Director of Operations for HCFCD, “We expect it to take approximately 3 years to complete.” For the complete Phase 2 study, click here.

GLO HARP Program Deadline

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) announced that applications for its Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement Program (HARP) will close at 5 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2022. Those include applications for repairs/rebuilds from Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019. To be eligible, you must submit applications by the deadline … unless funding runs out first. So hurry. 

The program includes repair or reconstruction of owner-occupied single-family homes and reimbursement up to $50,000 for certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred for reconstruction, rehabilitation, or mitigation. Repayment of SBA loans is also eligible for reimbursement.

The GLO has $71,604,000 to help residents of Harris, Chambers, Liberty, Jefferson, Montgomery, Orange, and San Jacinto counties. HARP is only available for a primary residences, not second homes. Interested homeowners should visit recovery.texas.gov/harp to apply online or download an application.

Harris County Attrition and Pay Reports

As reported in April, the loss of employees and managers in dozens of Harris County departments has created a brain drain that impacts delivery of county services. On Tuesday, 8/2/22, Commissioners considered two related reports. The first had to do with attrition. The second had to do with pay and benefits.

Commissioners did not discuss the first, but they did discuss the second at length. They also voted unanimously to have the Office of Management and Budget investigate pay disparities. Certain commissioners wanted to apply equity guidelines to low-paid employees and freeze pay for those making more. I didn’t hear the words “Pay for Performance” once during the discussion.

In the end, commissioners recommended having HR create a job architecture, pay structure, and new evaluations that would determine pay increases or freezes. More in future posts.

New Bond Package

Discussion of a new $1.2 billion bond package consumed the last 90 minutes of commissioners court this week. The County Administrator still cannot say where the money is actually needed. Commissioners Adrian Garcia and Rodney Ellis want to apply equity guidelines to this bond. And neither wants to say which projects they would spend the money on. Garcia even threatened in a previous meeting that Republican-leaning precincts would not get ANY of the money if their commissioners voted NO on the bond.

When Hidalgo suggested guidelines for distribution of the money, Garcia stomped out of the meeting. He later reluctantly agreed to a split that would give his precinct and Ellis’ $380 million each while Republican precincts would get only $220 million each.

During the debate, it came out that much of the money from the 2015 bond program still has not been spent. That raised the question, “Why do we need another bond?”

Bragging About Trickery on One Bond While Pitching Another

Also, Commissioner Rodney Ellis publicly bragged that he purposefully didn’t define “equity” in the 2018 flood bond. “It was side language,” he said. “It was not in the language that was on the ballot, but that was the side agreement we agreed to.”

Ellis later said, “Those poor neighborhoods are the ones who have gotten the short end of the process.” But the HCFCD July flood-bond update shows that Halls, Greens, White Oak, Brays and Hunting Bayou Watersheds have received $400 million out of the $1 billion spent to date from the flood bond. Twenty percent of the watersheds are getting 40% of the money. Short end?

I personally don’t plan to vote for another bond until I start seeing some benefit from the last two. Especially when there’s no guarantee how, where or on what the money will be spent. To me, this looks like a $1.2 billion dollar slush fund for Garcia and Ellis.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/6/22

1803 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.

Montgomery County Allocated $60 Million in Harvey Mitigation Funds

The Houston-Galveston Area Council of Governments (H-GAC) has allocated $60 million to Montgomery County. The money comes out of a $488 million of Harvey flood-mitigation funds previously allocated to HGAC by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the Texas General Land Office (GLO). The $60 million is the single largest allocation to any governmental entity in the region out of the $488 million pot.

50% Committed to LMI Areas

At least 50% of the money must go to low-to-moderate income (LMI) areas in Montgomery County. The GLO has determined that MoCo plans meet HUD rules and conditionally approved the allocation.

However, things could still change and Montgomery County has not yet received the money.

According to H-GAC, the conditionally approved preliminary method of distribution (a plan for whom gets how much) is still pending acceptance by eligible entities and is subject to change through a published re-allocation process. A complete list of eligible activities is available in the Texas General Land Office (GLO) guidelines for the Regional Mitigation Program – Council of Governments Method of Distribution (COG MODs). Depending on changes, another 30-day public comment period may necessary, according to the GLO.

Where, How MoCo Will Spend the Money

I reached out to the Montgomery County Judge’s office to see how MoCo hopes to spend the money. Jason Millsaps replied, “Montgomery County will attempt several projects with these funds as soon as final approval has been granted.”

Millsaps continued, “In East County, we will work to de-snag, de-silt and remove vegetation that hinders flow from the Peach Creek, Caney Creek, White Oak Creek, and East Fork of the San Jacinto River. We will do the same for Lake Creek and Stewart Creek in Central/North County, with additional bank armor going in for Stewart Creek near the River Plantation Subdivision.”

Those should reduce flooding in Montgomery County. This flood map shows the areas most affected by repeat flooding in the county.

And this map shows the location of each creek and how much floodwater each conveyed during Harvey.

Peak Flows During Harvey
Peak flows in the San Jacinto Watershed during Hurricane Harvey

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/12/22

1778 Days since Hurricane Harvey

General Land Office Launches Disaster Preparedness Campaign

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) has launched a disaster preparedness campaign called “Don’t Ignore Your Risk.” GLO developed the new outreach initiative to encourage Texans to prepare for hurricane season and stay prepared. The season began Wednesday, June 1, and runs through November 30, 2022.

“Don’t Ignore Your Risk”

The disaster preparedness campaign includes a series of video advertisements in English and Spanish. They urge Texans to take time now to:

  • Know their risk
  • Purchase flood insurance
  • Protect their home
  • Safeguard documents
  • Prepare emergency supplies
  • Map an evacuation route.

Most Homeowner Insurance Policies Don’t Cover Flooding

GLO produced a series of twelve short videos that you can watch and share on YouTube from this page. They’re powerful, poignant and compelling. Each makes a simple point about the value of preparedness. And each underscores the value of flood insurance.

Kickoff commercial in English or Spanish.

“Be prepared and have a solid plan in place prior to severe weather,” said Commissioner George P. Bush. “Knowing your risks, having an evacuation plan, gathering supplies, securing documents, and protecting your property with flood and wind insurance are key steps to being prepared for storms or wildfires.

Texans can follow the GLO on social media and find disaster preparedness information for family and pets at recovery.texas.gov/preparedness.”

Aid No Match for Flood Insurance

According to a report by the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at The Wharton School, homeowners received an average of $8,900 in individual housing assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following Hurricane Harvey. Meanwhile, the average of flood insurance claims was $115,104.

And almost five years after Harvey, the City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department still has hundreds of millions of dollars left to distribute. Counting on aid, as opposed to insurance, could mean years of living in subpar conditions.

According to FEMA, just one inch of flood water can cause more than $25,000 in damage.

Five Essential Steps

The GLO encourages all Texans to prepare for hurricane season by doing the following:

Know Your Risk

Sign up for your community’s emergency warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.

Make Your Evacuation Plan

Check with local officials about updated evacuation shelters for this year. Know where your family will meet up if you are separated and where you will stay. Pack a “go bag” including items you need to take with you if you evacuate. A “go bag” should be easy to carry and kept in a place where you can grab it quickly. Check with drivetexas.org to find routes near you. To find a shelter near you, download the FEMA app at fema.gov/mobile-app.

Gather Supplies

Plan for your entire household including children, people with disabilities or access/functional needs, and pets. Don’t forget medications.

Secure Documents

Remember to secure copies of important personal documents. Filing for government assistance requires documentation. Be sure to keep documents in a secure location and take them with you if you need to evacuate. Place these documents in a waterproof bag and back them up on cloud storage or a thumb drive.

Protect Your Property

Shutter your home as needed. Review your flood insurance policy (or sign up for one). And declutter drains and gutters. Most homeowner and renter insurance policies do not cover flood damage. And a flood insurance policy generally does not take effect until 30 days after purchase. So, be sure to maintain your policy or get one now. Take a video “tour” of your home to document all items and the home’s current condition.

Remember, just because you may be outside of the 100-year flood plain doesn’t mean you won’t flood. Sixty-four percent of Harris County homes that flooded during Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood plain.

For more information, visit recovery.texas.gov/preparedness.


The campaign will run for the next three months. It includes social media, digital display, cable, broadcast and streaming platforms. Inspired by Senate Bill 285. It was signed into law during the 86th Session of the Legislature.

The GLO helps educate Texans about the benefits of protecting their homes and finances through flood insurance and being prepared for storms and other natural disasters.

Credit for the commercials goes to 1820 Productions for production and editing.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/15/22 based on a GLO press release

1751 Days since Hurricane Harvey