Flood Digest: Updates on TWDB Grants, Affordable Housing Investigations, Subsidence
Below are updates on three items recently in the news: Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) Grants, Affordable Housing Investigations, and Subsidence.
Texas Water Development Board Grants Affecting Houston Region
Last week, I posted a story about flood mitigation assistance grants being considered by the TWDB. The Houston region qualified for eight and the TWDB approved them all…unanimously. However, the checks aren’t in the mail yet.
TWDB approved the following subject to FEMA final approval:
- 32 structures in Houston, Jersey Village, Pearland and Taylor Lake Village will receive financial assistance for elevating structures.
- 1421 structures in Bear Creek Village (near Addicks Reservoir and Highway 6) will see their drainage improved by Harris County Flood Control District HCFCD).
- 61 repetitive loss structures will be bought out by HCFCD.
- 1 hotel with a severe repetitive loss history dating back to 1979 will also be bought out by HCFCD.
- 40 repetitive-loss structures in Montgomery County will also be bought out.
FEMA requested more information for further review on each project. So when/if FEMA gives final approval to each of the above, they should be good to go. That usually happens by January.
Clear Lake Apartment Complex Recommended by Mayor
On September 21, the former director of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) turned whistleblower and accused the mayor of recommending a multi-family housing deal in Clear Lake that was not in taxpayers’ best interests. It turns out the Mayor’s former law partner would have benefited by $15 million from the deal, but the department’s recommendations would have provided four times more affordable housing for essentially the same amount of money.
That ignited a firestorm in the media and on City Council. HUD, GLO, the County Attorney, and the City Attorney (with the help of two US Attorneys) and City Council are all investigating.
In the face of this withering onslaught, the Houston Chronicle today reported that the Mayor has dropped his recommendation to back his former law partner’s project in Clear Lake. The Mayor said he didn’t want it to become a “distraction.”
However, getting the genie back in the bottle may not be that simple. Since the Clear Lake deal imploded on September 22, 2021, more allegations of financial mismanagement arose in City Council last week.
Also this afternoon, investigative journalist Wayne Dolcefino issued a press release about a Federal lawsuit he filed. It alleges a cover-up at the Houston Housing Authority on other housing deals that appear to be linked to the same players Tom McCasland and the Mayor.
This has the stink of Watergate about it.
GMA-14 Makes Subsidence DFC Optional
For several years now, the state’s Groundwater Management Area 14 (GMA-14) in southeast Texas has struggled to define Desired Future Conditions (DFCs). These are long-term goals that address groundwater conservation and the maximum amount of subsidence allowable.
The Lonestar Groundwater Conservation District has denied subsidence exists in Montgomery County and stonewalled efforts to include a subsidence metric in DFCs.
Going into a board meeting last week, GMA 14 had proposed DFCs that read:
In each county in GMA 14, no less than 70 percent median available drawdown remaining in 2080 and no more than an average of 1.0 additional foot of subsidence between 2009 and 2080.Initial DFCs
However, days before the final vote on this statement, State Senator Robert Nichols, intervened. He wrote a letter to each of GMA-14’s groundwater conservation district leaders “urging” them to make the subsidence metric optional. At that point, the debate ended. The final DFCs adopted by GMA-14 read:
In each county in Groundwater Management Area 14, no less than 70 percent median available drawdown remaining in 2080 or no more than an average of 1.0 additional foot of subsidence between 2009 and 2080.Final DFCs
This “opt-out option” defeats the purpose of even having a GMA and a subsidence metric.
This revised statement was quietly approved on October 5, 2021. At its January 5, 2022, meeting, GMA-14 will approve the report that accompanies the DFCs when they are submitted to the TDWB.
Of the five groundwater conservation districts in GMA-14, four voted for the new DFCs and one abstained. The new DFCs will likely be challenged in court by areas threatened by subsidence.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/11/2021
1504 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.