The Real Inequities in Flood-Mitigation Funding
Data obtained via a FOIA Request shows that the watersheds where three top Harris County Democrats live are consuming 25% of flood-bond funding. Meanwhile, those Democrats are starving their Republican opponents and supporters alike of flood-mitigation money.
Harris County Flood Control’s website also shows there are currently no active capital-improvement construction projects in Kingwood, Humble, Huffman, Spring, Atascocita or Crosby. Yet half of all active construction project dollars are going to just three watersheds where the three top Democrat leaders live.
Largest Watershed Among Least Funded
Harris County’s largest watershed – the 215-square-mile San Jacinto – ranks #18 out of 23 watersheds in flood-mitigation funding per square mile under Lina Hidalgo’s administration. That’s according to data obtained from Harris County via a FOIA Request that shows funding through the third quarter of 2022. Neighboring watersheds in the Republican-leaning far northeast part of the county are similarly starved for funding.
Consistent Funding Bias
San Jacinto-watershed residents are not alone. Spring, Jackson and Luce watersheds comprise most of the rest of the northeast portion of the county. They are among the least funded watersheds under Hidalgo whether you measure “total flood-mitigation funding” or “funding per square mile.”
The San Jacinto received only $37 million during Hidalgo’s administration. Spring received $10.1 million. Jackson received just $2.7 million. And Luce received a minuscule $1 million.
These watersheds respectively rank:
- #12, #18, #20 and #23 in total flood-mitigation funding
- #18, #19, #21 and #23 in funding per square mile.
Backyard Fringe Benefits
Contrast that with the following totals under Hidalgo in three other watersheds:
- Buffalo Bayou (91.7 square miles) is less than half the size of the San Jacinto Watershed. It received more – $39.5 million. That’s where County Judge Lina Hidalgo lives. It ranks #12 in total post-Harvey funding.
- White Oak Bayou ranks #6 in total post-Harvey funding at $94 million. It’s half the size of the San Jacinto (111 sq. mi), but received 2.5X more flood-mitigation funding. Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia lives there.
- Brays Bayou ranks #1 in total post-Harvey funding at $171 million – more than 8 times as much as the San Jacinto. Yet it’s only a little more than half the size (114.2 square miles). That’s where Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis lives.
Buffalo, White Oak and Brays watersheds are all in the lead for flood-tunnels, too. Those could add billions more to the backyard benefits received by Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia!
Funding-Per-Square Mile Comparison
Now, let’s compare what the watersheds above have received in funding per square mile under Hidalgo:
- Brays = $1.5 million
- White Oak = $845 thousand
- Buffalo = $431 thousand
- San Jacinto = $172 thousand
- Spring = $169 thousand
- Jackson = $104 thousand
- Luce = $45 thousand
The first three above comprise 246 square miles and received $305 million under Hidalgo to date. The bottom four comprise 323 square miles and received $51 million.
Notice a trend? I thought the three Democrats were trying to help the poor with their equity plan. Were they really just trying to punish political opponents through funding inequities? Looking out for themselves all along? Or both?
Parts of the San Jacinto and Spring Creek watersheds experienced water more than 20 feet above flood stage during Harvey while parts of Brays and White Oak didn’t even come out of their banks.
No Active Capital Improvement Projects in Lake Houston Area
And to think! Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia conned dozens of members of the Northeast Action Collective into requesting Commissioners Court to shift money from Kingwood to Halls Bayou. They said Kingwood was getting all the money! It hasn’t and isn’t.
Yet HCFCD is spending $224 million elsewhere in the county on active construction. That includes another $71 million in Brays and $36 million in White Oak for another $107 million total. Almost HALF of the active construction projects in the entire county are going to the watersheds where Ellis and Garcia live!
And that’s in addition to the $305 million that White Oak, Brays and Buffalo already received under Hidalgo.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to spend $412 million protecting your own homes while Low-to-Moderate Income residents elsewhere flood. Now I know why the three pretend Kingwood is getting ALL the money. It’s a diversionary tactic.
More news to follow as I continue to analyze the latest spending data through the third quarter of 2022.
For the complete response provided by Harris County to my FOIA Request, click here.
This summary worksheet combines funding with other factors such as population, area, damage, etc.
What You Can Do
We have a chance to do something about these inequities starting in a few days. Early voting starts on October 24. You can find polling places here.
Posted by Bob Rehak on October 20, 2022 and updated 10/21 to include spreadsheets and improve clarity.
1878 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.