New legislation has been introduced in the 87th Texas Legislature that could affect the future of Lake Houston Area flood control. Here is a list that shows the current status of key bills. It includes a high-level summary, plus links to the text of the bills, and their authors. If you wish to testify on a bill, contact the author or the committee hearing it. Below is a brief summary of the most important (in my opinion) bills.
HB 2525: Perpetual Dredging for Lake Houston Area
Dan Huberty’s bill would create a dredging and maintenance district for the Lake Houston Area. It would dredge perpetually to reduce flood risk and help maintain the capacity of Lake Houston. The Natural Resources Committee will hold a public hearing on 4/13/2021.
HB 4478: Sand Mine Reclamation
Dan Huberty’s bill requires restoration plans for sand mining operations in the San Jacinto watershed. It lays out the requirements for such plans and also requires filing a performance bond to cover the cost of reclamation when mining is complete. If the mine abandons the property without restoring it, the bond would be enough to cover the cost of the work. It’s currently in the Natural Resources Committee. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.
HB 767: Best Practices for Sand Mines
HB 767, another Huberty bill, would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to develop and publish best management practices for sand mining consistent with all applicable environmental laws and regulations. The bill has been referred to Environmental Regulation, but a hearing is not yet scheduled.
HB 4341: Transfer of Regulatory Responsibility for Sand Mines
Kyle Biedermann introduced a bill to transfer regulatory responsibility for sand mines from the TCEQ to the Railroad Commission of Texas. The Environmental Affairs Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing.
HB 2422: Regulation of Sand Mine Locations
HB 2422 by Erin Zwiener would allow county commissioners with populations greater than 500,000 to regulate the location of sand mines in certain circumstances based on proximity to residences, schools, places of worship, hospitals, and land platted for residential development.
HB 1912: Air and Water Quality Permit Requirements for Concrete Plants
Terry Wilson’s HB 1912 would raise the bar for Concrete Plants attempting to get air and water quality permits. It would require them to establish monitoring equipment. It would also affect blasting, lighting, noise generation from trucks, and restoration among other things. It’s in Environmental Regulations, but no hearing has yet been scheduled.
HB 3116: Nominations for SJRA Board
Will Metcalf’s HB 3116 would allow Montgomery County commissioners to nominate board members for the SJRA which the Governor could then accept or reject. It also sets the term for directors at 6 years and changes the number of board members from 7 to 6, contrary to the state constitution. It’s in the Natural Resources committee but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
CSHB 4575: Election of SJRA Board
Another Metcalf bill, HB 4575 would allo election of SJRA officers. Sounds democratic, until you realize that only those within the District would vote and Harris County is defined elsewhere as outside the district. We have all seen, as with the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, how private entities can easily take over a board in low interest, low turnout elections and then act in a way contrary to public interest (as in voting to virtually double groundwater pumping and ignore subsidence).
CSHB 3801: Handling of Unreasonable Desired Future Conditions for Groundwater
CSHB 3801 is a committee substitute bill. It defines how the Texas Water Development Board must handle petitions protesting “unreasonable” desired future conditions (DFCs) in groundwater management plans. The language in this bill is opaque. Even the analysis is.
SB 314: Notification of Flood History to Renters
SB 314 by Joan Huffman mandates that people renting properties would receive the same notification as people buying properties. The bill affects properties in the floodway, 100-year floodplain, 500-year floodplain, and any property that has flooded within the previous 5 years. If the tenant is not given proper notice, tenant may recover damages, one month’s rent, and attorney fees. Referred to Business & Commerce committee but no hearings set yet.
HB 531: Disclosure of Flood History and Floodplain Status to Renters
HB 531 by Armando Walle is similar to SB 314, but has already passed the House. It does not include the 500-year floodplain, but does include flooding from streets and ditches. This is the bill to watch. It has considerable traction and six co-authors.
HB 1059: Disclosure of Floodplain Status for Properties under 15 Acres
HB 1059 by Phil Stephenson requires sellers to disclose whether any part of a property smaller than 15-acres is in a flood plain. Bill was reported favorably as substituted but substitute has not yet been posted. SB 461 by Lois Kolkhorst is an identical companion bill in the senate.
HB 1949: Requires State Agencies to Reflect Climate Changes in Strategic Plans
Jasmine Crockett’s HB1949 would require certain state agencies such as TCEQ and TWDB to reflect weather and climate changes in their strategic plans. SB306 is the companion bill in the Senate. The State Affairs committee has not yet set a date for public hearings. Other representatives filed similar or identical bills, too: Michelle Beckley (HB 1956), Eckhardt (SB 306), Thierry (HB 2017), Reynolds (HB 3246), and Fierro (HB 4178).
HB 1681: Prohibiting Construction of Assisted Living Facilities in a 500-year Floodplain
Sam Harless’ HB 1681 prohibits construction of assisted living facilities in a 500-year floodplain. Human Services will hear public testimony on 4/13.
SB 865: Study of Statewide Disaster Alert System
Brandon Creighton’s SB 865 calls for a study on the efficacy of existing mass notification deployments by local governmental entities throughout this state and the feasibility of establishing a statewide disaster alert system. It would also study how to overcome barriers such as power outages in disasters. The Business and Commerce committee approved it unanimously, but the Senate has not yet voted on the bill. HB 655 is the companion bill.
SB 859: Continuing Virtual Meetings for Water Planning Groups
SB 859 by Charles Perry would allow Regional Flood Planning Groups to continue the practice of holding meetings virtually after the Covid crisis passes. The Businesss and Commerce committee approved it unanimously and it is headed for a vote on the uncontested calendar. Volunteers staff regional flood planning groups and the regions can span several counties. This places an undue travel burden on volunteers who already have a heavy workload. HB 2103 is a companion bill.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/11/2021
1321 Days after 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.