Tag Archive for: San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group

San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group Submits Final Recommendations

The San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group (SJRFPG) submitted its final recommendations to the Texas Water Development Board on January 10. The 316-page report includes recommendations on floodplain management evaluation, strategies and projects; the plan’s impacts; administration, regulatory and legislative recommendations; and financing.

I discussed the floodplain projects and impacts when I reviewed the draft plan in August of 2022. Not much as changed with the projects and impacts except for some minor details.

Now, with the state legislature in session, I would like to review the administrative, regulatory and legislative final recommendations in Chapter 8.

Legislative Recommendations

The SJRPG made four legislative recommendations to facilitate floodplain management plus flood mitigation planning and implementation.

Provide recurring biennial appropriations to the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF):

In 2019, the legislature appropriated money to establish the FIF. However, it did not appropriate additional funds in 2021. We need more money to fully implement the plans in the coming years.

Provide state incentives to establish dedicated drainage funding:

State law provides municipalities with the authority to establish local drainage utilities. Those that don’t use that authority generally rely on federal partners to fund floodplain management and regulatory programs. Or else they use some combination of general tax revenues and municipal bonds. The state should incentivize local communities to fund drainage projects rather than rely solely on federal funding.

Provide counties with legislative authority to establish drainage utilities/fees:

Municipalities have that power. But the unincorporated areas of counties do not. Give counties a reliable source of revenue to implement, maintain and repair drainage projects. Let them establish drainage utilities and drainage fees in unincorporated areas.

Update the state building code on a regular basis:

Texas is missing out on a billion dollars in FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Grants because of antiquated building costs. To take advantage of those grants, we need to update building codes. Adopt recent versions of the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC) at a minimum. Also we should adopt updated codes regularly in future legislative sessions.

Regulatory and Administrative Recommendations

The plan also made the following recommendations for regulatory and administrative changes.

Upgrade TxDOT design criteria:

Require all new and reconstructed state roadways to be elevated at or above the Atlas-14 1.0% annual chance flood level. Use the 0.2% level if Atlas 14 has not yet been adopted. TxDOT should also consider future conditions, such as urbanization and climate variability, in its roadway design criteria. TxDOT does not in all cases design roadways consistent with minimum NFIP requirements. TxDOT should strive to meet NFIP standards, especially for critical infrastructure such as evacuation and emergency routes.

Recommend Minimum Statewide Building Elevation Standards:

Recommend statewide minimum finished floor elevations at (or waterproofed to) the FEMA effective 2% annual chance flood except in areas designated as coastal flood zones. Use the 1.0% annual chance flood elevation where Atlas 14 has been adopted. Incentivize higher building standards. Recent historic floods and NOAA’s updated Atlas-14 rainfall probabilities reveal how much base flood elevations (BFE) can change over time. Jurisdictions that have required a freeboard over the current BFE have mitigated the risk of these increasing BFEs.

Clarify the process and cost to turn Base Level Engineering (BLE) data into Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) panels:

BLE efficiently models and maps flood hazard data at community, county, watershed, and/or state levels. Currently, the state and FEMA are heavily investing in BLE. Clearly communicate to local jurisdictions how to implement this data in regulations and flood insurance rate maps. The steps remain unclear to many local jurisdictions.

Establish and fund a levee safety program similar to the TCEQ dam-safety program:

The TCEQ has a program to inspect dams that fall under its jurisdiction. Levees, on the other hand, are not subject to a similar safety program despite posing similar risks during flooding events.

Promote flood awareness, education, safety and outreach:

Partner with the Texas Floodplain Managers Association (TFMA) to promote public flood awareness, education, and safety in communities. Also, partner with Texas Association of Counties to do the same for Floodplain Administrators lacking technical flooding background (e.g., some County Judges). A well-informed public can make better informed personal choices regarding issues that involve flood risk and also will be more likely to support public policies and mitigation measures to reduce that risk.

Support ongoing education/training for floodplain management:

Provide no- or low-cost online resources including training modules, webinars, and print. Target training for non-technical Floodplain Administrators (e.g., County Judges who may serve as Floodplain Administrators but not have the necessary technical background). This would help to make effective floodplain management more prevalent across the state, especially in smaller counties.

Develop state incentives to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Community Rating System (CRS) program:

NFIP works with communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations that help mitigate flooding. CRS encourages practices that exceed minimum requirements of the NFIP. Both programs are essential to achieving State Flood-Plan goals.  Implement State-led incentives to encourage communities to participate.

Develop a public database that tracks flood fatalities:

Fatalities have occurred during extreme flood events throughout the state’s history. A statewide database and tracking system with appropriate privacy restrictions could aid in future project planning and regulatory decision making. It could also help with future education efforts regarding actions that frequently lead to fatalities. An example is the importance of not attempting to drive through flood waters. 

Help smaller jurisdictions prepare grant and loan applications or make the process easier:

Provide training for Councils of Governments (COGs) to assist with the funding process. Developing applications for project funding can be difficult, especially for smaller jurisdictions with limited experience and access to funding to obtain expert assistance. Simplifying applications and making funding available specifically for application development would serve to make the process more accessible across the state and help close knowledge gaps.

Develop interactive models that use Base Level Engineering (BLE) data: 

Provide them to Regional Flood Planning Groups and their technical consulting teams. Standardize future conditions and land use data. The State’s and FEMA’s BLE data should be available in most parts of the state.

Allow partnerships to provide regional flood-mitigation solutions:

Flood risk does not recognize jurisdictional boundaries, yet many flood-mitigation programs prevent multiple jurisdictions from working together if they want to remain eligible state funding. Flood-mitigation studies and solutions require inter-jurisdictional collaboration. Update policies to encourage and permit it.

Next Step on Final Recommendations

These final recommendations sound like good ideas to me. Please communicate your feelings to your state senator and representative.

I have summarized the final recommendations above. To see their exact text, review chapter 8. Or see the entire report to put them all in context.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/22/2023

1972 Days After Hurricane Harvey

New Resources from the San Jacinto Flood Planning Group

The San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group (SJRFPG) has greatly expanded its website and published a new interactive dashboard for the 11 counties drained by the river. Both represent valuable resources for anyone in the region concerned about flood mitigation.

If you missed the virtual meeting this evening on the Group’s Draft Flood Plan, here’s another chance to review it and give public input.

Expanded Website

The Flood Planning Group’s expanded website branched out from a modest home page originally designed to solicit input and allow people to sign up for a distribution list.

Clicking on the About page now takes you to a treasure trove of information about the region; the counties and cities in it; major lakes and reservoirs; the flood plan; members; and committees.

The Meetings page takes you to a calendar and an archive of meeting minutes, agenda, and videos.

Resources takes you to information from the Texas Water Development Board about the flood planning process.

You’ll find the DRAFT San Jacinto Regional Flood Plan under Technical documents. You’ll also find a web form to submit public comment like Nephew Izzy did. They will accept public comments until October 29, 2022. (Here’s a summary of the recommendations in Chapter 5 that I published shortly after the release in August.)

But the magic of the evening was a useful new dashboard for helping to understand flooding impacts in the world around us.

New Interactive Dashboard

The dashboard contains volumes of data in a graphic format synthesized from multiple geospatial resources. Want to know what’s happening where? Click on a county then an object. Pop up boxes describe each point. You can also see a graphic count of the total matching resources on the right hand side.

From SJRFPG dashboard.

Turn different layers on and off to highlight certain types of information:

  • Regional boundaries
  • Flood infrastructure points, lines and polygons
  • Counties
  • Watersheds.

Select from 28 different basemaps that range from street maps to topographical maps and satellite images. And zoom from the 11-county region down to your house!

Clicking the tabs along the bottom pulls up different features of the dashboard.

  • Existing flood risk
  • Future flood risk
  • Existing mitigation
  • Flood risk reduction actions.

For instance, click on the future flood risk tab. Zoom into an area of interest, such as Forest Cove. See below.

Future Flood Risk Tab of SJRFPG dashboard.

Different types of information pop up this time. For instance, you can see the extent of floodplains in solid colors. You can also see:

  • Residential and commercial buildings at risk
  • Roadways at risk
  • Industrial buildings
  • Power generation
  • Public buildings
  • Bridges and more

If you want to know what’s at risk where you live, the San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group has given you a great way to compile an inventory.

More to Follow

There’s much more here than I can fit in a post. Explore. Open eyes. Amaze your friends and family.

Just one caution. The flood plains are not based on Atlas-14. They still use pre-Harvey data. The dashboard is a work in progress and will be updated when FEMA releases the new flood maps this winter.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/29/2022

1857 Days since Hurricane Harvey