Tag Archive for: SB7

Texas Water Development Board Now Accepting Applications for Flood Infrastructure Fund Projects

On March 16, 2020, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) finally started accepting applications for flood infrastructure projects under Senate Bill 7 signed by the Governor on June 13, 2019. We’re now at 941 days since Hurricane Harvey.

What Took So Long

What took so long?

  • Harvey happened shortly after the 2017 legislature concluded.
  • The Governor would immediately release money from the Rainy Day Fund.
  • The next legislature met in January of 2019.
  • It took until the end of May, 2019 for SB7 to work it’s way through the Senate and House.
  • The Governor signed the bill in June.
  • The bill stipulated that the fund had to be approved to voters in November 2019. It was.
  • Then the TWDB had to develop rules for what types of projects would be eligible for assistance, how they would be prioritized, etc.

We Aren’t to Goal Line Yet

What happens next?

  • Cities and counties have until May 14 to submit preliminary, abridged applications.
  • By early Summer 2020, the board will prioritize the abridged applications.
  • They will then invite applicants whose project meet criteria and fit within available funding to submit complete applications.
  • Complete applications will be due by early August 2020, about three years after Harvey.
  • Financial assistance commitments will begin in October 2020.
  • Closings begin later in the fall. Commitments have a six-month expiration period.

Construction of projects can then begin. If they were construction projects. Some grants will cover planning activities such as:

  • Preliminary engineering
  • Project design
  • Feasibility assessments
  • Coordination and development of regional projects
  • Obtaining regulatory approvals
  • Hydraulic and hydrologic studies

Different Types of Projects Eligible

The Flood Infrastructure Fund established by SB7 provides grants and 0% loans totaling $793 million. Eligible projects fall into four categories.

  • Category 1 – Flood Protection Planning for Watersheds
  • Category 2 – Planning, Acquisition, Design, Construction, Rehabilitation.
  • Category 3 – Federal Award Matching Funds
  • Category 4 – Measures Immediately Effective in Protecting Life and Property

Here’s a 36-minute video that explains the incredibly complicated rules for distribution of the funds. Warning: the video is not geared toward the public, but toward City and County employees who will apply for grants. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. Here’s a printed version of the Flood Infrastructure Fund Intended Use Plan that also describes all the rules.

Need to Move Quickly

With construction on many projects taking a year or more, the earliest citizens may see benefits from many of these grants will be 4 years post Harvey.

I understand the need to be cautious when handing out close to a billion dollars. But I also feel the need to act quickly with yet another hurricane season boring down on us. We should not forget that just last September, the fourth wettest storm in US history, Imelda, wiped out large areas between Houston and Beaumont. Sixty-two percent of the homes flooded during Imelda were outside of the 100-year floodplain. So we have lots of room for improvement.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/27/2020

941 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 190 since Imelda

West Fork Mouth Bar Dredging Set to Start As TWDB Considers Grant to Extend Program

On December 30, 2019, the City of Houston issued a Notice To Proceed (NTP) for debris removal services. Specifically, that means the large silt deposit at the confluence of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston. The area is commonly known as the “mouth bar.” See below.

Mouth Bar of the San Jacinto West Fork looking upstream. Picture from 12/3/2019.

Mechanical, Not Hydraulic Dredging

The City hired DRC Emergency Services, LLC (DRC) under an existing contract to begin mechanical dredging of the mouth bar “this week,” according to Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin.

Mechanical dredging differs from hydraulic dredging. With hydraulic dredging, contractors continuously pump sediment from the river to a placement area onshore via long pipelines. With mechanical dredging, they scoop it out of the river and dump it on barges. Then they ferry the barges to the placement area where trucks transport the sediment to its final location.

Hydraulic dredging takes less time once started, but the prep can take months. Mechanical dredging takes longer, but can start immediately.

The City will begin the hydraulic dredging with $6 million of FEMA money left over from Hurricane Harvey debris removal funds. The Texas Division of Emergency Management and Governor Greg Abbott allocated that money specifically for Lake Houston and approved the remaining funds for mouth-bar dredging.

Two-Phase Grant

Next week, another $30 million should become available to extend the program. SB500 earmarked that money for dredging of the San Jacinto East and West Fork Mouth Bars. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will consider Harris County’s grant application. Approval is expected.

The grant application proposes removing sediment in two distinct phases:

  1. Near and at the mouth bar on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River
  2. In the East Fork of the San Jacinto River AND other locations in Lake Houston.
Mouth Bar on East Fork San Jacinto grew 4,000 feet since Harvey.

Phase-One Funding and Objectives

To complete Phase 1, Harris County proposed taking $10 million of the $30 million to provide a total $16 million for DRC dredging operations.

Phase 1 should remove a minimum of 400,000 cubic yards (CY) of material in eight to twelve months. The Army Corps of Engineers previously removed 500,000 cubic yards from the West Fork Mouth Bar for $17 million in about three months.

During Phase 1, the County will begin some activities for Phase 2. They include:

  • Hydrographic surveys of the West and East Forks, and Lake Houston
  • Development of plans and specifications
  • Identification and permitting of additional disposal sites
  • Competitive bidding

Since the TWDB grant money can only be used for dredging, Harris County will pay for the activities above out of the 2018 HCFCD Bond Program. The fund allocated $10 million for dredging in Lake Houston.

Phase-2 Funding and Objectives

The remaining $20 million from the $30 million TWDB grant will go toward Phase 2 dredging.

During Phase 2, Harris County, City of Houston (COH), HCFCD, SJRA, and Coastal Water Authority (CWA) will develop and execute a plan for the COH or CWA to assume all long-term dredging operations on Lake Houston.

The County does not intend to assume long-term responsibility for maintenance dredging of a City property, i.e., Lake Houston.

TWDB Meets Next Week to Approve Grant

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will meet on Thursday, January 16, 2020, to approve the $30 million grant. “We are in the final stages of agency approval to continue dredging the lake and river,” said State Representative Dan Huberty. His amendment to SB500 last year dedicated the money for dredging this area. “By approving this amount, the legislature as a whole made a clear and concise statement that Lake Houston and the San Jacinto River are vital resources for the entire region and must be maintained.”

SB500 was a supplemental appropriations bill. The grant itself will technically come from the new Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund, created last year by SB7. Senator Brandon Creighton authored SB7.

Harris County Engineer John Blount submitted the grant application to TWDB in late December after receiving approval from County Commissioner’s Court.

“Due to the urgency of this issue, multiple entities worked together to craft a plan that could be executed immediately, allowing the first phase to begin as soon as possible,” said Huberty.

Kudos Go To…

“I would like to thank everyone who has worked to create the final grant program under the supplemental funds we received from the Legislature,” said Huberty. “It would have not been possible without Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, former Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas, Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, State Senator Brandon Creighton, Chief Nim Kidd, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello, Harris County Commissioner’s Court, Harris County Engineer John Blount, Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director Russell Poppe, Harris County Flood Control District Deputy Director Matt Zeve, Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin and many more.”

To View TWDB Board Meeting Live

Tune in to the live TWDB Board Meeting next Thursday, January 16, 2020 at 9:30 AM by visiting: http://texasadmin.com/tx/twdb/.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/8/2019

863 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 111 since Imelda

Passage of SB 7 and SB 500 Should Speed Up Flood Mitigation Projects

Six hundred and thirty-seven days after Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Legislature finally passed and funded a massive flood-relief bill, Senate Bill #7 (SB 7), sponsored by State Senator Brandon Creighton. The lengthy delay between Harvey and the bill’s passage underscores the need for Creighton’s bill. 

Need for Faster Mitigation

Few government entities, it seems, budget for emergencies. So when a tragedy like Harvey happens, cities and counties scurry around looking for small grants. They use those to hire consultants to apply for other small grants that provide matching funds for even bigger grants from FEMA. 

There’s even a two-step process to get on the list for grant consideration at the Federal level. You don’t just apply to FEMA or HUD. First, you have to file an application with the TDEM (Texas Division of Emergency Management, a part of DPS) before you can file an application with FEMA.

Most of the begging goes on behind the scenes, out of sight to the average citizen. The fact that the City or County has applied for a grant falls below the threshold of newsworthiness in most cases and so remains invisible to all but insiders. Once someone approves the grants, lengthy permitting processes further delay construction. It take years for a mitigation project to get to the construction phase. That’s when a project becomes newsworthy again.

Changing a Frustrating Process

This is why, to the average citizen, the pace of flood mitigation appears maddeningly and frighteningly slow. Important projects, such as additional dredging, gates for Lake Houston, and upstream detention, seem perpetually mired in government red tape.

The passage of Senate Bill (SB) 7 and SB 500 could help change that. The Senate and House have passed both bills, which are on their way to Governor Abbott’s desk. State Representative Dan Huberty says the governor supports both bills and that his signature is certain.

Here’s what they do:

  • SB 7 sets up several different funds that will make it easier to launch flood mitigation projects.
  • SB 500 appropriates the money for the funds in SB 7.

Provisions in SB 7

SB 7 relates to flood planning, mitigation and infrastructure projects.

  • Article 1 in SB 7 provides money for: flood control planning;  preparation of applications for regulatory approvals; and development of engineering plans/specifications for flood mitigation and drainage projects. 
  • Article 2 establishes a special flood infrastructure fund to make loans (at or below market interest rates) for flood projects. It can also provide grants that provide matching funds to poorer political subdivisions that make them eligible to participate in federal programs.
  • Article 3 amends the state Water Code relating to the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund by establishing special accounts for Floodplain Management, Hurricane Harvey, Federal Matching projects, and Flood Plan Implementation.

Provisions in SB 7 encourage cooperative planning and financing of projects across political boundaries. Those provisions support regional flood mitigation projects through the Flood Infrastructure Fund. That should be especially helpful in the Lake Houston area where mitigation projects affect multiple counties and cities.

SB 500 Provides the Funding

SB 500 is an appropriations bill. It provides funding SB 7 and other items. It appropriates out of the state’s economic stabilization (rainy day) fund:

  • $273 million to provide matching funds for Hazard Mitigations Grants administered by FEMA.
  • $365 million to provide matching funds for Public Assistance Grants administered by FEMA.

Out of those two sums, it also appropriates $30 million that may only be used to provide a grant to Harris County to remove accumulated silt and sediment at the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston, i.e., The Mouth Bar! That came from an amendment to SB 7 proposed by State Representative Dan Huberty when the House considered the Senate Bill.

It also provides, among many other things:

  • $47 million for community assistance
  • $793 million for flood infrastructure projects (drainage, flood mitigation and flood control projects)
  • $857 million for the Texas infrastructure resiliency fund
  • $13 million to the Lone Star College system for expenses related to Hurricane Harvey.

Rep. Dan Huberty says that since SB 500 is a supplemental appropriations bill, money from it should be available immediately, as soon as the Governor signs it.

A Big Thank You to Creighton and Huberty

The 85th legislature adjourned less than three months before Harvey inundated South Texas. That delayed legislative action two years. As a result, ever since Harvey, local officials have scrambled to organize and fund flood mitigation projects. The passage of these two bills should speed that process up by providing seed money for planning, grant writing, and matching funds. Thanks go to Senator Brandon Creighton and his staff for responding to the need and pushing these bills through the legislature. Thanks also go to Representative Dan Huberty for earmarking money for mouth bar dredging.

SB 500, a supplemental appropriations bill approved last weekend contains $30 million to help dredge the mouth bar on the West Fork of the San Jacinto.

With West Fork Phase One dredging rapidly winding down, hopefully the addition of $30 million to any money contributed by the City and FEMA will enable dredgers to restore conveyance of the West Fork.

Finally, we should give a big thank you to all of you who wrote letters in support of these two important pieces of legislation.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/28/2019

637 days since Hurricane Harvey

Statewide Flood Plan: Another Reason to Support Creighton’s SB7

For several weeks, I have been posting about why Senate Bill 7 (SB7) deserves our support. I focused mainly on the flood mitigation dollars it would provide and how it could accelerate projects that actually reduce flood risk.

Senator Creighton’s office provided this link to an interview that Austin television station KXAN did with him. It focuses heavily on another aspect of the bill: the development of a statewide flood plan.

Follow this link to see the three-minute segment.

SB7 passed the Senate unanimously and was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee on March 28.

The House is currently considering a bill that would do some of the same things: HB13. The Natural Resources Committee reported favorably on it, but the Calendars Committee has not yet scheduled it for debate in the House.

The low numbers on both of these bills indicate that they are high priorities within their respective chambers. I suspect at some point in the near future a conference committee will try to reconcile the best aspects of both bills.

In the meantime, Senator Creighton’s bill is out of the gate faster and farther down the road. It deserves all the support we can give it.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/4/2019

583 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Senate Appropriates $1.65 Billion for SB7, But House Omits Funding For It While Considering $3.26 Billion For HB13

Last week, I reviewed Texas Senate Bill 7 (SB7) which creates a Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund. The fund, if approved, will help local governments by providing grants and low- and no-interest loans for flood mitigation projects in four major categories. Categories include Floodplain Management, Hurricane Harvey, Floodplain Implementation and Federal Matching accounts. A competing bills has emerged in the House called HB13.

Dome of the Texas state capital in Austin

The Senate specified funding for SB7 in SB500, an omnibus appropriations bill. SB500 appropriated $1.65 billion for SB7 from the Economic Stabilization (Rainy Day) Fund. See Section 29a on page 12.

However, when SB500 moved to the House, the House Appropriations committee voted to remove the funding for SB7. The committee report states, “The substitute does not include an appropriation to the comptroller for the Texas infrastructure resiliency fund or certain other provisions relating to that fund.” See the second to the last paragraph on page 9.

Meanwhile, State Representative Dade Phelan from Orange, Tx. filed House Bill 13 (HB13). SB7 and HB13 do many of the same things, but have some important differences. HB13 would provide $3.26 billion out of the economic stabilization fund.

SB7 creates something called the “Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund”; HB13 sets up a “Flood Infrastructure Fund.”

Important Similarities Between SB7 and HB13

Both SB7 and HB13:

  • Relate to flood planning, mitigation, and infrastructure projects
  • Could make loans at or below market rates
  • Could make grants to cities and counties to provide matching funds that make them eligible to participate in a federal program for a flood project
  • Provide seed money to help attract federal grants
  • Would likely accelerate flood mitigation.


  • The Texas Water Development Board would control grants and loans made under HB13, but SB7 would create a separate board to control and distribute funds.
  • Compared to SB7, HB13 takes twice as much from the Rainy Day Fund.
  • Principal and interest payments on loans made under HB13 could be deferred for not more than 10 years or until construction of the flood project is completed, whichever is earlier.
  • HB13 would give special consideration to cities and counties whose median household income falls more than 15% below the state median.
  • HB13 encourages regional solutions by requiring cities and counties to demonstrate that they have acted cooperatively with other cities and counties. In other words, they don’t want people passing problems downstream. For instance, adding additional gates to the Lake Houston Dam might flood properties downstream. If so, HB13 could require buying out properties below the dam to avoid flooding them before adding gates to the dam (something that is already happening).
  • How does HB13 encourage cooperation? By requiring that all political subdivisions substantially affected by any given flood mitigation project: 1) participate in the process of developing the proposed flood project; 2) hold public meetings on proposed flood projects; and 3) compare their impacts versus other potential flood projects for the same area.

HB13 also requires the state to prepare:

  • A statewide flood plan that must be updated every five years
  • A 10-year dam and maintenance plan.

What Happens Next?

The full House has not yet voted on HB13. Consideration of SB7 will likely be delayed in the House until HB13 is voted up or down by the House. In the meantime, the House deferred any action on funding for SB7 by taking it out of SB500. It could always be handled separately at a later date in a supplementary appropriations bill.

If the House votes FOR HB13, we will then have two partially approved bills that do substantially the same thing. They would go to a conference committee to forge a compromise bill.

A conference committee consists of 10 people. The leader of each house appoints five. They work with each other to incorporate the best aspects of each bill. When a bill comes out of conference committee, it goes back to the House and Senate for straight up or down votes. Rules do NOT allow any amendments to bills that come out of conference committees.

With the amount of dollars at stake, not to mention the number of flood mitigation projects that depend on those dollars, everyone should closely watch the progress of these bills.

One Concern About HB13

After pondering each of these bills, I have one concern about HB13: the requirement to gain cooperation from all affected parties. In principle, it sounds good. In action, it could delay mitigation projects for years. It assumes political willpower and financial capabilities among multiple jurisdictions that may not exist. Mitigation for tens of thousands of people could be held up by a handful of folks that refuse to cooperate. There needs to be some way to arbitrate in such cases.

For instance, the San Jacinto River touches multiple cities and counties, has two major lakes, and is governed by the San Jacinto River Authority and the Coastal Water Authority. Lining up all those dominos every time someone somewhere wants to improve drainage may represent an impossible hurdle to clear.

The good news: the best minds in the state are all focused on ways to speed up and fund flood mitigation projects. A good compromise will likely emerge

I will continue to follow both of these bills as they work their ways through the House and Senate.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/27/19

575 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Creighton’s SB7 Passed Unanimously by Senate, Bill Goes to House Today

NOTE: This article has been updated to include the paragraph below entitled Floodplain Implementation Account. I also added a mention of a separate appropriations bill, SB500.

One of the most important pieces of legislation in Austin this session is SB7, sponsored by Senator Brandon Creighton. It relates to flood control planning and the funding of flood planning, mitigation, and infrastructure projects.

Light pole near River Bend in North Shore as Harvey receded. Note the “wet marks” several feet up on pole. Photo by Jim Balcom.

Status of SB7

The Texas Senate passed the bill unanimously yesterday. It is now engrossed and in the House. Engrossed means it has been recorded in its final legal form by the chamber in which it was introduced and passed to the opposite chamber.

SB 7 started life as SB 695, but was renumbered when it became one of the Lieutenant Governor’s top picks for the session. The lower number makes it one of the first bills to be considered, thus increasing its chances of passage during this session.

Last week, the Senate heard testimony on the bill. Yesterday, 31 senators voted by voice FOR the bill. None opposed it.

What SB7 Includes

Key provisions of the final version of SB7 include:

  • Creation of a Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund outside of the General Revenue Fund. Within the Resiliency Fund, it also creates:
  • A Floodplain Management Account to provide financing for: (A) the collection and analysis of flood-related information; (B) flood planning, protection, mitigation, or adaptation; (C) the provision of flood-related information to the public through educational or outreach programs; or (D) evaluating the response to and mitigation of flood incidents affecting residential property, including multifamily units, located in floodplains.
  • A Floodplain Implementation Account to grant, low-interest, or zero-interest loans. Purposes: (A) to provide matching funds that enable local governments to participate in a federal program for a flood project; (B) to provide loans at or below market interest rates for planning or design costs, permitting costs, or other costs associated with state or federal regulatory activities for flooding; or (C) to provide grants that enable local governments to participate in a federal program for the development of a hazard mitigation plan.
  • A Hurricane Harvey account, also within the resiliency fund to grant low-interest or zero-interest loans to eligible political subdivisions. The loans can be used as a local match to enable political subdivisions to qualify for a federal match. The loans will help local governments seeking federal grants for hazard-mitigation and public-assistance plans or the cost of flood-project planning, design, permitting, etc. associated with state or federal regulatory activities.
  • A Federal Matching Fund Account. The board may use the account only to meet matching requirements for projects funded partially by federal money, including projects funded by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Rules regarding the distribution of funds, administration, transparency, etc.

What SB7 Does NOT Include

Not in the engrossed version sent to the House: a specific dollar amount to establish the fund. When introduced, SB 695 called for $3 billion to be transferred from the “rainy day” fund to establish the resiliency fund. That’s no longer in the bill.

In its place, the bill now has some vague language that refers to:

  • Money deposited to the credit of the account under Section 251.004, Insurance Code;
  • Money directly appropriated to the board;
  • Money from gifts or grants from the United States government, local or regional governments, private sources, or other sources.

This bill sets up the accounts. A separate bill, SB500 handles the appropriations for the accounts.

How SB7 Will Help Flood Mitigation

Still, if funded, the Texas Infrastructure Resilience Fund, will provide a wonderful vehicle to help jumpstart critical flood mitigation projects. It provides low- or no-cost LOANS, to help local governments get matching funds to:

  • Study flood problems
  • Design solutions
  • Fund construction.

Why SB7 Is Necessary

These loans can be used to help local governments bypass the begging phase of flood mitigation where they look for grants to fund grant writers or study problems. Example: It took almost 18 months after Harvey for Montgomery County, the City of Houston, Harris County and the SJRA to come up with a local match and get FEMA to cover the rest of a $2 million San Jacinto River Basin Study. That study will that take another 18 months to complete.

SB7 could have saved half that time. SB7 deserves the support of all Texans who would like to see flood mitigation efforts accelerated.

To review the status of other legislation affecting the Lake Houston area, check the Legislation page of this website.

Posted by Bob Rehak on March 21, 2019

569 Days since Hurricane Harvey