Tag Archive for: white oak

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.

Watershed Map of Harris County

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.

Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis spent $305 million in the three watersheds where they live. That’s six times more than the $51 million spent for the San Jacinto, Spring, Jackson and Luce Watersheds.

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.

So under Hidalgo, Brays, White Oak and Buffalo averaged $1.2 million per square mile. Meanwhile, the Republican-leaning San Jacinto, Spring, Jackson and Luce watersheds averaged only $158 thousand per square mile! That’s about one eighth as much.

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.

At the moment, Harris County Flood Control shows NO active capital improvement construction projects in Kingwood, Huffman, Crosby, Humble, Atascocita or Spring.

Screen capture from HCFCD.org on 10/20/22. Capital improvement projects have purple markers. Orange = maintenance projects.

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.

Out of $1.65 billion flood-bond dollars spent to date, the watersheds where Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia live have consumed 25%.

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.

Where the Flood Mitigation Money Has Really Gone: Part Two

At Harris County Commissioners Court yesterday, “equity” proponents from low-to-moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods in Precinct 1 again complained they weren’t getting their fair share of flood mitigation dollars. In crying “foul” over a perceived lack of buyout dollars, they ignore the fact that the bulk of Federal mitigation spending is on construction projects that benefit their precinct.

The Federal Government is contributing $814 million to joint HCFCD/Army Corps projects that benefit Precinct 1. Only one joint project in Harris County does NOT benefit Precinct 1.

Part One of this series focused on Harris County construction spending for flood mitigation. It found that Precinct 1, which is 78% African-American and Hispanic, received 47% of all Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) dollars spent on construction. That left three other precincts to divvy up the remaining half. But Federal contributions for construction spending are even more lopsided as the chart above shows.

2018 Federal and Harvey Reports Yield Surprises

In Part Two, I examine Federal construction spending in Harris County on joint Army Corps/HCFCD projects. Some are Corps-led; others County-led. Regardless, they all involve Federal contributions. Close review of the latest Federal Report from HCFCD and other information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveals some startling facts.

  • Precinct 1 benefitted from more Federally-backed projects than any other precinct.
  • Only one Federal project did not benefit Precinct 1.
  • Sims Bayou, which lies mostly within Precinct 1, was the only one of six Federal projects completed before Harvey. And it was one of the few bayous in the County that did not widely flood.
  • The Lake Houston Area received no Federal dollars for flood mitigation prior to 2018.

Federal Investments Ignored by Precinct 1 Activists

The only joint project actually completed before Hurricane Harvey was in Precinct One. It involved the widening of Sims Bayou and creating additional detention ponds. Together, these actions almost eliminated flooding during Harvey. A huge benefit to Precinct 1. See map below.

Sims Bayou in Precinct 1 was one of the few bayous in Harris County that did NOT come out of its banks during Harvey. See green arrow. The San Jacinto watershed (red arrow) flooded along its entire length and received NO Federal dollars prior to Harvey.

Sims Completed and Did Not Flood Widely

On page 6 of its Final Harvey Report, HCFCD states, “Sims Bayou was one of the few channels in the entire county that did not suffer widespread and extensive overbank channel flooding largely due to the completion of the federal flood risk reduction project and three HCFCD regional detention basins. Water levels for Harvey were generally below the historical records of Tropical Storm Allison and averaged between a 2.0% (50-yr) and 1.0% (100-yr) level downstream of Martin Luther King Blvd and generally below a 10% (10-yr) annual exceedance probability from Airport Road upstream to the headwaters.”

Sims Project Saved Thousands of Homes from Flooding

Further, Page 19 of the final Final Report on Hurricane Harvey notes,”The recently completed … Federal Project and supplemental detention basins constructed by HCFCD reduced the number of homes flooded by about 6,500 along Sims Bayou.”

“Bottom line – the larger channel carried a lot more stormwater downstream away from subdivisions along the bayou and the large detention basins stored stormwater that would otherwise flow through subdivisions along the bayou.” 

The Harris County Flood Control District Federal Briefing (Page 102) from 2018 also shows that the Sims project removed more than 35,000 homes and 2,000 commercial structures from the 100-year flood plain.

The Sims project received $390 million: $125 million from HCFCD and $265 million from the Army Corps.

In contrast, the Federal Briefing lists $0 in federal funding for the San Jacinto watershed.

Hunting Bayou and Achieving “Social Justice” in Precinct 1

At least one Army Corps project in Precinct One won Corps support because of the presence of LMI neighborhoods. Yet “equity” proponents contend the Federal government discriminates against them.

Page 79 of the Federal Report indicates Hunting Bayou (entirely within Precinct 1) received $98 million from the County and $68 million from the Corps, in part because of social justice factors. That’s another $165 million.

Residents claimed in their plea for funds that:

  • “Residents in the Hunting Bayou watershed deserve the same level of potential flood risk reduction as those who live in other parts of Harris County.
  • “The economically disadvantaged Hunting Bayou residents struggle severely to recover from house and business flooding.”
  • “The Corps’ economic analysis is an important factor in prioritizing competing projects for annual Federal funding, but it is biased against economically disadvantaged communities like in Hunting Bayou.”

Prior to 2018, had Hunting Bayou residents received the same level of support as those in the more affluent Lake Houston Area, they would have received NO support from the Federal government.

Three Other Precinct 1 Watersheds Receive Major Federal Support, Too

Three other watersheds in Precinct 1 have received major federal and county commitments for construction of flood mitigation measures. Because they are in various stages of completion, I show total cost estimates below to facilitate comparison.

  • Brays Bayou which flows through precincts 1, 2 and 3 will receive a total of $480 million; half from the county and half from the Corps. See page 60.
  • White Oak Bayou flows through Precincts 1 and 4. There, the County and Corps are excavating 9.7 million cubic yards of detention basins. That’s more than 5 times the volume of sediment removed from the San Jacinto to date. Estimate: $124 million, $90 million of it at Federal expense. See page 68.
  • Clear Creek flows through Precincts 1 and 2. Estimate: $249 million, $98 from local and $151 million from the Corps. See Page 91.

One Lone Exception

The Federal government partnered with HCFCD on only one project in Harris County that did not directly benefit Precinct One: a detention pond in Precinct 4 on Greens Bayou near 249, Beltway 8 and Cutten Road. This $58 million project received $43 million from the Corps. See Page 97.

The Corps does have other projects in Harris County, such as the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. However, HCFCD plays no active role in those. Likewise for the San Jacinto dredging project. This analysis looks only at joint projects that involve Harris County and the Corps.

Federal Construction Versus Buyout Dollars

Because Mr. Ellis’ surrogates base their arguments on buyouts, we need to put those in perspective.

Buyouts are tiny compared to construction spending. In Harris County, they represent just 6.6% of Federal construction spending for flood mitigation.

Page 120 of the 2018 Federal Brochure deals with buyouts. It shows approximately two dozen buyout projects completed in Precinct One. However, few if any appeared active at the time of publication in 2018.

In the entire county, FEMA was funding only $57.1 million in buyouts.

But the Army Corps contributes 19 times more than that in construction dollars for projects that benefit Precinct 1.

The numbers below represent Federal contributions only:

  • Sims – $265 million (In Precincts 1, 2)
  • Hunting – $68 million (In Precinct 1)
  • Brays – $240 million (In Precincts 1, 2, 3)
  • White Oak – $90 million (In Precincts 1, 4)
  • Clear Creek – $151 million (In Precincts 1, 2)
  • Total Estimated Federal Contribution to Joint Construction Projects that benefitted Precinct 1: $814 million
  • Total Estimated Federal Contribution to Joint Construction Projects NOT benefitting Precinct 1 (Greens): $43 million
  • Total Estimated Federal Contribution to Joint Projects in Lake Houston Area before 2018: $0

And Commissioner Ellis’ surrogates complain about discrimination! Maybe that’s why they get so much money.

Note that HCFCD does not break out spending “by precinct” for bayous that flow across precinct boundaries; they list only project totals. The list of bayous above represented ALL the HCFCD/Corps projects in the 2018 Federal Report.

Note also: Video of the commissioners meeting still had not been posted at the time I posted this story.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/26/2019

666 Days since Hurricane Harvey