Houston area groups propose plan for how third Hurricane Harvey relief package should be distributed

Several Houston area groups have collaborated to come up with a plan for how federal Harvey relief funds should be spent.

Several Houston area groups have collaborated to come up with a plan for how federal Harvey relief funds should be spent.

As the U.S. House of Representatives is preparing to pass a third and presumably final Hurricane Harvey relief package within the coming days, state and local officials are fighting to make sure future flood control projects are funded.

Congress passed $15 billion in Harvey relief in September, and an additional $36.5 billion was passed in October to be distributed across Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

However, that money was mainly set aside for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide relief to individuals and to pay off debt accumulated by the National Flood Insurance Program. Funding for flood-proofing the affected communities—including for reservoir construction and home buyouts—is still greatly needed, according to state officials.

Gov. Greg Abbott has called for $61.8 billion in additional funding for Texas in the next package to fund projects identified in the Rebuild Texas plan. About 60 percent of Abbott's requested funding would go toward flood-proofing to prepare for future storms.

A Commission to Rebuild Texas was established to seek input from local officials in the affected areas to determine what projects need to be prioritized.

Although the Rebuild Texas plan would improve flood control in the City of Houston and around the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, a group of local organizations are advocating that the funding be used to provide more comprehensive flood protection for the rest of Harris County.

The group—which includes the West Houston Association, North Houston Association, Greater Houston Builders Association, American Council of Engineering Companies of Houston and the Katy Area Economic Development Council—released A Comprehensive Flood Protection Plan for a Better Houston, which is aligned with plans laid out in Rebuild Texas but differs in several key areas.

Augustus Campbell, president of the West Houston Association, made a presentation to the Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition Nov. 15. Here are several proposals for how Harris County should use federal funding as laid out in the Better Houston plan:

Reservoirs


Both the Rebuild Texas plan and the Better Houston plan make the construction of new reservoirs and the restoration of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs key parts of the solution.

Both plans call for the construction of a third reservoir in the Cypress Creek watershed to alleviate pressure on the two existing reservoirs, and both plans call for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a restoration report for Addicks and Barker to determine the best way to restore them to their original capacity.

However, Campbell said because the proposed reservoir is expected to have little benefit on Cypress Creek, the Better Houston plan calls for another reservoir to be built on Little Cypress Creek, at a cost of roughly $300 million, which would slow the movement of water traveling downstream. The location of the Little Cypress Creek reservoir has not been identified yet, but Campbell said there are several options along the creek where land is available for such a project.

Increasing bayou conveyance


A top goal of the Better Houston plan involves improving conveyance to the point where 12 inches of rainfall runoff can pass through every bayou in the Greater Houston area within 24 hours, Campbell said. He identified Sims Bayou as an example of where this goal has already been reached.

The Sims Bayou project, which was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2015 at a cost of $395 million, paid for itself in terms of how much damage was prevented during Harvey, Campbell said.

"Zero homes flooded along Sims Bayou during Harvey," he said. "The bayou did not even overflow its banks."

In the Rebuild Texas plan, funding for conveyance improvements is targeted at shovel-ready projects along White Oak, Hunting, Brays and Clear Creek bayous. The Better Houston plan calls for significantly more funding for conveyance improvements—around $20 billion total to complete improvements along all major bayous, including Cypress Creek and Little Cypress Creek.

Several conveyance projects are already included in the Harris County Flood Control District's capital improvements plan—including the Little Cypress Creek Frontier Program—but have not been fully funded.

“If all we do is build the third reservoir, we’ve absolutely made a mistake," Campbell said. "It’s really important that we continue to beat that drum for conveyance. If you have good conveyance through your area, you will have the most efficient and resilient solution to flooding.”

Buyouts


Both plans call for a significant amount of money to be spent on home buyouts.

The key difference in the Better Houston plan is that buyouts are targeted at homes along bayous that experience repeated flooding, Campbell said. Buying out these homes serves an additional strategic purpose in that it also allows the county to pursue conveyance improvements along those bayous, he said.

The Rebuild Texas plan calls for about $14 billion to be spent on buyouts compared to $8.5 billion in the Better Houston plan. Campbell said the Better Houston plan does not recommend buyouts for properties behind the Addicks and Barker reservoirs.

Funding


The federal cost share of all projects identified in the Better Houston plan is $28.8 billion. The plan also calls for a $1 billion contribution from the State of Texas and a $2.2 billion contribution from Harris County, which would be raised with an 4 cent tax rate increase for flood control projects. The plan and accompanying bonds could be placed on the May 2018 ballot for voters to support or reject.
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


MOST RECENT

From left: Laura Ryan, Eliza Paul and Craig Raborn discuss the future of the Texas Department of Transportation. (Sierra Rozen/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas Department of Transportation discusses I-45 expansion, vehicle fatalities at annual event

The Texas Department of Transportation held its fifth annual State of TxDOT event Oct. 21 to discuss the I-45 expansion, plans for the future and safety issues facing Texans.

The Montgomery County Animal Shelter closed down several services for two months to deal with a distemper outbreak. (Jishnu Nair/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery County Animal Shelter reopens stray animal intake

The county shelter closed down several services for two months to deal with a distemper outbreak.

Taco Palenque is now open as drive-thru only in Round Rock. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Taco Palenque opens in Round Rock; Plano ISD considering two draft calendars for 2022-23 school year and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 21.

Husband and wife Sean and Michelle Anger opened Fox & Seeker Distilled Goods in North Houston in October 2020. (Courtesy Fox & Seeker Distilled Goods)
Fox & Seeker Distilled Goods crafts unique spirits with local ingredients

According to Anger, Fox & Seeker specializes in craft distilled spirits that emphasize the company’s motto, “Grain to Glass,” which entails using locally-sourced ingredients to distill its own alcohol instead of buying it pre-made.

Health officials, crisis response teams and mental health professionals have reported more people dealing with anxiety, stress, depression and grief in the last year. Nationally, data suggests more people are reporting negative effects to mental health due to COVID-19 than prior to the pandemic. (Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
COVID-19 pandemic highlights mental health gaps in Lake Houston area

In 2020, Mental Health America ranked each state and Washington, D.C., based on the prevalence of mental illness and access to mental health care. Although Texas ranked 27th overall and was third in terms of prevalence of mental illness, the state ranked 51st for access to care.

Renderings of the conceptual tower were shown depicting a roughly 100-foot tower, but the intent is to build a smaller tower. A total of $2.43 million was given as an estimated cost for a 100-foot gravity tower, but presenters said the cost would scale down with a smaller tower. (Courtesy city of Frisco)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Early concept for Frisco’s Northwest Community Park includes biking tower for ‘gravity riding’; Perky Beans Cafe now open in Leander, and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 20.

The Humble ISD board of trustees at an Oct. 19 meeting bid farewell to Position 6 trustee Lori Twomey following the announcement of her resignation. From left: Position 2 trustee Robert Scarfo, Position 1 trustee Robert Sitton, Position 3 trustee Chris Parker, board President Martina Dixon, Twomey, Position 7 trustee Nancy Morrison, Superintendent Elizabeth Fagan and Position 4 trustee Ken Kirchofer stand in front the dais as they honor Twomey at her last board meeting. (Courtesy Humble ISD)
Humble ISD trustee Lori Twomey announces her resignation effective Oct. 20

Applications to fill the Position 6 trustee vacancy will be accepted until Nov. 2. Once appointed, the individual selected to fill the vacancy will hold the position until it is up for election in May 2023.

Heather Lagrone, Adrienne Holloway, Luis Guajardo, Maya Ford and Charleen Jones sit onstage while Holloway introduces the audience to the Harris County Housing Needs Assessment study on Oct. 19. (Emily Lincke/Community Impact Newspaper)
Kinder Institute housing survey results reveal Harris County's needs

To meet the need for additional, more affordable housing for only 20% of the 500,000 cost-burdened residents, 8,174 housing units would need to be added annually through 2031, according to the study.

There are a number of ways to enjoy fall in the Lake Houston area, whether checking out a family-friendly festival, facing fears at a spooky haunted house or getting out into nature to enjoy the weather. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Here's your 2021 guide to fall activities in the Lake Houston area

There are a number of ways to enjoy fall in the Lake Houston area, whether checking out a family-friendly festival, facing fears at a spooky haunted house or getting out into nature to enjoy the weather.

The Houston Gem & Mineral Society will host its 68th annual Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show, during which attendees can peruse jewelry, minerals and fossils. (Courtesy The Houston Gem & Mineral Society)
Attend a play, peruse gemstones: 10 things to do in the Lake Houston area throughout October, November

Here are a few events and things to do in the Lake Houston area throughout the months of October and November.

New Caney ISD Superintendent Matt Calvert at an Oct. 18 board meeting said the district is considering changing the class times for elementary and secondary school classes for the 2022-23 school year. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
New Caney ISD seeking feedback on proposed schedule changes for 2022-23 school year

Under the new proposal, elementary classes would run from 8:10 a.m.-3:45 p.m., and secondary classes would be held from 7:15 a.m.-2:50 p.m.