Harris County seeking public input on multi-billion-dollar flood mitigation bond referendum

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said the county is requesting public input on what flood mitigation projects should be funded by a multibillion dollar bond election expected to take place in August at a Wednesday press conference.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said the county is requesting public input on what flood mitigation projects should be funded by a multibillion dollar bond election expected to take place in August at a Wednesday press conference.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said the county is requesting public input on which flood mitigation projects should be funded by a proposed multibillion dollar bond election expected to occur in August at a press conference on Wednesday.

The county is scheduling 23 community meetings to take place over the next two months, with the first meeting set for June 5 at the Hiram Clarke Multi-Service Center, 3810 W. Fuqua St., Houston, at 6 p.m. One meeting will take place in each of the county's 23 watersheds. Residents who cannot attend a meeting may submit their comments online.

Emmett said he expects Commissioners Court to vote June 12 to hold a multibillion bond election on Aug. 25 to fund flood mitigation projects throughout the county. The exact amount will be decided at the meeting in June, however, in past meetings commissioners have discussed the amount to be about $2.5 billion.

"On Aug. 25 the voters of Harris County will get to make one of the most important decisions in our history," Emmett said.

Although the county currently has a list of 150 projects that could receive funding, Emmett said the list may be adjusted depending on the feedback county officials receive over the next two months. He said the county hopes to have a final list of projects to share with the public by Aug. 1.

Some of the projects that would be funded by the bond include the widening and depending of channels, the construction of regional storm water detention basins and home buyouts said Russ Poppe, Harris County Flood Control District executive director. The county has created an online map identifying roughly where each potential project could take place.

One project that has been publicly discussed but will not receive funding from the bond referendum is the addition of a third reservoir to the Addicks and Barker reservoir system. Emmett said this project is one that would need to be initiated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—which operates Addicks and Barker. If the Corps were to complete a study and decide to build a third reservoir, HCFCD would function as a local partner, he said.

In addition to physical projects, the funding will used to perform studies and match funding the county will receive for flood mitigation projects through federal sources, which often requires a local match.

Because the county is solely funded by property taxes, issuing the bonds will increase the amount residents pay in property taxes. Emmett said this increase will be spread out because HCFCD plans to use the bonds over a 10-15 year period.

According to a county press release, most homeowners would experience a 1.4 percent or smaller increase to the property taxes they pay to HCFCD. Currently Harris County residents pay about 3 cents per $100 valuation to HCFCD annually.

The bond election is set to take place exactly one year after Hurricane Harvey hit the area in 2017, dropping one trillion gallons of water across Harris County and flooding more than 120,000 structures in the county.

The historic storm precipitated the need for this bond election, however, Poppe said potential projects were not chosen solely because of Harvey. Some of the projects are in response to previous flooding events, such as the Memorial Day flood in 2015.

Early voting for the election will begin Aug. 8.
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