Senate members file triple bill package for Harvey, future disaster recovery

The 86th session of the Texas Legislature convened Jan. 8.

The 86th session of the Texas Legislature convened Jan. 8.

This article has been updated to include new comments from Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe.

Senate members filed a package of three bills March 6 intended to help the state plan for, pay for and respond to future natural disasters and handle continuing recovery from Hurricane Harvey.

Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, filed Senate Bill 7 related to flood control planning, funding planning, mitigation and new infrastructure projects.

"Hurricane Harvey was a storm of biblical proportion that requires a Texas-sized response," Creighton said in a release. "[Wednesday] I filed SB 7, the Texas Infrastructure Resilience Fund for disaster relief and flood mitigation projects to prepare the state for future storms. We know that the next super storm is when, not if, therefore it is our responsibility to take bold action for Harvey Recovery and to ensure a more resilient Texas."

According to Creighton, SB 6 is about best practices, SB 7 is about Hurricane Harvey and present-time recovery, and SB 8 is the future statewide flood plan.

"That comprehensive package altogether is, in my opinion, the most forward-reaching and comprehensive plan any state has offered in the nation for flood recovery," Creighton told Community Impact Newspaper.

"We wanted Texas to be out in front of these and lead in this category," Creighton continued. "Straight talk, the feds are getting tired of hearing about Texas having a federal fund account with significant money in it, and they told us if we didn't have a more comprehensive plan in place that our efforts to receive disaster funding in the future could be stalled, so this is a big step forward to show the public that is working hard to recover from Harvey—as well as the feds—that we have not only a plan in place for recovery, but the best in the country."

Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, filed SB 8 to create a statewide flood mitigation plan dividing Texas into regions based on river basins, allowing regional officials and stakeholders to make decisions on projects to protect local residents and property from flooding.

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, filed SB 6, intended to create a model guide for what officials should do in the immediate aftermath, based on studies showing Harvey disaster recovery, rescue and relief efforts.

Creighton's bill would create a financial structure to pay for aid, planning and flood projects, creating a 9-to-1 federal to local fund ratio along with offering grants and low-interest loans for flood mitigation projects. $1.8 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund would go toward Creighton's program and the other two bills, and another $1.2 billion would go to cover lost local school tax revenue caused by property damage, according to a Senate newsletter.

Houston Stronger, a coalition of civic groups, business associations and active citizens, is dedicated to working with local, state and federal officials to implement a comprehensive, regional flood control plan for safety of citizens and properties. Houston Strong supports the triple bill suite.

"Houston Stronger thanks Lt. Gov. Patrick and Senators Creighton, Kolkhorst and Perry for their leadership and legislative efforts. Their work shows a commitment to addressing flood mitigation and disaster recovery needs statewide," Houston Stronger spokesperson Auggie Campbell said in a press release. "SB 7 will help leverage billions of federal recovery dollars for Texas, and help our communities plan and fund flood mitigation infrastructure across the state."

Texas leads the nation in declared major disasters and square miles of flood-prone land and Hurricane Harvey alone inflicted an estimated $125 billion in damage and caused 82 deaths, according to Houston Stronger. Since 2015, Texas has had nine declared disasters related to flooding, and 65 percent of Texas counties have experienced flooding.



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