The discussion was brought about following a Facebook post made by The Woodlands Township Director Bruce Rieser, which said the county has yet to update its design standards for development following Hurricane Harvey. Rieser urged the county require developers to build at higher elevations and build more stormwater retention amid increasing urbanization.
Commissioner James Noack spearheaded the discussion at Commissioners Court, saying it is frustrating to hear others say the county is not doing anything for flood mitigation. Noack said the county sent a letter to Rieser, which outlined the county's drainage and flood-mitigation efforts.
At the Oct. 22 meeting, Assistant County Director Dan Wilds and Darren Hess, director of Montgomery County's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, presented a summary of the county's efforts, which included: adopting updated rainfall data from Atlas-14 into its drainage criteria manual, participating in regional flood and watershed studies, and revising its drainage criteria manual.
Noack added it is impossible for the county to prevent flooding entirely.
"You’re never going to mitigate all the flooding, and every time there’s a flood, there’s all this emotion, and I get it," he said.
Noack said it would be better for the county to buy out homes that repeatedly flood rather than attempting to stop them from flooding again. According to Hess, the county has about 2,500-3,000 structures that repeatedly flood, and the county has secured $36 million in grant funds for home buyouts.
County Judge Mark Keough said Montgomery County has also taken heat from neighboring Harris County regarding its flood-mitigation efforts.
"[Harris County has said], almost to the point of accusation, that you guys don’t pay attention to drainage, to detention up there," Keough said.
Noack said it is overly simplistic to require Montgomery County to follow the same drainage standards as Harris County, which requires new development within the 500-year flood plain to be built 2 feet above the 500-year flood elevation.
"That is a small minded, one-size-fits-all approach that does not meet the needs of Montgomery County," he said. "The further north you go, the greater the elevation changes are, and to require the developer to put something 2 foot above up there, it doesn’t make any sense at all."
Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts agreed with Noack, saying it is impossible to determine which homes will flood in the next large storm event.
"I can show you places that were in the flood plain that did not flood [during Tropical Depression Imelda]," Metts said. "I can show you places that were nowhere near the flood plain … that did flood in the Imelda event and [no other time]."