The San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group unanimously approved a draft regional flood plan for 11 Houston-area counties ranging from Walker County to Galveston County in the San Jacinto River watershed at a July 14 meeting.

The draft will be submitted to the Texas Water Development Board, the state agency responsible for compiling a statewide flood plan by 2024. The final plan for the San Jacinto region, also referred to as Region 6, is set to be approved by December.

The group does not have the authority to enact any recommendations it offers. According to the draft document, any standards “would be aimed at encouraging implementation by local entities in the region with flood-related authority” with examples of local entities including the Harris County Flood Control District.

The SJRFPG will hold meetings in September to receive further public input and will receive a formal response in October. The final plan will be submitted to the TWDB in January, when the state Legislature will also reconvene.

The voting members of the SJRFPG—which was established October 2020—represent interests ranging from industries, counties, municipalities and coastal communities. Two voting members representing the public are also included, according to the group’s website.

Additionally, nonvoting members from local, state and federal agencies such as the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Army Corps of Engineers are present in the planning group.

Inside the plan

The draft plan is publicly available on the SJRFPG website. According to its executive summary, one of the challenges facing flood planning is balancing the area’s population growth, the resulting development and the preservation of the regional natural resources.

The plan cites data provided by the TWDB predicting population growth to increase by 33% from 2020-50—resulting in a Houston-area population of over 8.4 million people.

The draft plan also contains recommendations for flood management evaluations, strategies and associated flood mitigation projects; 34 regional flood management projects are planned across the watershed for a combined cost of $27.8 billion.

Slides presented at the July 14 meeting included disclaimers to the draft plan that recommendations are not specific to any particular action but rather that actions be eligible for future TWDB funding.

Specific recommendations for flood management strategies include 16 recommendations for property acquisitions costing $1.1 billion and eight recommendations costing a total of $16 million in “critical maintenance” of drainage systems.

Appendix tables attached to the plan show nearly 200,000 residential structures in the 100-year flood plain are categorized as “expected loss of function” due to severe flood events with impacts on “life, business and public services.” Harris County has 120,793, followed by Galveston County with 42,179 and Montgomery County with 16,919.