Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said there are four “pillars of storm protection” the county is considering as it seeks funding for projects to future Hurricane Harvey-level devastation around the region.
County officials have discussed the need for a $1 billion bond referendum and also eyed the state’s “Rainy Day” fund for the money needed to back projects such as a third reservoir and a massive buyout program.
Cagle spoke at the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon on Feb. 8. Pulling together the 15 principles set forth by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett to prevent flooding, as well as proposals developed by the West Houston Association and North Houston Association, Cagle said the county is focusing on what it needs from federal, state, local and individual sources to proceed.
Bond, state could provide ‘seed’ money
Cagle said the county’s immediate needs include conducting $850 million in buyouts throughout the region in flooded areas. Those buyouts could ultimately be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency within two years, he said.
Cagle said one source of seed money for buyouts and other projects—such as a third reservoir—could be a portion of the state’s “Rainy Day” fund. He has said he believes about 25 percent of that fund would be a fair amount since that is approximately what Harris County pays into the fund.
Another funding source for flood mitigation projects could be a bond referendum for $1 billion or more. A date for the bond referendum has not yet been established, but the matter could come up for discussion again at the next Commissioners Court meeting at 10 a.m Feb. 13.
“We have people who are in pain now,” Cagle said. “We have to have the seed money from the state.”
At the Feb. 8 luncheon, Cagle displayed a map—which has not been officially released to the public—of Houston areas that have flooded as well as potential reservoir locations. Cagle stressed that the map is preliminary, and it will be updated on a regular basis as new information is obtained.
Here are the four “pillars” of funding Cagle discussed at the meeting:
Federal support is needed to
- Build a third reservoir for the Greater Houston area, whose prospective location is on Cypress Creek at the border of Harris and Waller counties.
- Buy out flooded properties
- Fund major flood mitigation projects on White Oak, Hunting, Brays and Clear Creek bayous
- Fund improvements at Barker and Addicks reservoirs
State support is needed to:
- Provide 25 percent of the state’s “Rainy Day” fund as seed money to fund flood mitigation projects
- Conduct buyouts in flooded areas
- Match federal and county funds to build a third reservoir
- Research and possibly implement a drainage reuse initiative to divert stormwater to underground aquifers
Local support is needed to:
- Plan for 500-year floodplains in affected areas
- Expand greenways
- Research a drainage reuse initiative pilot location in the county
Individual support is needed to:
- Obtain support from nonprofit and faith-based organizations, community organizations