Researchers release flood mitigation strategies report for Houston area

Image description
Researchers release flood mitigation strategies report for Houston area
The Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium released a report in March stating that many Harris County watersheds do not have sufficient flood mitigation projects planned in relation to the amount of damage they sustained during Hurricane Harvey.

The consortium began its research shortly after Harvey devastated parts of Southeast Texas in August. Its membership consists of research institutions throughout the state, including the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center at Rice University, the Houston Advanced Research Center and Texas State University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Consortium Project Manager Christof Spieler said.

During the course of its research, the group analyzed flood mitigation infrastructure, drainage, buyouts and development regulations in the Greater Houston area. The consortium found several of Harris County’s 22 watersheds—the area that surrounds and drains into a body of water—with high populations sustained damage during Harvey but do not have major flood mitigation projects planned.

“[There are watersheds] which have not been fully studied and have not had a clear list of projects identified, which means if we get enough funding for all of the identified projects out there, these watersheds will not be fully addressed,” Spieler said.

For example, the Cypress Creek watershed sustained $135.17 million in damage during Harvey—the third-highest total after Brays and Buffalo bayous, according to the report. However, only $14.76 million worth of projects are underway or planned in the watershed, according to the report.

One project within the Cypress Creek watershed that has been discussed at Harris County Commissioners Court since Harvey is a third reservoir in Northwest Harris County. According to the consortium’s report, a third reservoir in the area could help mitigate future flooding, but its location and design are crucial.

The consortium found construction of a reservoir—identified in the Cypress Creek Overflow Study released by the Harris County Flood Control District in 2015—would only mitigate the effect of future development and would not alleviate existing flooding.

“That project is not one that will address the problems we saw in Harvey,” Spieler said. “That said, the decision of a new reservoir in Northwest Harris County is worthwhile because … a reservoir in this area could be very effective at addressing that flooding.”

The consortium found that acquiring and preserving land along bayous and creeks can also be effective flood mitigation solutions, said Lisa Gonzalez, Houston Advanced Research Center CEO and a member of the consortium.

“It’s important to understand the natural landscape and how we can live within that,” Gonzalez said.

Home buyouts


In addition to building infrastructure and preserving undeveloped land, the consortium found that home buyouts can be cost-effective tools. According to the report, the Harris County Flood Control District has bought more than 3,000 properties since 1985, with the majority purchased through grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As a result of the buyouts, more than 1,060 acres of land have been restored to their natural states. However, because the buyouts are voluntary, some homeowners elect not to participate, which prevents the land from being used effectively for detention and flood mitigation projects, according to the report.

Earthea Nance, associate professor at Texas State University and a member of the consortium, said she believes officials should implement a coordinated rehousing plan in conjunction with the home buyout system.

According to the report, many of the Greater Houston area’s more affordable homes are located within the flood plains; therefore, when buyouts occur and less expensive homes are purchased, there are fewer affordable housing options for residents in the area. Nance said buying homes without planning to add affordable housing leaves residents with fewer options.

“If you think about it, it’s a removal of affordable housing,” Nance said. “Without a comprehensive plan to add affordable housing, then we’ve kind of left people without any place to go.”

Next steps


Spieler said now that the consortium has released its initial report, it is identifying topics that deserve additional research such as watersheds.

Spieler said the consortium is not an advocacy group and will not recommend officials take particular actions. However, the conclusions identified in the report can help officials make decisions, he said.

“I’m seeing a real interest in doing things differently moving forward and seriously addressing flooding as an issue in this region,” Spieler said.
By Zac Ezzone
Zac Ezzone began his career as a journalist in northeast Ohio, where he freelanced for a statewide magazine and local newspaper. In April 2017, he moved from Ohio to Texas to join Community Impact Newspaper. He worked as a reporter for the Spring-Klein edition for more than a year before becoming the editor of the Lake Houston-Humble-Kingwood edition.


MOST RECENT

Hospitals in the Greater Houston area are adapting to accommodate a surge of coronavirus cases. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Report offers first glimpse at hospital readiness across Houston area

Hospitals within the Texas Medical Center system in the Greater Houston area have plans in place to increase the number of ICU beds available by as much as 80%.

Dr. Campbell talks about the effect of the coronavirus on mental health.(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Q&A: Kelsey-Seybold doctor talks about mental health amid the coronavirus pandemic

Dr. Stefanie Campbell discusses the coronavirus’ effect on mental illness.

The Willowbrook Hospital is located on Hwy. 249. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Here's how Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital is responding to the coronavirus

CEO Keith Barber shares how the hospital has changed protocols, adapted staffing and freed up beds to prepare for coronavirus.

Texas Central claims the $12 billion construction process would be privately funded, and the train would transport 6 million annual riders by 2029. (Courtesy Texas Central Partners/Community Impact Newspaper)
State legislators request federal officials halt activity on Texas Central's high-speed rail project

Dozens of elected officials representing Texas requested the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao put an end to activity related to Texas Central’s high-speed rail project between Dallas and Houston.

The amicus brief is in support of an April 7 lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party seeking legislative action to allow voters who fear exposure to the coronavirus to vote via mail-in ballot. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Harris County Attorney's Office authorized to file amicus brief supporting mail-in ballots amid coronavirus outbreak

The amicus brief is in support of an April 7 lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party seeking legislative action to allow voters who fear exposure to the coronavirus to vote via mail-in ballot.

Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper
Harris County in ‘standoff’ over proposed inmate release to curb coronavirus spread

Hidalgo said the county is now at a crossroads having to weigh the lesser of two evils: releasing nonviolent inmates back into society or risking coronavirus spreading rampant through the county jail and filling the county’s hospital beds.

Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi is the associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. (Courtesy Baylor College of Medicine)
Q&A: Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi discusses vaccine development

Dr. Bottazzi is the associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo signed an order April 8 to temporarily close all parks countywide throughout the upcoming Easter weekend, April 10-13, in hopes of discouraging social gatherings. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County to close parks countywide for Easter weekend, April 10-13

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo signed an order April 8 to temporarily close all parks countywide throughout the upcoming Easter weekend, April 10-13, in hopes of discouraging social gatherings.

Companion Animal Hospital is now offering curbside service for clients and their pets. (Courtesy Companion Animal Hospital)
ROUNDUP: Coronavirus coverage in North Houston continues

Read some of the latest coronavirus updates from communities in the North Houston area.

Installing orange meshes across local buses is one of the measures METRO is taking to ensure appropriate social distancing between bus operators and passengers. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
METRO heightens preventative COVID-19 measures

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County has begun taking more aggressive measures to halt the spread of COVID-19, the transit authority announced April 7.

Lone Star College System has moved about 97% of its more than 9,000 class sessions online since mid-March as facilities have closed during the coronavirus pandemic, LSCS Chancellor Stephen Head said. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pandemic changes move Lone Star College System to enhance online, workforce education long-term

Lone Star College System has moved about 97% of its more than 9,000 class sessions online since mid-March as facilities have closed during the coronavirus pandemic, LSCS Chancellor Stephen Head said. He foresees LSCS continuing to enhance its online options even after stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Companion Animal Hospital is now offering curbside service for clients and their pets. (Courtesy Companion Animal Hospital)
Spring, Klein veterinary clinics utilize curbside services to reduce risk of exposure

Veterinary clinics are offering curbside assistance in an effort to continue providing medical attention for pets with respect to social distancing measures.