The district has proposed two stormwater detention basins in the Cypress Creek watershed to reduce flooding risks in the area: one at the TC Jester Boulevard and Cypresswood Drive intersection and the other in the Westador neighborhood at the Ella Boulevard and Cypress Creek intersection.
In October, the district submitted applications to the Texas General Land Office, asking for $10 million for each project with the rest being paid by the $2.5 billion flood infrastructure bond voters approved in August 2018. The district learned in March, however, that neither project was awarded grants.
Despite this, HCFCD Director of Operations Alan Black said he hopes the GLO will award more funding in the future—as roughly $27 million has not been awarded from the 2015 and 2016 Community Development Block Grant Mitigation programs.
“I’m hesitant to say the applications have been rejected. We just haven’t received notification as to whether or not we will get them awarded,” he said.
In the meantime, the district will consider paying for the projects with its capital improvement projects fund and through other partnerships or grant programs, HCFCD Deputy Executive Director Matt Zeve said. Project design will continue while the district seeks alternative funding, he said.
A countywide deficit
The two basins are part of a larger hurdle Harris County faces that involves finding about $1.4 billion for other flood bond projects.
At the March 9 Harris County Commissioners Court meeting, the Harris County Budget Management Department presented data showing some watersheds in the eastern part of the county are less than 50% funded when it comes to the bond program. By comparison, the Cypress Creek Watershed is only 14% unfunded, per the data.
The shortfall can largely be tied to a shift in how the Texas General Land Office allocated funds received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HCFCD officials said. Instead of giving the county and city of Houston allocations of $1 billion each in Hurricane Harvey relief funding, the GLO made funds available through competitive grants across the state.
At the March 9 meeting, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo asked why the district was relying on federal money for Halls and Greens bayous—two watersheds with less than 50% of projects funded—after putting aside $1.74 billion in bond funding for local use. She said the district should have considered the $1 billion in direct federal funding would not come through.
“This is not just a budget issue; this is a strategic issue,” she said.
Commissioners unanimously approved a motion directing the HCFCD to work with the county’s budget department on a plan that would describe how projects have been affected because of the stalled funding, how the county can prioritize existing resources to be more equitable and what the county will do if the state funding does not come through. The plan, due back on June 30, will also include a timeline for a potential second bond election for HCFCD.
The district recently completed two Greens Bayou detention basins, according to an April 1 news release. The Glen Forest and Kuykendahl stormwater detention basins can hold a combined 1 billion gallons of stormwater and were funded through the Hurricane Ike Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
Hannah Zedaker contributed to this report.
Editor's note: This article was updated to clarify the process the Texas General Land Office uses to grant funding.