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$2.5B Bond to Help with TX Flood Prep

Friday, August 31, 2018

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Residents of Harris County, Texas, hard-hit one year ago by the flooding rains of Hurricane Harvey, have approved a $2.5 billion bond measure to fund more than 200 flood-mitigation projects, including bridge replacements and stormwater-related work.

What’s more is that several of the projects already have the green light, bypassing the public meetings stage that will be enforced for all other projects, as officials say transparency with how the money is spent is paramount.

Images: © / Karl Spencer

A year after Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas, voters in Harris County have approved a $2.5 billion bond measure that will allow commissioners to move forward with the more than 200 flood-mitigation projects that are in the works.

“That’s what the (Harris County) Flood Control District committed to,” said Matt Zeve, the district’s operations director. “That commitment was advocated very strongly by several groups. The perception is that we’re too opaque, that people don’t understand how decisions are made.”

More than 85 percent of Harris County residents who voted approved the proposition in the special election, which was held in August instead of November so that projects could be completed by the start of next year’s hurricane season in June.

The Plan

On Tuesday (Aug. 28), commissioners approved the following:

  • $6.6 million to replace the Buffalo Speedway bridge over Brays Bayou;
  • $790,000 to design, bid and build new bridges at South Rice Avenue and Chimney Rock Road over Brays Bayou;
  • No more than $200,000 for watershed-wide surveying services for the Little Cypress Creek sub-regional frontier program;
  • Negotiations with 15 engineering firms regarding projects to be approved at future meetings; and
  • 26 new grant-funded positions within Harris County Flood Control District to oversee the bond projects.

In general, the bond is slated for projects such as:

  • Channel modifications to improve stormwater conveyance;
  • Regional stormwater detention basins;
  • Major repairs to flood-damaged drainage infrastructure;
  • Removing large amounts of sediment and silt from drainage channels;
  • Voluntary buyouts of flood-prone properties;
  • Wetland mitigation banks;
  • Property acquisition for preserving the natural floodplains;
  • Drainage improvements made in partnership with other cities, utility districts, or other local government agencies; and
  • Upgrading the Harris County Flood Warning System.

In terms of funds allocation, the current plan is:

  • $1.2 billion for channel improvements;
  • $401 million for detention basins;
  • $242 million for floodplain land acquisition;
  • $12.5 million for new floodplain mapping;
  • $1.25 million for an improved early flood warning system; and
  • Another $500 million remains unallocated.

A full list of the 237 proposed projects can be found here.

More than 85 percent of Harris County residents who voted approved the proposition in the special election, which was held in August instead of November so that projects could be completed by the start of next year’s hurricane season in June.

Officials say that the bonds will be sold in increments over the next 10-15 years and tax increases are estimated at no more than 2-3 cents per $100 of assessed property.

What They’ve Already Done

In December 2017, Harris County commissioners unanimously approved stricter flood-plain regulations, which now require new homes be built to the 500-year storm plan, instead of the 100-year.

The 100-year flood plains are based on storms that are so severe that there is a 1 percent chance of the storm occurring in a given year. The 500-year plain refers to a bigger storm that has a 0.2 percent chance of taking place each year. Harvey was the third 500-year flood to take place in the Houston area just since 2015.

The new requirements mandate higher elevations for homes—about 8 feet higher in some places—necessitating pier-and-beam construction. The requirement also mandates that homes are able to withstand “a three-second gust basic wind speed of 120 miles per hour,” the Houston Chronicle reports, which could mean reinforcement straps connected to rafters and walls.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Disasters; Funding; Government; Infrastructure

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