Texas water board creating statewide flood plan after Harvey

A truck in a flooded Houston neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey. (KXAN file photo)
A truck in a flooded Houston neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey. (KXAN file photo)

HOUSTON (Nexstar) — The state is working on a plan designed to help Texans during future flooding, so agencies can be prepared when the next disaster hits.

The state’s House Committee on Natural Resources met in Houston on Wednesday to determine “the role of regional entities in developing projects to control flooding, both through new infrastructure and enhancing existing infrastructure.” They also looked at mitigation efforts that would reduce the impact of future flooding and strategies for how to pay for it.

The Texas Water Development Board leadership made a presentation as part of an overarching plan to map out Texas’ flooding impacts.

Texas Water Development Board leadership testifies before the Texas House Committee on Natural Resources related to the state's flood planning, on Oct. 4, 2017. (Photo: Houston Television)
Texas Water Development Board leadership testifies before the Texas House Committee on Natural Resources related to the state’s flood planning, on Oct. 4, 2017. (Photo: Houston Television)

“The purpose of this plan is to help us better prepare for these types of catastrophic events,” TWDB Chairman Bech Bruun said after testifying in the committee hearing. “We know that the state is prone to dry out, and we also know that we are prone to flood.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said in the meeting he was worried about his ability to protect residents if the area is inundated with water, like with Hurricane Harvey.

“Water doesn’t recognize boundaries,” he said. “[It] doesn’t stop at a county line, doesn’t stop at a city limit.”

“We have to change the way we do a lot of things,” Emmett explained.

Lawmakers recently approved $600,000 to fund the TWDB’s planning efforts. The flood plan would be the first to encapsulate the entire state.

“It will inform the legislature and they can decide moving forward if they want to put additional resources into flood planning the same way they have historically towards water supply planning,” Bruun added.

The agency’s deputy executive administrator, Dr. Robert Mace, testified that TWDB would look into costs for mitigating future flooding.

“In assessing the risk, it’s looking at the floodplain maps, what is the vintage of those maps, are they still applicable,” Mace said. “And then, there’s also parts of the state that we don’t have floodplain mapping at all, particularly in West Texas.”

An example of mitigation projects is the city of Lubbock, which in November 2016 received $35 million from the TWDB Clean Water State Revolving Fund for the Northwest Drainage Improvement Project.

In 2009, the TWDB “committed $2,163,000 from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund… for a project to improve storm water drainage,” a spokesperson said.

Jasper County Judge Mark Allen said local and state officials need to “step up and protect” citizens.

“The state of Texas, if it wants to continue to grow, and to continue to attract those millions of people that we’re trying to bring in to continue to make us the strongest state in the nation, we’ve got to be able to protect those citizens,” Allen testified.

“They’ve got to be able to come here, build their homes, raise their families, attend their churches, their schools, their public areas, and be able to shop and live comfortably without having to worry about the possibility that they’re homes are going to be obliterated, and then after they repair it six months later it would be destroyed again,” he continued.

TWDB said it hoped to have the flood plan available to share with lawmakers in time for the legislative session in 2019.

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