FLOOD CONTROL

The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Imelda, and other severe storms has shown our community and the world the very real impact more frequent and severe disasters have on our community. These disasters are a vivid reminder that flooding is the most common and costly disaster we face in America, and that there is an urgent need to change the way we build infrastructure and strengthen communities here in Harris County. Simply put, it is not good enough to just build back after a catastrophe like Harvey or Imelda, we must do so in a way that is faster, fairer, and smarter. 

From experimenting with floating wetlands to investing in technology to improve our flood warning system to make sure families know their true flood risk, Harris County is moving forward to lead the nation on how to protect communities from catastrophic flooding.

Key accomplishments include:

  • Sped the delivery of flood bond projects by allocating local funds to jump-start construction instead of waiting for federal match dollars. Out of more than 250 flood bond projects, more than half are already approved. Additionally, drainage improvement projects have been fast-tracked for the 105 subdivisions that were hard-hit by Hurricane Harvey and flooded due to poor drainage infrastructure. 

  • Improving fairness by removing politics and financial influence from decision-making on flood control projects. The County Judge’s office implemented a “worst first” model to inform which flood control bond projects to prioritize. While all bond projects will be completed, the County has begun using the Social Vulnerability Index developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow the county to prioritize areas that are particularly prone to disasters and economic loss.

  • Working to ensure that science — not politics — forms the foundation of improving resiliency. From experimenting with floating wetlands to investing in technology to improve our flood warning system to make sure families know their true flood risk, the county is moving forward to lead the nation on how to protect communities from catastrophic flooding.

  • Acknowledging the reality of climate change. Harris County has begun using the latest science from “Atlas-14,” a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rain model that ensures decisions we make on flood control measures are based on more accurate estimates of future flooding rather than what has happened in the past. 

  • Passed the most stringent flood detention requirements possible so that new development doesn’t flood people downstream. Additionally, the County has streamlined the enforcement of floodplain regulations by allowing the County Attorney’s office to pursue violators of floodplain regulations without Court approval.

  • Led successful response to Tropical Storm Imelda. The County stood up Local Recovery Centers 25 days before Federal disaster assistance centers arrived to provide key resources for survivors. Judge Hidalgo also led the charge to secure Federal recovery dollars from FEMA. To date, FEMA has provided over $8 million for Imelda survivors. Additionally, Judge Hidalgo secured access to low-interest federal disaster loans for the survivors of the Kingwood floods in May by working in partnership with Fort Bend County, the State of Texas, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

  • Launched the Imelda Assistance Fund in partnership with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. To date, the fund has raised over $500,000 in donations and commitments to provide additional resources for survivors.

  • Required all cities and municipalities in Harris County to meet more stringent floodplain development standards. The policy change requires all 34 cities to adopt stricter rules as a condition of receiving $2.5 billion in flood bond funding.

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