Three years into Harris County’s historic $2.5 billion flood bond program, progress can feel maddeningly slow. After decades of underinvestment in flood protection, however, any completed project is a welcome improvement for nearby residents.
Through October, 16 percent of the planned projects for detention basins, channel widening and other infrastructure was complete. All 181 projects are underway in some capacity, from design to construction, and each is on schedule.
“Our project life cycle is three to five years, and in some cases that cycle has just started,” Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director Alan Black said. “But at least they’ve all been started. And on top of that, no project has been delayed due to lack of funding.”
Several completed works already are providing better flood protection for hundreds of thousands of homes, Black said.
In Kashmere, local officials heralded the progress of a $100 million Hunting Bayou channel improvement project that will remove more than 4,000 homes from the floodplain.
Whether the bond program is completed as originally planned remains an open question. Commissioners Court sold the bond to voters — who approved it overwhelmingly in 2018 — as, essentially, a buy-one-get-one-free deal. If voters agreed to pay $2.5 billion, the county predicted it could secure another $2.5 billion in federal matching dollars, bringing the total pot to around $5 billion.
So far, that plan has had mixed success.
You can say that again. I’m not going to rehash all of that – the article does so, you can keep on reading. The fact that we’re getting stuff done for flood mitigation is good. The fact that there’s so much more to do, well, that’s the reality.
[County Judge Lina] Hidalgo blamed some of the funding woes on the previous Commissioners Court, which she said was far too conservative in proposing a $2.5 billion bond. Flood control experts peg the total cost to protect Harris County against 100-year storms at more than $30 billion.
“Everybody will tell you, it should have been a much bigger number,” Hidalgo said. The leaders at the time thought it was a politically expedient number to select $2.5 billion.”
I think, if we had to do it all again and we knew that P Bush and the GLO were going to screw us on the federal funds, the Court at that time probably would have proposed a larger bond issue. I also think that the top number was going to be strictly limited by whether or not it would require a tax increase, even a small one. Maybe $30 billion is an overestimate of how much we need to spend to truly mitigate our flood risk. For sure, it’s more than $5 billion, and at some point we’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that we’re going to need to pay up for that.