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Who needs flood control?

Not Harris County, apparently.

Harris County, despite a history of costly floods, appears likely to scale back its flood control work in the coming years in the face of declining federal funding.

In a typical year, the county gets about $30 million in flood control work from the Army Corps of Engineers, Harris County Flood Control District director Mike Talbott said. This year, the county appears likely to receive no more than $3 million.


The Corps’ Galveston District, which includes Harris County, spent $56 million on flood control during the last federal fiscal year. This year, without stimulus dollars or Hurricane Ike recovery money, the district has $9 million.

Harris County Commissioners Court members, reluctant to raise taxes to cover the gap created by federal cuts, say they would rather shift spending away from other items to fund flood control. That, however, may prove difficult, given the 10-percent budget cut the county enacted earlier this year.

“The only answer we have here locally is to raise taxes, and I will not vote for a tax increase, even if it means we’re not going to be able to be as aggressive on our flood-control projects,” county Commissioner Steve Radack said. “We have spent a lot of money on flood control. We will continue to spend a lot of money on flood control.”

There is another answer, actually. Since the gap in Harris County’s funding comes from a loss of federal appropriations, you could urge Congress to take action on this important issue. The need for flood control projects isn’t going to go away just because the funding isn’t there. With negative real yields on Treasury bonds, it will never be a better time for the federal government to make these kinds of infrastructure investments, and it might put a few people back to work, too. And if your Congressperson refuses to hear any of this, you can take the next step and support someone else for the office. Not that Steve Radack will do any of this, of course. You can be sure that he’ll be prepared to blame someone else the next time there is a flood that could have been mitigated, however. That’s always cheap and easy to do.

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