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Drainage update

City Council Members Stephen Costello and Ed Gonzalez had a public meeting last week to bring folks up to date on their efforts to upgrade Houston’s drainage system.

Neighborhoods that report drainage problems to the city wait five years for funding to tackle their projects, Gonzalez said; neighborhood street reconstructions — more extensive overhauls that also address drainage — carry 12-year waits.

“And it’s not because of the inefficiencies of the city,” Costello said. “It’s because of lack of funding. We as a community should not accept that.”

Costello, a civil engineer, has called for new revenue sources for drainage projects. He estimates outstanding repair needs total $10 billion.

The plan includes:

• Placing a drainage fee on new development, similar to the water and sewer impact fee now in place.

• Moving away from a debt-financed system of selling bonds to pay for projects to a “pay-as-you-go” approach, trimming interest payments.

• Implementing a drainage fee on all city properties. A study would determine the size of the fee, which would vary based on a property’s size and type.

See here for more on that. Specifics have not yet been determined, though the basic principles seem to be in place, and seem to have support. It’ll be interesting to see what opposition, if any, pops up to the eventual ballot proposition to create a dedicated fund for drainage and flood abatement. Between that and potential propositions concerning term limits and red light cameras, this could be an especially busy election year.

One more thing to consider is that investing in this kind of infrastructure is not only good policy in terms of actually reducing flooding, it’s also generally a long-term money saver. We all understand the value of paying for maintenance and occasional upgrades on our houses and cars as a way of retaining their value and prolonging their useful life. It’s no different for things like drainage systems.

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