By Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
It is a brand new year and there is a whole new list of things to get done at Houston City Hall. We are starting by tackling flooding. In what is truly an unparalleled move, the City of Houston is stepping in to provide the funds the Harris County Flood Control District needs to help speed up long-awaited flood relief projects along Brays, Hunting, and White Oak Bayous. It is important to note that these projects are not the City’s responsibility; the City is providing the financing to help speed up the work, but they are ultimately Harris County projects. We are stepping in to help because I believe we must do everything possible to mitigate the risk of flooding, even if it is not our sole responsibility.
Brays Bayou is the first in line for improvements because it has already received federal approval. The work on Hunting and White Oak Bayous will follow, pending Congressional approval and separate agreements with the Flood Control District. The total estimated cost of all three projects is $130 million.
The money the City will provide to the Flood Control District will come via a loan application to the Texas Water Development Board. If approved, the loan proceeds will be advanced to Harris County, which will in turn repay the City once federal reimbursement is received. The work will involve bridge replacements and channel widening along Brays Bayou from Buffalo Bayou to Fondren Road.
These projects will greatly reduce the flood threat for residents along the targeted bayous and remove hundreds of properties out of the 100-year floodplain. I want to thank the multiple governmental entities that have come to the table to make this happen. The level of cooperation is unprecedented and a sign of just how committed everyone is to solving our flooding issues. I said flood relief would be a priority for the City in 2017; however, we would not be moving forward without Harris County, the Texas Water Development Board and the federal government.
When the bayou improvements are coupled with the $10 million of quick action projects anticipated to be done by the Storm Water Action Team, or SWAT program, we announced two weeks ago, we will be making a significant dent in Houston’s flooding problem. Approximately 100 deferred maintenance projects spread throughout the city have been initially identified for inclusion in the SWAT program. The work encompasses everything from replacing sewer inlets and grates to regrading ditches and resizing culverts to minor erosion repairs and regular mowing.
I know residents in neighborhoods all over Houston have been waiting a very long time for flood relief. Thanks to everyone coming to the table and being willing to work cooperatively, we are finally beginning to make progress in this area. My hope is that residents will no longer have to rush to get furniture and carpets off the floor when heavy rain is forecast. We can’t eliminate the possibility entirely, but you have my commitment to do all we can to keep water out of homes and businesses.