Land Grab: Flood Control Awarded for Conserving Greenspace

It’s taken about seventy years, but the Harris County Flood Control District has managed to buy and conserve 20,000 acres of open space. The district will be awarded for it’s work during a ceremony this weekend in Washington D.C., Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports.

The award is given by the Trust For Public Land and National Association of Counties. The Harris County Flood Control District won first place in the land conservation category, competing against 11 other large US counties. The flood control district’s Heather Saucier says flood prevention comes first, then conservation.

“Our biggest pay-off is during times of flooding when we can go back and calculate how many homes did not flood because of projects that we have built. That is our biggest payoff. This is the next best thing because in addition to reducing people’s flooding risks here in Houston and Harris County, we’ve been able to acquire all of this land that also benefits the public in terms of recreational amenities and aesthetics and just having the open space to enjoy.”

About 6,400 acres of the land acquired by the flood control district is used as parkland and for flood
easements. Other land is used for hike and bike trails throughout Harris County. Saucier says the
county is always looking for land to buy to help create open space.

“As the city and the county continue to develop, what we have to do is always stay a few steps ahead. So where we see subdivisions being created and people moving, we need to keep a look-out for land that we can buy for detention and so we’re always trying to stay a few steps ahead of the developers in order to buy detention so that when subdivisions and neighborhoods are created, they’ll have good drainage and won’t have to worry so much about flooding.”   

Legacy Land Trust is a Houston-based non-profit dedicated to preserving land. It has partnered with the Flood Control District on several land conservation projects. This is Legacy Land Trust executive director Jennifer Lorenz.

“I think in general Harris County Flood Control is trying to move forward with being a greener organization. I know Mike Talbot, the head of Flood Control, has said it’s a big ship to move around but I do think that they’re moving around and they’re becoming a greener organization and an agency that works with green organizations.”    

The Harris County Flood Control District will receive its first place award on Saturday.