County Agency Works Hard At Minimizing Flooding Risk

The Harris County Flood Control District strives year around to devise and implement flood damage reduction plans while maintaining the infrastructure, and hurricane season is no different. Pat Hernandez has the story.

It is the mission of the Harris County Flood Control District to build projects that reduce the risk of flooding. Its responsibility lies in widening, deepening and maintaining more than 25-hundred miles of channel. Put those waterway banks back-to-back, then it’s more like 5-thousand miles of responsibility.


widening of Sims Bayou with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Heather Saucier heads media relations for the District and it’s not that she takes hurricane season lightly.

“We are at risk for flooding year round — not just during hurricane season.”

She tells us why we are prone to flooding so often:

“We are very flat. And when we get a lot of rain in a very short period of time, our water just can’t get to Galveston Bay quick enough. We also get tremendous amounts of rain here. And also, a lot of our soils are clay and so, they’re impermeable. They don’t absorb a lot of water. You put those three things together, it’s very clear to see why flooding is our natural hazard here.”

Following the aftermath of TS Allison, Harris County Commissioners set aside 125-million dollars each year for Flood Control. A lot of that money is spent on maintaining the existing infrastructure, but Saucier says the bulk of that is spent on capital projects to reduce the risk:

“Does that mean that we’re not going to flood? No that’s not what that means. However, with the projects that we have been building in the last year, we’re certainly better off.”

Of the 22-watersheds in Harris County, Saucier says they keep an eye on two in particular:

“Halls and Hunting Bayous. They are very small compared to other bayous, like Braes, or Sims or White Oak. Generally, when we’ve got a channel that is of smaller size and it receives a lot of rain, it experiences a lot of flooding.”


recently completed detention basin along Halls Bayou in Keith-Wiess Park


Residents who’ve had more than their share of being flooded, might have their homes purchased by the District with the help from FEMA:

“These are homes that essentially were built in the wrong place. And so, we purchase the homes, we help the families move to higher ground, we demolish those homes and we allow that land to return to the flood plain that it wants to be.”

Supplies and a tested evacuation route are a must for hurricane season, but Saucier recommends one item that cannot be overlooked — flood insurance:

“A lot of people may say well, I’m not in a flood plain, I don’t need flood insurance. Well, if you’re not in a flood plain, it doesn’t mean you don’t need flood insurance, it means you get cheaper flood insurance. About three hundred dollars a year on average, if you’re outside a flood plain.”

She says it’s money well spent when you consider the damage resulting in just a half-inch of water inside your house.

Pat Hernandez. KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.