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Post-Harvey Window For Action On Flood Control May Be Narrow, Rice Expert Warns

Jim Blackburn of Rice University’s SSPEED Center fears that political momentum for flood mitigation projects will fade without constant pressure from the private sector


An aerial view of the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region.


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One of Houston's most vocal supporters of flood control is warning that the political momentum from Harvey could fade quickly.

With Houston and much of the Texas Gulf Coast still reeling, state and local political leaders are pressing for billions of dollars in funding for flood mitigation projects. But Harvey ended more than six weeks ago – a lifetime in politics.

"There's always a lot of momentum after an event like Harvey, and it tends to die down," said Jim Blackburn, co-director of Rice University's Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center.

Blackburn told Houston Matters he is helping to put together a coalition of private companies and community groups in favor of flood mitigation. "Our role is to keep that momentum [going] and to keep the focus on these issues all the way until the elections in 2018 if we have to," he said.

Blackburn believes the ability to respond to heavy flooding is a make-or-break issue for Houston. He fears that, if the city doesn't address the problem soon, it faces a bleak economic future.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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