Hurricane Harvey

Emmett Presents Comprehensive Proposal To Improve Flood Control In Harris County

In the wake of Harvey, he is calling for revising the flood plain maps, building a third reservoir using the Rainy Day Fund and ordinance making power for the county

Ed Emmett has presented a comprehensive proposal to improve flood control in Harris County that ranges from building a third water reservoir in greater Houston to revising the flood plain maps.
Ed Emmett has presented a comprehensive proposal to improve flood control in Harris County that ranges from building a third water reservoir in greater Houston to revising the flood plain maps.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett presented Wednesday a comprehensive proposal to improve flood control in Harris County that ranges from building a third water reservoir in greater Houston to revising the flood plain maps.

In a press conference held at the Harris County Administrative Building in downtown Houston, Emmett proposed creating a Regional Flood Control Water Management Organization that would be similar to the Transportation Policy Council of the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) to allow for “multi-agency coordination.”

The judge also called for “immediately” revising FEMA‘s flood plain maps and added that development rules should focus on restricting development on the 500-year flood plain, instead of the 100-year flood plain.

Emmett’s proposal also touches on building a third water reservoir to protect the west and northwest sections of Harris County and he affirmed the State of Texas should fund it using its so-called Rainy Day Fund.

Also regarding reservoirs, the judge said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should restore the dams and retention areas of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs to “first class condition, including if necessary removing dirt and vegetation within the reservoirs.”

The judge also urged for the Corps to immediately fund the four county’s flood control projects that are ready for completion, which are Brays Bayou; White Oak Bayou; Hunting Bayou; and Clear Creek.

The County’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has a place in Emmett’s proposal as well. He wants it to develop “a state-of-the-art flood warning system and localized evacuation plans” working in collaboration with municipalities and special districts.

The judge’s proposal also makes reference to the two big lakes of the Houston region. “Lake Houston and Lake Conroe should be converted to serve as flood control facilities in addition to serving as water supplies,” Emmett noted, while adding that “Lake Houston should be restored to maximum capacity.”

Additionally, based on the judge’s proposal, the San Jacinto River Authority should create retention-detention capacity upstream of Lake Houston and the Authority’s management should have a representative from Harris County.

Emmett is also calling for federal, state and local governments to “implement a buyout and or elevation program for all homes located on the 100-year flood plain or that have flooded repeatedly.”

The program should also use private funding such as “social impact bonds,” where a private investor fronts the money and, as floods occur, it gets paid back out of the savings the government has gained from not having to buy out certain properties.

Emmett is also asking for the county to have a bigger say in its future and, given the population of unincorporated areas –which is approaching two million people— and the restrictions on incorporations and annexations, the judge thinks Harris County should be allowed some ordinance making power and receive a portion of the sales tax that is collected in unincorporated areas because to only rely on the property tax is “unfair” and “unsustainable.”

So far, Emmett hasn’t talked about his proposal with any member of the Harris County Commissioners Court or with any State officials.

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Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

General Assignment Reporter

Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz is originally from Spain. He worked for several years in his home country and gained experience in all platforms of journalism, from wire services to print, as well as broadcast news and digital reporting. In 2001, Al came to the United States to pursue a Master's degree...

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