Harris County

Harris County Short More Than $1.4 Billion For Flood Control Projects

Projects on the east side of the county – notably in the Greens and Halls Bayous and San Jacinto River watersheds – are the most underfunded.

Harris County funding shortfall by watershed

Harris County is short more than $1.4 billion for post-Harvey flood control projects, county commissioners heard on Tuesday.

Now the county is banking on federal funds that are in the hands of the state.

County Budget Director David Berry announced the shortfall as part of a presentation at Harris County Commissioners Court, on the Fiscal Year 2022 Capital Improvements Program.

"It's safe to say that the hope that, after Hurricane Harvey, that federal and state funds would really be focused on Harris County, where we saw the worst damage from Harvey, has not altogether turned out to be true," Berry said.

The shortfall appears most likely to affect planned projects on the east side of the county, particularly in the Greens and Halls bayous and San Jacinto River watersheds.

Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director Russ Poppe said the amount received by the county is up to the Texas General Land Office.

In January of 2020, the GLO released its State Action Plan, which did not include direct funds for the city and the county, Poppe said.

Instead, the office planned to make about $2.4 billion in Hurricane Harvey recovery money available in a competitive statewide application process.

Last October, Harris County submitted nine applications to the GLO asking for roughly $900 million in relief, Poppe said.

The GLO told Houston Public Media that it will announce the results of that competition for funds sometime this spring.

Poppe stressed that the county is not sitting idly with regards to the underfunded flood control projects. The district has engaged with the community, and begun its planning in an effort to make projects "shovel ready" for when — or if — the funds come through, he said.

"I don't want folks to be thinking that we're not progressing," Poppe said.

Commissioner Rodney Ellis, whose precinct contains some of those underfunded projects, said the county had an obligation to come up with the money somehow.

That was the bargain the county had made when voters passed a $2.5 billion flood bond package in 2018, he said.

"I do want to stress that we can pray for money from state or federal partners," Ellis said. "We can lobby to get it. But if we don't get it, it's unacceptable, and in my judgment, we will all have blood on our hands, because we will have lied."

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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