Recently, I spoke with residents from Meyerland, many of whom suffered flooded homes during the Memorial Day storm. One thing people need to know is that they are secure in their homes. When their homes are flooded, it’s a terrible, helpless feeling.
As mayor, I want to work collaboratively with the county and federal government to ensure Houstonians don’t have to face such disasters. Flooding is a region-wide problem and can only be mitigated by everyone working together.
There are four major areas we need to be working on right now:
– Improved flood detection—citizens need advance warnings about pending flooding.
– The Brays Bayou Project must be completed—we have to work with our Congressional delegation to get the funding for this work.
– Continue adding capacity to Willow Waterhole.
– Encourage the Corps of Engineers to widen our bayous.
We should also look at adding to the Flood Alert System created by Rice University. It takes real-time information from gauges along a waterway, combines it with NEXRAD radar rainfall estimates, adds them to the National Weather Service forecast and then puts this information into a computer model that can predict flood levels. Some gauges were installed on Brays Bayou near the Texas Medical Center, which allowed the TMC time to close its flood gates during the Memorial Day storm which prevented flooding. This is a very cost effective system that gives two to three hours notice before flooding occurs.
In addition, we must have much better execution on ReBuild Houston, streamline our bureaucracy and do better on debris removal. We must also work with developers to ensure that regional detention ponds are built upstream to hold rainwater that would otherwise fill our waterways.
The Brays Bayou Project was supposed to have been completed in 2014. But while Congress has authorized the project, the money for it has not been budgeted. Harris County has set aside its match portion of the funding for the work and is waiting for the federal government to put in its portion.
Let’s think outside the box. Since we know Congress has authorized the Brays Bayou Project and funding will eventually be made available, why don’t we ask the Texas Water Development Board to advance us the money that we are waiting for from Congress? That way, we could continue the work using Water Board and County funds.
Another big concern is collaboration. So many government agencies are involved that we end up with no coordination and no information available to citizens. If we all work independently from one another, then how do we know what impact we are having? We need to have everyone at the table to ensure we are providing the best protection for our citizens. Why not have just one number for people to call for information and assistance whether you are in the city or the county?
As mayor, I will convene a multi-disciplinary team to give me advice on flooding issues. And that team will include not just other government entities, Public Works, the Corps of Engineers and developers, it will include homeowners who have had to deal with the consequences of our actions or inactions.