Report: Houston region must take fresh approach on flooding

A coalition of local researchers focusing on flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey have released a detailed report calling for the region to rethink what flood mitigation means and how to tackle these efforts.

The Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, a team of experts funded by a handful of philanthropic groups, studied the much-discussed third reservoir in northwest Harris County, best practices for home buyouts, the risks posed by local flooding unrelated to overflowing bayous and a lack of equity across the county's 22 watersheds.

"We've brought together experts on flooding, the environment, and urban planning, and, together, we are presenting our conclusions thus far," said the consortium's project manager, Christof Spieler. "We hope they are useful to decision-makers as the region figures out how to respond through funding, policies, and projects."

One of the report's key points is that the much-discussed proposed "third reservoir" in northwest Harris County was identified in a county analysis, the Cypress Creek Overflow Study, as "not designed to solve any of the problems experienced in Harvey."

The so-called "Plan 5" reservoir outlined in that study would guide the flood waters flowing out of Cypress Creek and into Addicks Reservoir through improved channels, the report states, eliminating the sheets of flood water that make it difficult to build on the 18,000 acres in the area today.

"(The study) was designed to enable more development in the Katy Prairie. A different reservoir, in the same area but with very different design goals, could be of real benefit to Cypress Creek, which has significant flooding issues," the report states.

Among its other findings, the report also highlights inequities in flood mitigation efforts. This is driven partly by federal formulas that prioritize property value over the number of affected residents when calculating the benefits of proposed flood mitigation projects or buyouts of flood-prone homes, the report says.

Even if long-delayed federal projects are fully funded on Brays Bayou, Clear Creek, Hunting Bayou, White Oak Bayou and Greens Bayou, the report states, those waterways still will be unable to contain a storm with a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year, and channels that feed those bayous, as well as some major streams with a history of flooding -- such as Cypress Creek, Armand Bayou, Vince Bayou, Luce Bayou, and sections of Greens Bayou have no identified mitigation projects pending.

The Cypress Creek watershed, for instance, suffered the third-worst damage during Harvey and contains the sixth-most residents of the county's watersheds, the report shows, but has received relative pennies for planning for capital improvement projects.

The full report can be read here.

The original story appeared in The Houston Chronicle and can be viewed here.

Note: The consortium is funded in part by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

< Go Back

© 2012-2024 Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.