ASCE Releases Report on Flood Risk Management Post-Harvey

Rachel Masters

On Aug. 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, as a Category Four hurricane.

The extreme flooding across Houston and other areas of southeast Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey has made it the second most costly natural disaster in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina. In response to the widespread damage and ongoing recovery efforts, the Texas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) formed a Task Committee on Hurricane Harvey Recommendations to develop recommendations to improve flood management practices throughout Texas.

The committee released the report, Addressing Flood Risk: A Path Forward for Texas After Hurricane Harvey on Aug.15, 2018. The report builds on the recommendations of the 2017 Report Card for Texas’s Infrastructure, which graded the state’s overall flood risk management infrastructure a “D.” Recommendations made in the 2017 Report Card include increased funding for flood control infrastructure, flood warning systems, flood-risk mapping, and enhancing state involvement in flood management programs.

Recommendations made by the Task Committee on improving flood risk management across all levels of government are summarized below:

1. Develop a statewide flood mitigation plan

  • Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) should develop and regularly update the plan, with input from all levels of government, citizens and the private sector
  • State legislature, in partnership with local and federal government, should provide funding to support mitigation projects identified in the statewide flood mitigation plan

2. Fund dam safety

3. Implement a statewide levee program

  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) should develop and implement a program for inventorying the condition of levees in Texas
  • State legislature, in partnership with local and federal government, should establish program to ensure safe construction, maintenance and repair of levees in Texas

4. Focus on a watershed approach

  • Communities within each Texas watershed should coordinate flood risk management regulations, programs, projects, and infrastructure plans so that upstream activities don’t adversely impact downstream property owners and localities
  • Neighboring watersheds should create regional planning groups, which can be integrated to create a statewide flood mitigation plan
  • State should establish minimum flood risk management standards

5. Educate citizens about risk

  • Entities with authority over floodplain management should collaborate to implement a public outreach program to educate the Texas population about flood risk management & preparedness, including the roles of public agencies and where to look for information during emergency conditions
  • More robust flood risk maps that identify multiple risk levels from several sources of inundation, not just riverine flooding, are needed

6. Employ alternative flood mitigation strategies

  • Continue to invest in alternative flood mitigation strategies, including green stormwater infrastructure and low impact development (LID), which are effective tools to reduce flood risk and increase resiliency when implemented on a watershed basis
  • The natural environment should be considered an asset for flood risk management purposes

Detailed recommendations are included in the report for each of these areas of improvement. The full report can be found here.

More on Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey Rainfall Effects on Texas
New City of Houston Floodplain Regulations Post-Harvey