In Wake of Harvey, Texas House of Representatives Issues Recommendations on State Flood Protection Planning

Jay Scanlon

In response to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, as well as six other federally-declared flood emergencies in the state since 2015, the Texas House Committee on Natural Resources was commissioned to evaluate the roles of public entities in flood control and to incorporate recommendations from the Texas Water Development Board’s State Flood Assessment. The State Flood Assessment identified three pillars of flood management: mapping, planning and mitigation. The assessment also touched on the allocation of state resources directed for these activities.

In December 2018, the committee issued an interim report of its findings and recommendations, based on the State Flood Assessment. Notably, the committee concluded there is no comprehensive flood planning currently ongoing in the state.Local and regional participation in hazard mitigation planning vary, but overall, local programs are not sufficiently scoped to provide collaborative, watershed-based strategic flood planning.

It was also noted in the report that estimated flood mitigation costs over a 10-year period for the state will range from $31.5-$36 billion, excluding disaster recovery costs and other large-scale projects. It is estimated that the statewide funding deficit for flood mitigation efforts is $18-$26.6 billion.

The committee further evaluated the state’s role in providing resources for flood infrastructure needs. Below are some of the primary recommendations from the report:

  • Invest in coordinated, watershed-based flood planning to meet state flood risk management policies and goals.
  • Provide more grant funding for planning and study needs, such as the development of floodplain maps, models, gages and other useful tools.
  • Provide state grant and highly-subsidized loan funding for the implementation of flood mitigation measures, including to meet local match requirements for federal dollars.
  • Set aside Rainy-Day funds and create a new subchapter for grants and loans to be administered by the Texas Water Development Board.
  • Encourage collaboration between flood control managers and water supply managers to capitalize on opportunities to capture stormwater and flood flows for water supply.
  • Provide express legislative authorization for local taxing jurisdictions to contract with river authorities to construct and maintain regional flood mitigation projects and use local tax dollars to repay loans or other indebtedness incurred by a river authority, allowing local taxing jurisdictions the ability to combine efforts and financial resources to take advantage of loan programs for large-scale projects.

Read more from the full report here.

The Texas State Legislature has begun drafting bills to address the flood protection planning and funding recommendations produced by this report. Freese and Nichols is closely following the development of this legislation and evaluating potential impacts to our clients. We encourage all interested parties to contact their local representative to learn more about the potential legislation and let your voice be heard. Read more about this legislation in coming blog posts.

This post will be updated.