Plans for a $2.5 billion bond issue to fund flood control and resiliency projects across Harris County are coming together, with the scheduling of a series of 23 community engagement meetings between June 5 and Aug. 1 to solicit public input.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) Executive Director Russ Poppe announced the plans this afternoon.
There will be one meeting held in each of the 23 watersheds in Harris County, explains Matt Zeve, director of operations for HCFCD.
The first public meeting is slated for June 5 for Sims Bayou, followed by Armand Bayou on June 7. The meetings will conclude on Aug. 1, which will give county officials enough time to finalize the contents of the bond package for voters on Aug. 25.
On June 12, Harris County Commissioners Court is expected to vote on placing the $2.5 billion flood bond issue on the Aug. 25 ballot—this coincides with the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall.
“The bond package will include but is not limited to over 150 projects in Harris County,” Zeve says. At these meetings, “we’ll have projects available for them to look at and comment on, but we also want to hear if we missed something. Or not even if we missed something, did we miss an aspect of a project that we’ve already identified.”
If voters approve the bond package in August, officials expect the Flood Control tax increase for most homeowners would be limited to 1.4% or less.
“The bond language won’t be so that we’re held to do exactly that list of projects, but it’ll be our focus,” Zeve says. “This will be a 15-year program to fully execute that many projects. So obviously, as we’re all well aware, things change over time, so we want to make sure that there’s flexibility to adapt to the changing times that we’re in.”
According to HCFCD, project types that will be supported under the bond program funding are voluntary home buyouts; storm repair or major maintenance projects that restore the designed function and capacity of a channel or stormwater detention basin; subdivision drainage improvement projects; local flood risk reduction projects such as channel modifications or stormwater detention basin construction; and partnership projects, which would include flood risk reduction projects using a combination of HCFCD funding, local, state and/or federal funding.
Also included under the bond language are items such as “advanced technologies for flood control.”
“We’re using those words to encompass looking at items such as large diameter deep stormwater conveyance tunnels,” Zeve explains. “Looking at other initiatives that people have brought to us, like treating the ground to enhance infiltration of stormwater, maybe over-excavating areas to get to sand layers so that water can infiltrate instead of the clay that we have at the surface here in Harris County—kind of outside the box ideas that haven’t been tried before.”