Here's what greater Houston can do to mitigate future flooding, according to new study

Flooding in Houston is inevitable, but there are a few ways to reduce the effect it has on people's lives, according to a new study from a coalition of local researchers.

A report from the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, which is funded through several local and national organizations, was released April 5, and it provides several strategies to mitigate future flooding, according to a press release

Here are some of the options that the report discussed:

  • Conduct a study on the condition of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs to reduce uncertainty about their structural integrity. 
  • Build a new reservoir in northwest Harris County to mitigate flooding in the Cypress Creek watershed. A current plan proposes a third reservoir to mitigate new development, but this reservoir would not reduce flooding from Buffalo Bayou or solve issues with the Addicks and Barker reservoirs.
  • Create a coordinated housing plan in conjunction with flexible buy-out programs.
  • Produce better regulations overseeing new development near floodplains.
  • Carry out a public information campaign to better educate Houstonians about flood-mitigation projects.
  • Build a consolidated, regional and public source of data about flooding.

The study also said Houston could change its flood-control assessments to look closer at the impact on human lives rather than economic value. Currently, these assessments prioritize property values over human lives, per the report.

Additionally, the researchers concluded that Harris County’s 22 watersheds don't have equal food protection. Currently, five of those are in the middle of improvement projects funded by federal dollars, and a few others have projects underway or in discussion. However, many of the watersheds that have experienced flooding have little to no open projects or studies. 

“The Addicks and Barker reservoirs are (currently) able to handle the current 1 percent (100-year) design storm," the release states. "Even with the federal projects, Brays Bayou, Clear Creek, Hunting Bayou, White Oak Bayou and Greens Bayou will not be able to handle the 1 percent storm. And tributaries of those bayous, as well as several other major bayous like Cypress Creek and Vince Bayou have not been studied in detail or had projects identified.” 

Since 1990, over $2.1 billion has been allocated to maintaining or enhancing local water sheds, per the report. The most money — $496.4 million — has gone to Brays Bayou, while no funding has gone toward Jackson Bayou or the East Fork Jan Jacinto River. 

Budget Allocations For Greater Houston Watersheds

The budget per watershed includes money spent on completed projects since the early 1990s, funds spent on projects under construction and funds attached to projects that had been identified before Hurricane Harvey. The Hurricane Harvey damages are based on National Flood Insurance Program claims as of November 2017. You can read the budget here.

You can read the full report here. The consortium will produce another edition of the report to include more detailed conclusions from additional watershed analysis.

The consortium's project manager is Dallas-based Huitt-Zollars Inc. Partners in the project come from Rice University, Texas A&M University, Texas State University, University of Houston, University of Texas, Houston Advanced Research Center and Local Initiatives Support Corp.-Houston. The following organizations fund the consortium: Houston Endowment, Kinder Foundation, The Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Cullen Foundation and Harte Charitable Foundation.

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

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