Flood bond funds could double
The federal government could potentially double the funds that would go toward flood mitigation projects if voters approve a $2.5 billion bond later this month, say Harris County officials.
Gabe Baker, a flood control policy advisor for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, told the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce that the funds the county raised would be matched by the federal government.
“It’s about a three-to-one match ratio, so $1 locally will bring in about $3 federally. By the end of the federal-local match partnership in that regard, the bond program would be about $4.5 to $5 billion,” he said.
Beginning in June, the Harris County Flood Control District has hosted community meetings to obtain feedback from county residents on projects to help reduce flooding.
The proposed projects spread out among the 23 watersheds within the county include home buyouts in floodplains, repair storm damage and increasing flood water capacity in the bayous and creeks.
“The bond just basically gives us the money upfront to do things that we’ve been wanting to do for decades. We just haven’t had the funding to do it,” said Gary Bezemeck, HCFCD project coordinator with Precinct 4.
The flood bond vote will be on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, which brought record high waters, damaging homes and buildings.
If voters approve the bond, a portion of the funds would also go toward updating the flood plain maps.
Bezemeck said that maps could be completed in a year or 18 months after the Federal Emergency Management Agency analyzes and confirms the updated information.
“When we start looking at the bond, the projects that we have proposed are really trying to address a spectrum of flooding types. The flood maps are a very important one because as we can create more capacity in the bayous, we cut down on flooding. It allows for water to drain out of neighborhoods and that sort of thing,” he said.
A recent study from the University of Houston indicated high support from voters for the bond.
To help fund the bond, homeowners and businesses can expect gradual increase in property tax.
Baker said the average home within the county has a $200,000 value and property owners could expect a hike that would not exceed 1.4 percent.
“It’s a community effort. This is a really powerful start towards a big cultural shift within the county towards investing in flood infrastructure that’s needed in order to provide a protection that’s well, well overdue,” he said.
Early voting for the bond will begin on Wednesday and end on August 21. The regular bond vote date will be Saturday, August 25.