City Continues to Shirk Responsibility for Dredging in Kingwood
That Will Change When I Am Mayor
In case you missed it, there is a story in the Houston Chronicle that reports the current status of the quarrel between the City of Houston and the Federal government over who should pay for dredging the sandbar at the mouth of the west fork of the San Jacinto River, which has greatly contributed to the chronic flooding in Kingwood.* The Federal government has repeatedly criticized the City for not routinely dredging the mouth of the river prior to Harvey. You can read the story [here] , but the bottom line is that there is no definitive plan to remove the bar, which means that Kingwood will once again flood in the next large storm.**
FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers have been conducting dredging operations in the area for months. But they have refused to fully dredge the mouth bar because Lake Houston is the City's reservoir and maintaining it is the City's responsibility. The contractor for the Corps/FEMA has been waiting for months for the City to get its act together so it could continue the dredging and remove the mouth bar. But last week the contractor gave up and has begun removing its equipment. Remobilizing the equipment would cost millions.

The City's failure to seize the opportunity to remove the mouth bar while the equipment was still on the river is a colossal dereliction of the City’s duty to protect its Kingwood citizens from the next flood. Kingwood residents pay over $100 million in taxes and fees to the City each year. Yet, the City has never spent one dime dredging the mouth to Lake Houston.

Fortunately, State Rep. Dan Huberty and State Senator Brandon Creighton were able to get $30 million appropriated for Harris County to purchase dredging equipment for the Lake Houston area. But it will fall to the City to fund the ongoing operational costs. So far, the Turner administration has been mum on whether it will provide the ongoing funding to operate the dredge, instead making illusory promises about getting federal funding to do so.

Upon assuming the mayor's office I will:

  • Immediately allocate up to $10 million dollars annually from the Storm Water Fund for ongoing dredging to assure the County operational funding will be available;

  • Include in every annual budget I submit to Council while I am mayor up to $10 million for maintenance dredging; and

  • Immediately authorize hydraulic modeling to determine where dredging will yield the maximum, short-term flood relief.

It is frankly absurd that these actions have not already been taken. The City should have been doing routine maintenance dredging not just for flood control, but also to protect the fresh water supply for 3 million people. Its failure to do so is gross negligence.

But Kingwood is not alone. There are neighborhoods throughout Houston, like Meyerland, Pleasantville, Spring Branch, Kashmere Gardens, and many others which suffer from chronic flooding that can be prevented. Protecting our fellow Houstonians from flooding is not an engineering problem nor one of funding shortages. It is a question of resolve, of prioritization and, most importantly, leadership. It is question of devoting every penny of the drainage fees to drainage!
On Tuesday, Houstonians will select a mayor for the next four years. We know what the incumbent will do because we have seen what he has done over the last four years -- a lot of announcements, expression of sympathy, and "we're fixing to" and double talk -- but precious little action.

If we do not change the paradigm on the City’s approach to flood control, Houstonians will continue to flood and increasingly Houston will be shunned by those considering it for relocation of their homes or businesses.

If you are prepared for something different, for something better, I am prepared to do that job for you.

Less than 10% of our fellow Houstonians have voted in the current election so far. There is still time to make a difference, to have a better City Hall that works and that we can be proud of. But to make that a reality you must go vote and get everyone who shares that desire to do so as well.

The polls open at 7 AM on Tuesday.

* Bob Rehak, Tim Garfield and R.D. Kissling have done a great job in documenting the history of the mouth bar and its role in Kingwood flooding. For additional background see Rehak post & Garfield PowerPoint and Kissling Open Letter to City .

** In a recent town hall, the City's flood czar, Steve Costello, made some vague references to a future dredging program and showed a map of where dredging might to take place. However, no funding has been committed, no hydraulic modeling has been done and there is not time table for dredging operations to begin.