The Estimated Pricetag on a Stop to Houston Flooding

THE ESTIMATED PRICETAG ON A STOP TO HOUSTON FLOODING Harris County Flood Control District channel mapAmid the latest round of area flooding last week, Dylan Baddour traces the roots of Houston’s massive publicly funded drainage projects, which have brought the total length of Harris County waterways up to 2,500 miles (many of those channels widened, lined with concrete, or dug from scratch). Baddour also talks with current county flood control district director Mike Talbott about what it would take to expand and refine the city’s outdated flood infrastructure (which is often locked into place by close surrounding development) up to modern expectations — namely, that the flow of water over land that would otherwise be totally submerged should be totally controlled. Baddour writes that Talbot “has a simple solution: allocate $26 billion, more than a fifth of the state’s 2015 budget, mostly to buy property adjacent to the waterways, bulldoze and expand the canals.” Rice University ecologist Ron Sass tells Baddour he’s surprised the city hasn’t been tearing down old houses to build new bayou channels: “We build freeways. I would think that a bayou would be as important to our infrastructure as a freeway.” [Houston Chronicle] Map of Harris County waterways: Harris County Flood Control District  

6 Comment

  • Better yet, end government-sponsored flood insurance first and end government-paid disaster-assistance for uninsured homeowners. Then, wait a few years (or months) until the next flood. The prices on the properties adjacent to bayous will be much less expensive to purchase. It’s hard to imagine that the government subsidizes this kind of construction.

  • @Matthew Wylie: Many of the properties now being flooded were not built carelessly in flood prone areas. Construction in other places has brought flooding to properties that were previously high and dry. Why should the current owners be penalized for the actions of others?

  • Matthew, floods are perfect for political photo ops and votes. Declaring an area a disaster creates a tax payer funded white horse on which career politicians can be seen appearing to save the day. They’ll never turn the tap off on that.

  • Even if the pricetag for the platinum no one ever floods version is 25B, for some reason, there are likely multiple $300 Million to 2 Billion separate projects that would individually help limit danger for “thousands” of homeowners each. Widening the biggest bayous and carving out large detention and retention ponds, replace street drains and pipes when you fix the streets etc.

  • How about this? if you don’t want your house to flood, don’t buy a house in the flood plain. The same houses in Meyerland and other neighborhoods have been flooding for four decades. Tear them down. Rebuild higher.

  • My neighbor flooded really badly last week when the Brazos rose. My house is padded up, but my family was stuck in the house for three days due to high water. Instead of buying land in town, Seems like it would be cheaper to buy land upstream of the rivers and bayous and preserve as watershed. Also add more detention areas upstream. Someone designed a pumping mechanism some years ago that increased the flow rate of local waterways. Perhaps it’s time to seriously evaluate that idea. Unfortunately, local infrastructure spending is not a high priority. Higher gas tax could pay for much of the funding needed.