Governor Abbott announces $4 billion flood plan

View The Original Article Here

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott announced on Friday Commissioner George P. Bush and the Texas General Land Office will lead a historic, comprehensive resiliency and disaster mitigation program, funded by more than $4 billion in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant for Mitigation (CDBG-MIT). The comprehensive program will prioritize large-scale, regional projects that increase the state’s resilience to disasters statewide, protect lives and mitigate against future hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“The state of Texas is committed to making our communities more resilient to natural disasters,” said Governor Abbott. “Today we are pushing forward with the single-largest mitigation program our state has ever seen. Commissioner Bush and I are committed to working together in partnership with HUD and the Texas Division of Emergency Management to maximize the impact of this funding.”

“Today is a historic day for our state,” said Commissioner Bush. “Texas’ top disaster preparedness and recovery leaders are focused on accomplishing broad, wide ranging projects that will benefit the most Texans. I am committed to maximizing this historic funding by prioritizing regional partnerships to protect Texans from future storms.”

In accordance with HUD requirements, the funds will be focused on reducing “long-term risk of loss of life, injury, damage to and loss of property, and suffering and hardship, by lessening the impact of future disasters.” The funds were appropriated by Congress on February 9, 2018, for mitigation projects in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey as well as 2015 and 2016 Floods. Since 2015, 183 Texas counties have received a Presidential disaster declaration. 

On August 23, 2019, HUD released mandatory rules for the use of more than $4.3 billion in funding for mitigation projects, which were appropriated by Congress on February 9, 2018. Publication of rules in the Federal Register was necessary for the GLO to begin drafting a state action plan, before sending it to HUD for approval. This process has already begun and is expected to take approximately nine months or more to complete. 

In total, HUD allocated $4,383,085,000 in CDBG-MIT funds to Texas. Altogether, 140 Texas counties are eligible for some part of this allocation of funding for 2015, 2016, and 2017 (Hurricane Harvey) disasters.

Funding allocations as directed by HUD:

  • Texas General Land Office will administer $4,297,189,000: 
  • $4,074,456,000 for Hurricane Harvey
  • $169,748,000 for 2016 Floods
  • $52,985,000 for 2015 Floods
  • HUD direct allocations: 
  • $61,884,000 to City of Houston for 2015 Floods
  • $24,012,000 to City of San Marcos for 2015 Floods

Not everyone is pleased with the announcement.

“As we saw yet again with Tropical Storm Imelda, Harris County is the epicenter for catastrophic flooding in Texas,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “That’s why we’ve taken action to lead the nation in applying fair, fast, and smart approaches to flood control. While we’re disappointed in Governor Abbott’s decision to run this program out of Austin instead of providing us local control, we’ll continue to work as a team to make sure we apply every single federal dollar available towards building a stronger, safer Harris County.”

Mayor Turner released the following statement in response to the announcement from Governor Abbot:

“The city will receive a direct allocation of $60 million of these flood mitigation funds and we are moving ahead with projects that will protect the lives and property of Houstonians. The city will continue to work closely with the General Land Office, including an effort by Houston and Harris County to receive $2 billion of the next $4 billion since, reflecting the damage done by Harvey to our local communities.
“Initial control of the $4 billion by the GLO poses no challenge to the city. The challenge is getting flood mitigation funds to Houston quickly. Installing new infrastructure to lessen flooding as soon as possible is critical. The city will work with GLO to distribute flood mitigation money in a way that will honor Houston’s priorities, with street-level infrastructure projects as part of the mix.
“The city is already planning a huge storm water detention project at the former Inwood Golf Course and 10 new spillway gates on Lake Houston. These have received initial approval from the federal government in the form of hazard mitigation grants from FEMA. Other city projects await approval.
“If there will be any delay in the distribution and use of flood mitigation aid, it will come from the federal and state government. HUD finished writing the guidelines for the flood mitigation funds just two months ago (nearly 18 months post the congressional appropriation). The Texas GLO commissioner said it would take his agency nine months to come up with its state action plan. Houston/Harris County have nothing to do with that timeline.
“To be clear, these funds will help us prevent future disasters, not add to the funding for repair of dwellings damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Flood control and housing repair are separate government projects with separate rules and deadlines.
“As for the housing repair money, Houston/Harris County doesn’t get access to these funds until they have been appropriated and distributed. Everything that local governments do in this regard must first be approved by the state. When we are forced to seek approval from the state before we can spend a dollar to repair or reconstruct a single home or issue a reimbursement check, it is disingenuous for the state to blame local governments.
“Just ask the 90-year-old widow who lives in a flood-damaged house and who applied for assistance. We had to determine if she owned any child support – she doesn’t, of course – as one of dozens of checks we had to conduct before she could be eligible for federal money.”