Hurricane Harvey FAQs

Hurricane Harvey FAQs


What is the Harris County Flood Control District?

The Harris County Flood Control District is a special purpose District created by the Texas legislature in 1937 after community leaders petitioned for assistance in response to devastating floods in 1929 and 1935. Since its creation, the Flood Control District has successfully partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on many projects, and through the years, the Flood Control District's partnerships and capabilities have expanded significantly.

Why was the Flood Control District Created?

The Flood Control District was originally created to serve as the local partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for implementing flood damage reduction projects in Harris County. During the time of the devastating floods of the 1920s and '30s, no single entity in Harris County had the authority to address drainage and stormwater management. This was a major contributing factor that brought about the State Legislature's actions to create the Flood Control District in 1937.

What are the responsibilities of the Flood Control District?

The Flood Control District was originally given the responsibility of overseeing rivers, streams, tributaries, and flood waters in Harris County "for domestic, municipal, flood control, irrigation and other useful purposes." Additionally, the Flood Control District was responsible for the reclamation and drainage of the overflow land of Harris County, the conservation of forests, and for keeping navigable waters "navigable" by regulating the stormwater that flowed into them. 

Through the years, the Flood Control District's roles and responsibilities have become much more complex, but our mission remains simple: Provide flood damage reduction projects that work, with appropriate regard for community and natural values. Flood damage reduction is accomplished by: 1) Devising the flood damage reduction plans; 2) Implementing the plans; and 3) Maintaining the infrastructure.

What are the physical boundaries of the Flood Control District?

The Flood Control District's jurisdictional boundaries are set to coincide with Harris County, a community of more than 4.7 million (2020 census) that includes the City of Houston. The other boundaries in which we operate – those provided by nature – are of the 23 primary watersheds that are either partially or totally within Harris County's 1,777 square miles. Each has its own independent flooding problems and presents unique challenges.

Why does flooding occur outside of the FEMA mapped floodplain?

There are several reasons why this occurs. Not all flood hazards are mapped on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Maps, nor is every bayou or creek in the county studied. Flooding can occur from ponding or overland sheet flow when intense rainfall overwhelms the local street drainage system. The mapped floodplain is only an estimate of where flooding is predicted to occur from a bayou or creek, given a set of parameters including a hypothetical rainfall occurring over a watershed for an assumed amount of time. During an actual rain event, natural conditions can result in greater amounts of rainfall or runoff, resulting in flood levels deeper and wider than shown on the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

Who has authority over drainage and flooding in Harris County?

The Flood Control District does not have sole jurisdiction over drainage and flood-related matters in Harris County. In fact, there are many other entities involved that have special interests in their particular areas of responsibility. 

The City of Houston is one of the local floodplain administrators for the community's participation in the National Flood Insurance Program. The city has its own criteria for design of its drainage systems – primarily the design of storm sewers and street drainage, but also stormwater detention storage for these systems. 

Other incorporated areas are also floodplain administrators and have their own drainage design criteria for their road systems. In unincorporated areas of Harris County, the County Engineer's office is the floodplain administrator. In all, there are 34 floodplain administrators in the county and the Flood Control District is not one of them.

Is construction permitted within the 1 percent (100-year) floodplain?

Restricted development is permitted in the 1% (100-year) floodplain. Please note that the floodplain administrators at each municipality within Harris County are responsible for enforcing floodplain management rules and regulations that govern construction in the floodplain. The Flood Control District does not oversee or enforce floodplain management rules and regulations that govern construction in the floodplain, though the Flood Control District does provide data and information to the area floodplain administrators to inform development criteria in our county.