About the District
The Harris County Flood Control District (the District) is a special purpose district created by the Texas Legislature in 1937 in response to devastating floods that struck the region in 1929 and 1935. The District's jurisdictional boundaries are set to coincide with Harris County, a community of more than 3.7 million people that includes the City of Houston. The other boundaries in which we operate - those provided by nature - are of the 22 primary watersheds within Harris County's 1,756 square miles. Each has its own independent flooding problems. Each presents unique challenges.
Since its creation, the Harris County Flood Control District's role has become increasingly complex. Whereas, its original role was to serve as the local partner for major projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, many other facets of reducing flood risks in Harris County have come into play.
Accordingly, the mission of the Harris County Flood Control District is to:
Provide flood damage reduction projects that work, with appropriate regard for community and natural values.
The District accomplishes its mission by:
- Devising flood damage reduction plans;
- Implementing the plans; and
- Maintaining the infrastructure.
Our Infrastructure & Area Challenges
The District's drainage and flood control infrastructure is extensive, including more than 1,500 channels totaling about 2,500 miles in length (about the distance from Los Angeles to New York). Nature also challenges us with flat terrain, clay soils that do not absorb water very well and an average annual rainfall of 48 inches. The flooding problems in the community are severe. Flooding IS Harris County's natural disaster! Several hundred thousand homes and businesses are in the identified floodplain (not all flooding areas are mapped), and projects to reduce the risk of flooding are estimated in the billions of dollars.
Our Funding & Finances
The District's income is derived primarily from a dedicated ad valorem property tax. The rate is variable, depending on funding needs, and in is currently set at 3.3 cents per $100 valuation (the statutory limit for the District's tax rate is 30 cents per $100 valuation). Capital projects have been funded on a Pay-As-You-Go (or cash) basis for most of the last decade, but in 2001, an innovative approach to funding the District's future capital project needs was adopted by the Harris County Commissioners Court that provides funding at levels four to five times higher than any time in the recent past. This new funding approach enables an even more aggressive implementation of flood damage reduction projects across Harris County. The annual 5-year Capital Improvement Program currently calls for more than $975 million in projects, which comes from a combination of local and Federal funds.
How We Operate
The day-to-day operations of the District are carried out by a staff of about 380 people. The District relies heavily on the private sector as an extension to our staff's capabilities. We obtain virtually all engineering design work for capital projects or maintenance repairs through consulting contracts, and we assign all construction work through the public bidding process. Nearly 100% of the District's routine maintenance is performed through contracts with private companies.
The Harris County Flood Control District is a special purpose district, created by the Texas Legislature in 1937 and governed by Harris County Commissioners Court.
Our Jurisdictional Authority
The Harris County Flood Control District does "not" have sole jurisdiction over 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, for example, is one of the local floodplain administrators for the community's participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). 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 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. The Harris County Flood Control District is not one of them.
To complete the jurisdiction picture, there are four county commissioners' precincts. In all, with 34 floodplain administrators reporting to separate entities of government, there are nearly 250 elected officials involved in the administration of drainage and flooding issues in the county, including each municipality's building permit program.
Still Getting The Job Done
Given the area's terrain, climate and storm patterns, and given the considerable amount of jurisdictional interests, the Harris County Flood Control District is still meeting the challenges we face with great success.
Practically speaking, preventing all flooding in Harris County is virtually impossible, but every project helps the community cope with flooding by helping to reduce the risk and frequency of damages.