The Harris County Flood Control District has many ongoing projects throughout Harris County. Partnerships with federal and state agencies, local communities, and private interests play a vital role in many of those projects. These partnerships are important for the District in setting priorities, determining community preferences, making taxpayer dollars go further and finding solutions that are the best fit for both a given project and community and natural values.
Our Entire County Benefits from Partnerships
When partnerships are formed, we get something greater than the sum of the individual parts. The District strongly believes that partnerships are vital, so as to ensure that the right projects get done in the right way, and with proper regard for our community's values.
Three of the most important types of partnerships for the District are: (1) federal partnerships, (2) multi-use partnerships and (3) local partnerships
The first type of partnership the District participates in is federal partnership. The District was originally established as a special purpose district that was to serve as the local sponsor for the Harris County region for flood damage reduction projects developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps). That is still one of our primary roles today. The Corps remains one of our strongest federal partners. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also a vital Federal partner in its development of floodplain information, and its pre- and post-disaster funding for flood damage mitigation.
Currently, the District has active Corps-partnership projects along six major bayou/channel systems (Brays, Clear Creek, Greens, Hunting, Sims & White Oak) and is in the process of proposing Corps-partnership projects along two additional bayou systems (Halls & lower Buffalo).
Project Brays (Corps Partnership), Arthur Storey Park Sunset Storm, Brays Bayou.
The District's ongoing partnership with FEMA has led to the Tropical Storm Allison Recovery Project (TSARP), which will result in new FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps for all of Harris County. These maps are being produced using the best science and technology available and will give us the best approximation yet of where 1% (100-year) floodplain boundaries lie.
One of the key features of the new study effort involves developing new land surface elevations using cutting edge laser-based technology.
Another FEMA-partnership project relates to buyout of homes that were built hopelessly deep in the floodplain. These homes were built prior to our current understanding of flooding potential and prior to strict flood plain building regulations. The most active and extensive program is the Tropical Storm Allison Home Buyout Program, in which homes that meet State and Federal requirements (were substantially damaged during Allison or have experienced multiple flood insurance claims) are being purchased on a voluntary basis, providing the homeowner with an opportunity for a new start (on higher ground) and the community with additional open space in flood-prone areas.
Our partnership with FEMA is critical to our Voluntary Home Buyout Program.
Stronger, Better-prepared Community
Over time, federal partnerships have brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the Harris County area for planning, engineering and implementing flood damage reduction projects. Given the history of Harris County and its natural flood potential, these federal partnerships will continue to directly result in a community with a better level of protection from flood damages.
A second kind of partnership the District participates in is "multi-use." The District has many kinds of drainage infrastructure facilities, ranging from stormwater detention basins, channels, and individual lots to a wetlands mitigation bank. With the exception of the Greens Bayou Wetlands Mitigation Bank, most of these facilities are not utilized for their primary flood management purposes until especially heavy rainfall occurs. When the weather is dry, the land associated with these facilities can be available for alternate uses, thus maximizing their value to the community.
Leveraging Partnerships for Community and Natural Values
The District can only spend its monies on very specific purposes having to do with implementing flood damage reduction projects and maintaining the primary drainage infrastructure in the county. However, the District promotes multi-use partnerships, and these partnerships are emerging throughout the County. Harris County precincts, local cities, management and improvement districts, the development community, and even individuals are partnering to use District-owned land for recreation, trails and open space to make their community more inviting. The District has interlocal agreements with many entities allowing such usages and encourages multi-use whenever possible as a smart use of land resources and tax dollars, which promotes community values and an enhanced quality of life.
The District's mission is to "Provide flood damage reduction projects that work with appropriate regard for community and natural values." And who knows a community and their values better than a community itself? It's for that reason that the District takes very seriously proposed partnerships with local cities and community groups. Frequently, these partnerships arise from the community contacting the District to propose a project. Not all such projects can be accomplished, but all proposals will be taken seriously.