Frequently Asked Questions
About the 2018 Harris County Flood Control District Bond Program
Q: When will the bond election take place?
A: The bond election has been proposed for August 25, 2018 – the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s Texas landfall. Early voting would begin August 8, 2018.
Q: What is the purpose of the bond election?
A: To provide local funding for projects across Harris County that will reduce the risk of flooding, which is Harris County’s most prevalent natural disaster.
Q: Who can call this bond election?
A: As the Harris County Flood Control District’s governing authority, Harris County Commissioners Court may call for a bond election for the Flood Control District on a uniform election date without additional authority. In order to hold an election on a different date other than a uniform election date, Texas Election Code, Sec. 41.0011(b) requires the authority to ask the Governor for permission to hold an emergency election by making an emergency determination. On May 1, 2018, Commissioners Court voted unanimously to make this request of the Governor. On May 7, 2018, the Governor approved this request.
Q: How will the bond amount be determined?
A: The bond amount will be determined by Harris County Commissioners Court in consultation with the Flood Control District. It addresses Harris County’s well-established needs for flood risk reduction, and the lack of funding that has stalled construction. The Flood Control District is developing a list of projects that could be candidates for bond funding. This list of potential projects could change with additional public input.
Q: How big is the total need in Harris County for flood risk reduction projects?
A: Previous ballpark estimates of $25 billion to achieve a 1% (100-year) level of service in Harris County suggest the magnitude of the flood risk issue. Additional funding from a bond would allow the Flood Control District to get more projects started and finished faster.
Q: Is this bond election a response to the Hurricane Harvey disaster?
A: The bond election project list developed by the Flood Control District includes projects that address documented flooding issues in each watershed – issues that come into play any time there is excessive rainfall in those watersheds. The list is not aimed only at the specific flooding that occurred during Harvey, but is aimed at making our entire community more resilient in the future. The bond funds would allow the Flood Control District to leverage the federal Harvey-related disaster funding that is on its way to Harris County.
Q: Where would the bond money be spent?
A: Projects would be distributed throughout Harris County. Broad categories of projects include:
- Channel modification projects
- Regional stormwater detention basins
- Voluntary home buy-outs in areas with the greatest risk of flooding, which would include more than 1,000 residential structures across the County
- Engineering studies of specific watersheds or areas that will produce specific alternatives that could be built to reduce flooding risks in that watershed or area
- Local match for federal grant dollars for qualifying projects such as completing our four active projects in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Brays, Hunting, White Oak and Clear Creek
- Local match for other grants to repair our damaged infrastructure and construct new flood damage reduction projects
Q: How will projects in the bond proposal be selected and prioritized?
A: Harris County Commissioners Court directed Flood Control District staff to develop a list of projects that could be built with bond funding. This is not an exact list of projects that must be or will be built with bond proceeds. It represents a list of projects that would meet the goal of the bond election, which is to both assist with recovery after previous flooding events (including Harvey) and to make our county more resilient for the future.
High on the priority list are construction-ready projects with federal funding partners (such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency) that give the County “the most bang for its flood control buck.”
The list also includes locally funded projects in economically disadvantaged communities that may not meet the federal grant requirements, but where there is a substantial need for flood damage reduction work and a potential to serve the greatest number of residents. Consideration is also given to areas that have a lower level of current protection as compared to other areas in the county.
The Flood Control District list also includes potential flood risk reduction projects that will be developed with input from the County Engineer, the Harris County Community Services Department, and other governmental agencies in Harris County.
Q: How much would the bonds cost property taxpayers?
A: The full cost of the bond will be phased in over several years, and will not impact property tax bills all at once. The Flood Control District plans to use these bonds over a 10- to 15-year period, as project timelines allow. Based on what could be $2.5 billion in bonds and a likely borrowing schedule over approximately 15 years, the Harris County Budget Management Department estimates that the overall tax increase will be no more than 2-3 cents per $100 of home valuation – meaning that most homeowners will see an increase of no more than 1.4 percent in their property tax. A homeowner with an over-65 or disabled exemption and a home worth $200,000 or less would not pay any additional taxes for these bonds.
Q: Is the bond election being rushed?
A: No, Harris County’s flooding issues are well established. The Flood Control District uses data from previous floods, technology and engineering expertise to better understand Harris County’s drainage system and has been devising and implementing flood damage reduction projects since it was created in 1937, as funding allows. The Flood Control District traditionally maintains a list of priority projects as part of a five-year Capital Improvement Program that is reexamined and updated annually. This bond election will allow the Flood Control District to build more projects, and sooner.
Q: Why did Harris County Commissioners Court choose August 25, 2018?
A: During multiple open meetings, Commissioners Court members discussed the urgency to secure funding for the “local match” dollars that are required to receive Federal funding participation. Federal partnership opportunities are available now. It also allows the Flood Control District to move ahead with flood resiliency projects beyond the Harvey-related funds. August 25, 2018, also marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall on the Texas coast.
Q: When will Harris County Commissioners Court vote on the size of the bond?
A: The court could vote at a specially called meeting or on the next regularly scheduled Commissioners Court meeting on June 12, 2018.
Q: Can the bond money be used for purposes other than flood risk reduction?
A: No. Under Texas law, bond funds in this election could only be used for the purpose approved by the voters.
Q: Do bond proceeds have to be used for the specific projects recommended by the Flood Control District?
A: No. Voters will be asked to authorize bonds for flood damage reduction projects, but specific projects may be added to the list of potential projects in the future or projects on the list could be modified based upon public input.
Q: How can I find out more information about the bond election as it becomes available?
A: The County plans to launch a community engagement campaign to seek input on what to include in the bond package. The goal is to have an open, transparent process. The proposed list of projects is a starting place, and we are soliciting public comments and suggestions to make sure we capture as many project opportunities as feasible to address flood risks.
Q: How can I participate in developing the bond program?
A: Come to a Community Engagement Meeting in your watershed. Or provide your comments and suggestions through the online form for your watershed. Call the Flood Control District directly at (713) 684-4107. Visit the website following each public meeting to review the information shared and community input.
Q: How will my participation make a difference?
A: You know your area and its experience with bayou and channel flooding. Your comments and suggestions can add to a more comprehensive understanding of flooding issues in Harris County.
Q: Does the list of proposed bond projects include the “Third Reservoir?”
A: This project would be initiated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in partnership with the Flood Control District. In connection with questions about the "Third Reservoir," please note:
- A third reservoir on the west side of Harris County has been discussed that could be added into the existing Addicks and Barker reservoir system, which is owned, operated and maintained by the Corps.
- Studies or evaluations that would be needed to confirm whether the third reservoir concept could work are eligible for authorization and funding under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. The Flood Control District is prepared to assist the Corps in these efforts once they are authorized and funded by the Corps.
- A comprehensive study for developing a third reservoir has not been completed. This study would need to be led by the Corps and would need to look at other flood risk reduction options such as increasing storage within the existing reservoirs, or acquisition of the reservoir pool fringe areas.
- Additional reservoirs in various locations have also been discussed in neighboring counties and municipalities, such as on Cypress Creek in Waller County or along tributaries to the San Jacinto River in Montgomery County.
Q: Why not use federal CDBG-DR funds for local matching funds?
A: Federal program requirements vary and not all federal funds can be used to satisfy local match requirements. Most importantly, using federal funds as “local match” dollars does not fully leverage federal and total funds available. Some counties do not have resources to raise a local match, so for them using the CDBG-DR funds might be their only option, even though it does not maximize funding. Additionally, CDBG-DR funds are not available at this time since work plans are still under review.