While forecasts to alert the community about pending hazards and risks are critical and often lifesaving, the focus now is turning to expedite the implementation of mitigation projects that have been in the pipeline for years. When completed, the mitigation will hopefully reduce the need for such dire alerts to be issued.
One measure being explored now involves improvements to the flood-carrying capacity of the bayou by diverting the floodwater into underground tunnels. Also, improvements to the conveyance of the existing channels could also contain the flow within the banks of the bayou. However, these measure takes time to implement and require substantial financial investment and coordination.
HCFCD has been implementing a program for undeveloped watersheds, located mainly in the northwestern part of the Harris County, in an area known as the Little Cypress Creek Watershed. The program is aimed at constructing channel conveyances and other infrastructures before development occurs and acquires the necessary right-of-way needed to construct flood mitigation facilities.
After Hurricane Harvey, Harris County implemented new development regulations, and expedited the buyout of properties that experienced repetitive flood damage. Properties purchased in these areas will be used for flood mitigation.
With storm severity and frequency on the rise, it is critical to look beyond traditional approaches, elevate these measures further, add more alternatives to the flood preparation “tool box”, improve design capacity and perform rigorous analyses of the proposed system in a holistic manner before any construction begins.
There also must be close cooperation between entities to improve and increase the level of service the flood conveyance system can provide. Flood water does not follow jurisdictional boundaries; it flows from higher elevation to lower elevation, and the bayou in the region crisscrosses several boundaries before outfall into the Gulf of Mexico.
Cooperation and expedited decision-making are critical to prepare the region for the next big storm.