Original Release Written by: North Houston Association (edited with permission)
Celebration is in order! Senate Bill 7, was signed by Governor Abbott on Thursday June 13, 2019.
Sen. Creighton was the author of the landmark bill, which allocates $2B for recovery and flood mitigation. Marlisa Briggs, of NHA, and Auggie Campbell, of WHA, represented Houston Stronger and their respective associations when testifying in support of SB 7, earlier in the session.
Harris County and City of Houston leadership joined the Houston Stronger coalition on Friday June 14 to recap and celebrate a successful cohesive effort on the state level regarding resiliency and flood control.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, City of Houston Chief Recovery Officer Steve Costello and Harris County Flood Control District’s Director of Operations Alan Black addressed the coalition, and provided an update on their respective areas of work on the subject.
In her remarks, Judge Hidalgo expressed gratitude to the coalition for their work immediately following Hurricane Harvey and continuing through the legislative session, pledging her support for recovery and resiliency. “What an incredible group you guys have built,” she said.
“We know where we need to be…but we are well on our way because of the efforts you guys have made,” said Judge Hidalgo. “I hope this is the beginning of continued funding.”
Hidalgo also told the group that she has asked the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) to look at the overall strategy of implementing the projects funded by the recent bond election, and to identify whether additional resources are needed.
She noted as a first step, they are bringing on outside support to help analyze if it’s feasible to complete the flood bond projects faster, as well as to determine if they are getting hung up on permitting timelines and right of way acquisitions. An executive summary of this analysis is expected to be available by month’s end.
Alan Black provided an HCFCD update, including the fact that since the bond election, the District has awarded $126M in construction, and there are $283M in active construction contracts. For all the facts and figures he presented, you can see his summary here. He also noted that the Tunnel Feasibility Study should be complete in about 12 weeks.
In terms of significant developments, at the June 4th Harris County Commissioner’s Court meeting, a Public Partnership Agreement was executed with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the Clear Creek project, which allows HCFCD to serve as the coordinating agency.
“HCFCD will lead the entire effort and on top of all that, this project is expected to be built using design/build procurement. This will be the first time that flood control or any other county agency has done it, so a lot will be coming down the pipe on that front,” Black said.
HCFCD is also working on a watershed communications strategy. The agency has engaged some public relations firms to help them develop a targeted communications plan based on watershed boundaries so the most relevant information can be received.
Steve Costello told the group, “Your job is not done yet.” He encouraged involvement in criteria development for the new funding program that was established by SB7. He also said, “The amount you saved the city because of SB7 could be about $220-250M over the life of the program.”
Campbell, who leads the steering committee for Houston Stronger, thanked the Judge, Costello, and all of the attendees for their commitment, saying, “We are certainly not done. Please keep working with us.”
The Houston Stronger Plan calls for $58 billion dollars. So far Houston Stronger has successfully advocated for approximately $20 billion in federal funding, $2.5 billion in Harris County Bond funding, and $2 billion in state funding to help repair and rebuild infrastructure across our region and improve resiliency.
Now that is something to celebrate!