Flood Funding Forum – “Show me the Money”

On August 10th we held our annual flood control forum featuring a moderated discussion with Heather Lagrone, Senior Deputy Director over Disaster Recovery Programs at the Texas General Land Office and Tina Petersen, Executive Director of the Harris County Flood Control District. Tim Buscha (IDS Engineering), Chair of the WHA Flood Control and Drainage Committee, served as moderator. Alan Steinberg, President/CEO of WHA kicked off event saying “Today we are going to talk about something a little different from our past flood control forums. Rather than focusing on specific projects, we are going to talk about funding. ‘Show me the Money!’”

Buscha started the conversation by asking Lagrone about money that was coming to the area for Harvey recovery. Through multiple appropriations from Congress, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated more than $5.676 billion in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery funds to the State of Texas for long-term disaster recovery. Lagrone discussed how funds have been used for various projects in the greater Houston-Harris County region, particularly on homeowner assistance, economic revitalization and buy outs. Then Petersen added to the conversation talking about some of the work Harris County has been doing with the money. For the most part, previously non obligated funds are being rolled over to use on construction projectsPetersen said, “Working with GLO to create this reallocation of funds is a huge success and will benefit residents of Harris County. In the weeks and months immediately following the storm, the Harris County Flood Control District completed approximately $5.4 million in post-Harvey emergency repairs, used local funds to leverage requests for more than $84 million in grants, embarked on a county-wide assessment of area bayous, creeks, channels and stormwater detention basins, and has been working on a number of projects. HCFCD’s website has more details on Harvey recovery efforts.

Buscha then asked about the connection between the federal money allocated post Harvey and the $2.5 billion in flood bonds that voters passed in 2018. Some of the bond money was matched with the federal funds to work on projects. As of 2021 all 181 bond projects have been initiated and so far 25 have been completed. The questions then turned to timelines, especially in regard to getting and spending money.

On June 6, 2023, the Harris County Commissioner’s Court unanimously approved a list of projects totaling $322 million in CDBG-DR funds and up to $502.5 million in mitigation funds as well as authorized the HCFCD to take all necessary actions to expedite the administration of the funding. HCFCD must spend the Disaster-Relief (DR) funds by August 2026 and those funds must benefit areas where 70% of the residents qualify as LMI (below the average income for the region). The Mitigation funds have more time and a 50% LMI requirement. No less than 50% must be expended by January 12, 2027, with the full balance expended by January 12, 2032. The timelines present challenges, but splitting funds between Harris County Flood Control and Harris County Department of Engineering will help the county spend the funds more quickly.

CDBG-MIT List.pdf
CDBG-DR List.pdf 

Buscha wrapped up the forum by asking what WHA can do to best support the existing efforts. Both Lagrone and Peterson expressed admiration for what members have done through organizations like Houston Stronger, and stressed the importance of raising awareness and keeping focus on the topic of flood resiliency.  

Thank you to our panelists and sponsors for supporting this event. The event was packed with about 150 people in attendance. This is the most we have ever had for our Flood Control Forum. We apologize for any delays with seating and thank those of you who experienced any issues for your patience.