Changing the Channel

For years, homeowners, developers, environmentalists and the federal government have wrangled over a flood-control plan for Clear Creek. Now a compromise is in view -- but the creek's future is murkier than ever.

So the flooding problems in Friendswood and Pearland will continue to spread. Residents can only hope that the next deluge is a long way off, and they're frustrated that there's no resolution on the horizon. "I believe that the majority of the people who live in this region demand a solution to our flooding problems now, and it should be achieved in the most economical and practical way possible," wrote Pearland resident Thomas Alexander in a letter to Art Storey supporting the Corps plan. "There will always be special interest groups opposed to some or possibly all proposed improvements to the watershed, but in a democracy, the majority's interest should come first."

Alexander's remarks raise an interesting question -- to what extent should public opinion matter? Judging from the tally of phone calls, letters and other reaction the flood-control district received during its review, Alexander might not like the outcome if channelization were put up for a vote. Less than a third of the comments supported the Corps project, and most folks seemed to favor an environmentally stronger solution than the flood-control district alternative.

And even if it were possible to let the majority rule, who should be allowed to cast a vote? Though some would argue it should be up to the communities adjacent to the creek, others suggest that the stakeholders should be defined more broadly.

"The river does not belong to the people who live next to it," says Terry Hershey. "It belongs to everybody.

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