As the massive improvements to Brays Bayou and the Addicks and Barker dams remain painfully behind schedule, flood-prone neighborhoods continue to get nailed over and over again.
For the second time in under a year, some Meyerland homes took in water on Monday. (At the time of writing, city officials said that some areas of Houston had received between ten and 15 inches of rain.) Though it wasn’t as dramatic as last year’s Memorial Day floods, there’s not much consolation for homeowners who will need to fork over more money and time to repair their homes (again).
Glen Rosenbaum, a Vinson & Elkins attorney who lives along South Braeswood Boulevard, located just south of Brays Bayou, says that about seven inches of floodwater accumulated in his home on Monday, but then later subsided. “It’s not nearly the extent of the damage [from the Memorial Day floods], but the repair costs might be just as high because [of] the anticipated ripping out of the sheetrock,” says Rosenbaum.
During an afternoon press conference at the Houston Emergency Center on North Shepherd Drive, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that Brays Bayou had overtaxed its banks at Rice Avenue. As we've previously reported, homes in low-lying Meyerland are subjected to flooding in not only a 500-, 100- and 50-year storm event, but also in just a ten-year rain.
“I regret anyone who's having to go through the flooding of their homes again. For some individuals, they've just finished the repairs and moved back into their homes, and then less than a year later, here we go again,” Turner said during the news conference. “I know it’s very difficult. But I will say that there were areas that flooded this time that haven't flooded in years. And this is happening not just in our region but throughout the state. This is just one of those things that no one can control.”
That’s not the case. Instead of expediting big-picture flood improvement projects, the United States Army Corps of Engineers has blown multiple deadlines and allowed Houston’s flooding problems to continue.
Working in tandem with the Harris County Flood Control District, Project Brays, which will widen and improve the 21-mile channel, is eight years behind schedule.
Additionally, the Corps, which slapped the Addicks and Barker watersheds in far west Houston with an “extremely high risk of catastrophic failure” tag in 2009, was supposed to break ground on an improvement project in October 2014, but didn’t get started until last summer. Richard Long, a natural resources manager at the Corps’ Galveston office who’s heading the Addicks and Barker construction, ignored the Press’s interview request last month.
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As the delayed projects continue a slow and painful stagger to the finish line, the City of Houston, which may face a lawsuit from property owners whose homes are subjected to flooding in a two-year storm, has been left to capture federal and state dollars for flood recovery.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Houston more than $66 million in order to help flood-nailed residents whose homes were ruined during the Memorial Day and October 2015 storms.
“We are still waiting for HUD to publish the spending guidelines for the recent $66.56 million allocation. As soon as we have those details, we will develop the plan,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner’s spokeswoman, Janice Evans. “The city has also received a $14.8 million grant from the state, which we are using to elevate previously flooded homes. Eligible homeowners have already been selected. We will continue to explore every possible funding source to help address past flooding and alleviate future problems.”
Here’s the thing: Add the $66.56 million to the $14.8 million grant ($81.36 million) and that pays for the low-end estimate of $75 million for the improvements to the Addicks and Barker dams and a decent chunk of the $480 million that’s been budgeted to improve the entire 21-mile stretch of Brays Bayou.