Remind Us, Why Are We Still Building Things in the Reservoir Flood Pool?

Look at this a few more times and tell us you think it is ok to build in the flood pool.
Look at this a few more times and tell us you think it is ok to build in the flood pool. Google Earth screenshot of Memorial Drive near Beltway 8 in early September, 2017.
If Hurricane Harvey should have taught us anything, it is that building in flood prone areas is not the smartest thing to do. Sure, you could build on blocks, but it's still a massive risk that costs not just the owner of the property, but taxpayers who have to bail out those who have suffered.

It makes us wonder then, why in the name of all that's holy would anyone choose to build within the flood pool of the reservoir, the same flood pool that filled up with overflow from the reservoirs after Hurricane Harvey, devastating homes that had never before flooded? Because, it seems like some developers still are.

According to KPRC, a developer is moving forward with plans to build a senior living facility in the flood pool near Barker Cypress Road. The developer plans to build above the city's recommended elevation and only house folks on floors above the flood plain. Yeah, because putting elderly people who need help getting around in the middle of a flood zone that was only a few months ago surrounded by several feet of water sounds like a great idea.

Stories like these are cropping up at a time when Mayor Sylvester Turner is poised to ask city council for an overhaul to the building codes forcing builders to raise new construction above the 500-year flood plain. Harris County passed a similar measure in December.

But even with these changes, no one should consider Houston a developer un-friendly city. The massive sprawl that has plagued the region since the middle part of the last century is thanks mainly to our lax laws on building. Even historic preservation ordinances have no teeth and zoning has long been considered some sort of socialist plot to overthrow our way of life.

It is one of the reasons why the city has struggled to cobble together infrastructure and transportation plans and why we suffer with some of the worst traffic in the country. Without good planning and with cheap land, development runs amok and we have people doing stupid things like building in the flood plain, or worse, in the reservoir's flood pool.

Whoever decided that was OK in the first place is either foolish or negligent, perhaps both. And yet, here we are. We still bought houses in areas we shouldn't (and continue to do so). We allowed builders to wantonly pour concrete with no flood mitigation. This is our fault. For once, we need to embrace the need for better urban planning and greater restriction on unchecked development that threatens to drown us all.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke