Talking About Flooding, And Councilmember Noriega's Silver-Polishing Ordeal

Bob Schwartz, the president of the Brays Bayou Association, suggested Tuesday to the city's Committee on Flooding and Drainage that it should consider condemning and acquiring property along the bayou, using the land as a flood detention area.

"If there's a deteriorating apartment that no one's interested in, you could acquire it and tear it down," Schwartz said.

Councilman Stephen Costello, the chair of the committee, seemed to like what Schwartz was saying.

"Were you done?" Costello said after Schwartz finished speaking. "I'd be willing to give you some more time."

Not that that means much, but Costello didn't extend the same courtesy to other people, like Ed Brown, who spoke on behalf of a neighborhood in Memorial City and said that 200 homes flooded there during last April's storms.

"I'm hearing rhetoric, not fact," Brown said. He seemed to take offense to the director of the Harris County Flood Control District saying earlier in the meeting that new development was not to blame for flooding. "We've never flooded before, now we flood."

It's fairly common for the flood control district to acquire land along the bayou's for its projects, according to Heather Saucier, a spokeswoman for the district. Whether the city committee would pursue doing the same is tough to say, because Costello didn't comment on Schwartz's idea at the meeting, and he hasn't returned phone calls from Hair Balls.

Saucier said, however, that the city couldn't persuade the flood control district to acquire any land for a city project.

"We don't take our direction from outside entities," Saucier told Hair Balls. "We really do rely on our own engineers and our information for prioritizing projects."

Not all suggestions to the committee were as extreme as Schwartz's. One person said the city should simply focus more on cleaning the streets so trash doesn't get swept into drainage systems. Another man said the flood control district should send its boats down the bayous more frequently than twice a year to clear out debris.

Mike Talbot, the director of the flood control district, gave a presentation to the committee and his answer to problems that concern the district was just as simple.

"All it takes is money," he said.

Councilman James Rodriguez brought up the issue of "orphan ditches," areas that flood but don't seem to be maintained by anyone from the public works department or the flood control district.

Talbot assured that Rodriguez that no one should be saying, "We're not responsible," and he cited a six-year effort by the flood control district to identify which ditches belong to which department. The level of "maintenance," however, doesn't always sit well with the public, Talbot said.

Perhaps the most interesting (or pointless) comments from today's meeting came from Coucilwoman Melissa Noriega after Stephen Williams, the city's director of Health and Human Services, spoke to the committee about public safety concerns after stormdrains overflow or a lot of water pools in public areas.

Noriega told Williams that she could testify to the dangers of flood waters, because she had to polish all of her sister-in-law's silver that was damaged during Tropical Storm Allison.

"I could not believe all the pitting and damage that was done to her silver," Noriega said. "It sure was roughed up with whatever was in the water."

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Paul Knight
Contact: Paul Knight