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Texas' first-ever regional flood planning process gets underway Posted on November 18, 2020

 

Transcript

Reem Zoun – Director of Flood Planning, Texas Water Development Board 

The Texas Water Development Board is charged with helping the regional flood planning groups deliver the first sets of regional flood plans, the 15 regional flood plans, by January of 2023. These regional flood plans are to come together as Texas' first-ever state flood plan, which is due to the legislature by September of 2024.

The Board designated on October 1 those initial regional flood planning group members. The regional flood planning group meetings are publicly posted; they are under the Texas Open Meetings Act. So, the first set of meetings that happened were posted both on our website and also on the website of the Secretary of the State. 

It’s a twofold effort—reducing the risk of flooding that currently exists and also working towards preventing creation of new flood risk in the future. 

Floyd Hartman – Assistant City Manager, City of Amarillo/Chair, Region 1 Flood Planning Group 

This program is going to be the future of solutions for Texans, whether it’s in Amarillo, whether it’s in Houston, whether it’s the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso—it doesn’t matter where you’re at in Texas. This is an avenue that didn’t exist a year ago to solve problems.

Reem Zoun – Director of Flood Planning, Texas Water Development Board

People in the region know their areas best.

Floyd Hartman – Assistant City Manager, City of Amarillo/Chair, Region 1 Flood Planning Group

The snow and ice problem that we have in the Panhandle is not prevalent in the Houston area. Those two things are not easily addressed by the same, or you would address them with resources that are unnecessary in Houston that are very necessary in Amarillo. 

Suzanne Scott – State Director, The Nature Conservancy/Member, Region 12 Flood Planning Group

The City of San Antonio is in what we know as Flash Flood Alley. Our biggest threat from flooding is because of the velocities of the rain that falls on the top of our watershed and then comes down from the topography change. 

Joe Hinojosa – General Manager, Santa Cruz Irrigation District #15/Member, Region 15 Flood Planning Group

Here in the lower Rio Grande Valley, things are flat. You're almost looking at a tabletop scenario, so it doesn't take much water to create or wreak havoc for us. In the Hill Country, it’s a little different. In West Texas, obviously, they have different issues to contend with. So, one size does not fit all.

Reem Zoun – Director of Flood Planning, Texas Water Development Board

One thing that’s really important for flood planning is, as we all know, water is not going to stop at our jurisdictional boundaries. That's why the flood planning group does not look like water planning groups. They're not jurisdictional boundary-based, they're not county-based; they are river basin based, they're watershed-based. This is where the water goes.

Russ Poppe – Executive Director, Harris County Flood Control District/Chair, Region 6 Flood Planning Group

Water doesn’t understand a political boundary, or even a municipal city boundary. But they understand watershed boundaries. And so, for example, we’ve got 22 watersheds in Harris County. They all are different. They all respond differently when we get rainfall. And so, they all require a custom-fit approach to how we solve flooding within those 22 watersheds. 

Reem Zoun – Director of Flood Planning, Texas Water Development Board

When we do comprehensive statewide flood planning process, we are encouraging collaboration between those upstream communities and downstream communities. What the upstream communities does impact the downstream communities, and sometimes actually vice versa. So, these will allow that collaboration; this will allow that watershed-based planning, people talking to each other, making sure that we are not impacting our neighbors. There is still going to be flood risk, but if we prepare well, we hope that we will have less people in harm's way; we hope that we’ll be planned and prepared in the future.

Soundbites

Unique flooding issues in the Panhandle

Floyd Hartman – Assistant City Manager, City of Amarillo/Chair, Region 1 Flood Planning Group

"Easily, Texas is such a diverse state that there is no way to create a one-size-fits-all. The example that I gave earlier, the snow and ice problem that we have in the Panhandle is not prevalent in the Houston area. Those two things are not easily addressed by the same, or you would address them with resources that are unnecessary in Houston that are very necessary in Amarillo, and vice versa. The hurricanes that they have would not, do not occur here. We have the isolated, a line of thunderstorms is different than a hurricane event. So, it has to be tailored to the region. But then you get within the region, and each community has needs because those communities develop plans, developed what they have over time with strategies that may or may not have been the same. So you will see surface flows versus underground pipeline flows in different communities. So, just the history of each community within a region is going to create different approaches and different needs."

The San Antonio River Authority and flood planning

Suzanne Scott – State Director, The Nature Conservancy/Member, Region 12 Flood Planning Group

"I'm honored to be part of this regional flood planning process. The San Antonio River Authority was involved directly with the legislature and the Water Development Board, as these plans were being put together to how to formulate these flood planning groups. So we were very excited to see when the state went forward with looking at regional flood planning because we've been doing it really locally for quite some time."

Flooding events in the Rio Grande Valley

Joe Hinojosa – General Manager, Santa Cruz Irrigation District #15/Member, Region 15 Flood Planning Group

"We've had some major flooding events that weren't even associated with named hurricanes. Back in 2016, obviously, we had a lot of rain events and a lot of flooding throughout the Valley. 2018, also a non-hurricane or non-named event that brought a lot of water and flooding to this area. Then in '20, we had Hanna. Back in 2010, we had another major event that, with a lot of water, that came down in Northern Mexico, but they diverted or shunted that water into the Rio Grande and they had to deal with that. So our northern floodway got flooded out and created some problems for us. So oftentimes it's not that major named events that create problems but these episodic events that come at you out of the blue sometimes, and then they can take you for a ride and really demand a lot of your resources. And if you're not prepared, obviously, that's a problem."

Addressing flood risk in Harris County

Russ Poppe – Executive Director, Harris County Flood Control District/Chair, Region 6 Flood Planning Group

"Harvey really was the game-changer for us because it hit all parts of town. It hit all of Harris County and beyond. And so what it really did is it really galvanized, I think, the community around "let's get serious about addressing flood risks. Let's figure out what it's going to take from a resource perspective, i.e., funding primarily, to come up with these plans to start chipping away and addressing our flood risks and making our communities more resilient." In addition to that, you know, we've got the urban flooding phenomenon. Because we flood, obviously, when our bayous get overtaxed and they fill up and they can't take on any more water, but there's also older parts of town because Houston, Harris County has been around for awhile. You know, well over a hundred years. And all that infrastructure to support the development wasn't built with what we know today."

This article is posted in Flood .