Citizens Flood Control Task to Become Community Resilience Task Force

July 22, 2020

From the mid Sixties to the early Seventies, a group of well-to-do and influential Houstonians fought to prevent Buffalo Bayou from being stripped, straightened, and covered in concrete like White Oak and Brays bayous.

In the wake of that success, in 1973 Harris County Commissioners’ Court created a Citizens Advisory Task Force to make sure that future flood protection projects incorporate environmental concerns.

In the intervening years that goal has become even more important as modern practice recognizes that nature-based methods of reducing flood risk are more effective, more beneficial, more flexible, longer lasting, and less costly. (See p. 27, also here and here and here and here, for starters.)

Yet, instead of becoming more vital, our citizens flood control task force somehow became pointless and irrelevant, and the Flood Control District continued to strip, dredge, and armor streams all over the county—even as every engineering intervention in our streams, particularly Brays and White Oak bayous, has continued to require constant maintenance and repairs. Buffalo Bayou, where the Corps of Engineers in the 1950s stripped and straightened upstream of Beltway 8 and downstream of Shepherd Bridge, also continues to require costly repairs.

A Community Resilience Task Force And An Opportunity To Comment

Now Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has proposed a Community Resilience Task Force to replace the Flood Control Advisory Task Force. The purpose is “to act as an advisory board to Commissioners Court on matters related to planning, projects, and other efforts concerning infrastructure resilience in Harris County that includes a wide range of stakeholders reflecting a diversity of experience and geographic, socioeconomic, and demographic attributes.”

From now until July 30 Hidalgo is inviting the public to comment on the proposed bylaws for the task force either by email, through a virtual focus group meeting, or by speaking at the July 28 Harris County Commissioners’ Court meeting.

Here are links to the proposed bylaws.

The first of two focus group meetings takes place Thursday, July 23 at 3 p.m. Here is how to register for that Zoom meeting as well as another that takes place July 30 at 10 a.m.

Make Up of the Task Force

The task force is to meet at least six times a year and have 17 members who “represent the geographic, racial, gender, age, and ethnic diversity of Harris County.” Five of the members are to be appointed by commissioners’ court, who in turn appoint the remaining 12 members.

Of those twelve, there must be one each from the following categories:

1.Housing/Land Use

2. Health

3. Engineering/Construction

4.Urban Design/Planning

5.Environment

6.Community Leadership

7.Social Justice

8.Other Regional Infrastructure

The draft of the bylaws also proposes, among other things, that:

Appointed members must be residents of Harris County, have a demonstrated interest in serving the community, and meet one or more of the following qualifications:

•Represent one or more larger Harris County communities impacted by flood and infrastructure disruptions and resilience efforts

•Demonstrate knowledge of or interest in equitable and sustainable infrastructure resilience or flood mitigation

•Demonstrate knowledge of or interest in the socioeconomic and demographic factors that affect the resilience of communities

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Mama screech owl near Buffalo Bayou in Houston.

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