Update: County Resilience Task Force. Will Same Problems Prevail?

Commissioners to Vote Tuesday

August 9, 2020

Update August 10: The Office of County Judge Lina Hidalgo today released the final proposed bylaws for the Community Resilience Task Force, now the Community Flood Resilience Task Force. Read them here.

Note: Harris County Commissioners Court will again discuss and possibly vote on the proposed bylaws for the new Community Resilience Task Force at its virtual meeting Tuesday, Aug. 11

Recently we told you about how the useless Harris County Flood Control Task Force was being transformed into a new Community Resilience Task Force.

On very short notice, the public was asked to participate in online workshops, send in comments by July 30, and speak at the July 28 Harris County Commissioners Court meeting, which turned out to be a marathon 12 hour 22 minute meeting. (You can watch the meeting here. Discussion of the resilience task force starts around 7:35:00.)

The original task force was established in 1973 in response to a successful, years-long campaign to preserve Buffalo Bayou and prevent it from being stripped, straightened, and smothered in concrete. The 1972 bylaws approved by commissioners court to establish that task force cites “conserving and wisely using the God-given resources we have for the present and future enjoyment of our citizens” as a primary reason for the task force. “God-given resources” meant nature.

Social Equity and Green Infrastructure

In the intervening years, rather than just “enjoyment,” we have come to better understand the superior role of nature in protecting us from flooding, among other important benefits. But for some reason, the proposed new bylaws, in referring to the original task force, overlook this environmental concern as the driving force behind creation of the task force. And although the commissioners in 2019 instructed the district to emphasize nature-based solutions in “public and private projects” (see below), the proposed bylaws don’t mention this either.

The very broad overall purpose of the new task force 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.”

A major component of this is “the equitable and effective expenditure of flood mitigation and other resilience funds.”

Background of the New Task Force

In August of 2019, commissioners court passed the Harris Thrives resolution, which, among other things, instructed the Harris County Flood Control District to “adopt a framework that ensures a process for the equitable expenditure of Bond Program funds.” In 2018 county voters had approved the issuance of $2.5 billion in bonds to fund flood reduction projects.

The 2019 court resolution also called for the district to “bolster community engagement related to flood control by revamping the roles and responsibilities of the Harris County Flood Control District Task Force and ensuring that a geographically diverse range of community members is represented …”

It also instructed the district to “emphasize an approach that respects, reclaims, and restores floodplains; preserves undeveloped prairies and forests that detain stormwater; and encourages the use of nature-based solutions, natural infrastructure, and cutting-edge technological methods where possible in public and private projects …”

The resolution resulted in the Harris Thrives initiative to expedite more equitable and effective projects and funding for flood control, housing, and emergency preparedness.

Read the rest of this post.

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