Houston Has to Get Out of the Floodplains. Now.

Important commentary about how we should be using potential bond proceeds from the Aug. 25 election to get out of the way of flooding and let our natural drainage system — our bayous and streams — work the way they are supposed to. From Dr. John Jacob, board member of Bayou City Waterkeeper and advisory board member of Save Buffalo Bayou.

Commentary by Dr. John Jacob, the Houston Chronicle, July 24, 2018

Houston has in place a natural flood detention and conveyance system that could handle another Harvey, sitting right here in plain sight.

Our bayous, creeks and streams, and their associated floodplains, have carved out, over millennia, a very robust and capacious system. This legacy system did not fail during Harvey. We failed, over the years, because we put so many people in harm’s way.

In fact, more than 40 percent of all FEMA-designated floodplains in Harris County have been developed to one degree or another, with more than 500,000 homes and apartments in these hazardous zones. Few floodplains within Beltway 8 are undeveloped.

Where we saw boat rescues, where we saw four to six feet of water and more in homes, these were houses deep in harm’s way that should not have been there.

This legacy floodplain system was given to us free of charge. All we had to do was to protect it, to keep homes and commerce out of the low-lying valleys. Now here we are after Harvey, trying to reduce the size of the floodplains, trying to keep water out of the floodplains, because people and their homes are in the way now. Many great and beloved neighborhoods have sprung up in the floodplains. People don’t want to leave. And so they stay, hoping Harvey, Tax Day and Memorial Day floods are just an anomaly.

Read the rest of this commentary in the Houston Chronicle.

Flooding in the developed floodplains of Buffalo Bayou after release of impounded Harvey stormwater threatening to overwhelm Barker Dam. Photo on Aug. 30, 2017, by Jim Olive

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