Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Remembers Hurricane Harvey – 4 years later

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HOUSTON, TX – AUGUST 27: Cade Ritter (L) and Mari Zertuche walk through a flooded parking lot on the campus of Rice University afer it was inundated with water from Hurricane Harvey on August 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

City of Houston Video

HOUSTON, Texas (KIAH) Mayor Sylvester Turner is reaching out to city residents to update them on the lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey which slammed the Texas coast and flood waters overwhelmed the city four years ago.

Here he writes…

Four years ago, today, Hurricane Harvey landed on the shores of Texas, dumping over 52 inches of rain upon our city and region. Hurricane Harvey was a defining moment for Houston. 
We are building forward in the right way for a stronger and more resilient city that is prepared to withstand the challenges of the future. To do it right takes precision. To do it right takes partnership. To do it right takes thoughtfulness. And as we navigate the challenges that our region continues to face, from hurricanes to winter storms to health crises, we have not stood still.
Despite complicated and bureaucratic processes involving extensive reviews, procurement rules, acquisition delays, and environmental regulations, the City continues to move forward with our partners and own resources.

Are we safer today than we were four years ago? Yes.

COMPLETED PROJECTS
In four years, we have invested $780 Million in infrastructure repairs from local funding for fully completed projects: 42 Capital Improvement Projects and an additional nine that are in construction, totaling $501 Million in total investment in drainage.  124 Local Drainage Projects totaling over $21 Million, by the end of the Fiscal Year, an additional 40 projects will be completed. These are projects are less than $3 Million in costs and are usually delivered at a faster pace.   124 SWAT projects have been constructed totaling $34.7 Million; An additional 18 are in construction or in design to be completed by the end of this Fiscal Year, bringing the total number of projects to over 142.  Six large-scale TIRZ inter-agency projects have been completed, exceeding $33 Million, and three more are in construction, adding over $76 Million in investments for drainage infrastructure.  Ten properties have been acquired for detention at the cost of $70.5M and resulting in 357.6 acres of added detention.  $120M combination funding of Federal and State funds resulted in the dredging of 3 million cubic yards of sand/sediment from the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.  

HOME ELEVATION
The City is also protecting housing investments through individual home mitigation strategies utilizing the FEMA Flood Mitigation Assistance program: $66.1M to elevate over 260 homes since Harvey and many more homes are in the planning stages for future funding.  

GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
And we continue to invest in our nature-based infrastructure for a holistic and integrated drainage system. Thirty green stormwater infrastructure projects were implemented in 2020. With the launch of 3 out of the four incentives for green development, we expect this number to increase every year as we combat flooding at every scale. 

REGULATIONS
To continue to be protected, we must ensure we develop policies that prepare us for the future. Since Hurricane Harvey, these policies include: Updating Chapter 19 regulations to build higher. Adopting new rainfall data and new detention rates as a result of NOAA Atlas 14 increased precipitation estimates. Strengthening and establishing our international relationships to collaborate on water-related challenges. 

CURRENT PROJECT DEVELOPMENT
Knowing that City coffers cannot fund all the needed projects, we continue to seek and have received funding for: $57M indirect allocation for local infrastructure projects from CDBG-Mitigation grant funds. $300M from FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant funds for regional detention and flood damage reduction projects. (Inwood, Lake Houston Dam, North Canal, TIRZ 17). $50M in State grant funds for additional dredging of Lake Houston. $32M in State subsidized loans and grants for two flood-damaged reduction projects. $23M in CDBG-DR funds for infrastructure planning recovery and resilience projects.  The Recovery Office will present a 4th anniversary report to City Council in the coming week, including a comprehensive overview of recovery, hazard mitigation, and housing.

In four years, we have made investments in our infrastructure. We have strengthened partnerships. We have released Resilient Houston and the Climate Action Plan to prepare better and mitigate, focusing on equity and in our Complete Communities, to ensure that the most vulnerable are at the center.

I recognize the importance of infrastructure and the valuable role engineering plays in climate adaptation. I am in support of the ASCE and Stimson Center’s declaration for Climate Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructure. It calls for making climate resilience a priority; avoiding climate-related disasters that harm the lives of the most vulnerable, like Harvey; advancing innovation in infrastructure projects, and achieving our climate goals. 
Houston is not alone in its vulnerability to climate disasters.

As Chair of the Resilient Cities Network, Climate Mayors, and African American Mayors Association, I know that Mayors have a special responsibility to prepare our communities better and enable them to build back better when disasters strike. We need to set a much higher bar for our infrastructure.

Houston is a City of action. We are a City of doers. We move forward. We build forward. We continue to do so as we wait for federal funds to trickle down. Recognizing we still need much assistance to meet our goals,

I want to let our State, Federal, and Global partners know, Houston is ready to play its part.

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