With spring just around the corner, I wanted to take a moment to remind you of the latest actions we have taken to aid in disaster recovery. Since Hurricane Harvey rained down on our community, Congress has acted to provide $122.9 billion in total funds for disaster mitigation and flood control efforts. The bipartisan Houston delegation has been instrumental in securing these federal funds. These funding bills allocated money to FEMA and the SBA, help build a third or fourth reservoir, begin studies and construction for improvements to Addicks and Barker reservoirs, and immediate funding to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development fund.
The state of Texas now determines where this money is spent. It is up to our state and local government officials to act quickly to ensure that these funds are used to help our community recover and prevent future damage.
In the days immediately following the storm I was able to view the Second Congressional District from air, evaluating the drastic impact the flood waters had on our community. After continually monitoring the recovery process, I believe some of ideas that must be considered are:
1. A third and fourth reservoir must be created, further preventing flooding in the downstream areas including the Lake Houston area.
2. Expand the capacity of Addicks and Barker reservoirs, allowing the basins to hold more water backstream, helping mitigate overflow into the immediate communities.
3. Require notifications to public of water release from Lake Conroe and reservoirs. The San Jacinto River Authority controls the release of water from Lake Conroe. The sudden release of water during Hurricane Harvey was done without prior notice to the affected community, first responders, and to me. This lack of notice is unacceptable.
4. Dredge Lake Houston-Sand from mining operations has spilled into the lake, lowering the amount of water Lake Houston can hold. The sand should be removed from at the cost of the mining operations. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has already begun the process of conducting a comprehensive investigation of these facilities, already resulting in the sanctions of at least two operations. In addition, flood gates must be added to Lake Houston, making it possible to release water during a storm event.
5. Dredge the San Jacinto River, returning to the river's original flow.
In February, a small rain event caused the San Jacinto River to flow outside its boundaries once again
6. Increase the capacity of Lake Conroe, lowering the water level before significant rain events.
7. Buyout homes that have been flooded beyond repair. I will do whatever I can to support homeowners' decisions to pursue a buyout and will work with my colleagues in the county, who ultimately make the decision on which particular homes or areas to buyout (the City makes the decision for incorporated areas).
Homes in areas surrounding the Addicks and Barker reservoirs should be bought out, if the community wishes it
8. At a federal level, we must explore restructuring possibilities for FEMA, removing it from the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security. This will create greater accountability within the organization, preventing the mass failures that occurred during Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Ike.
9. Revamp the National Flood Insurance Program, for an effective and sustainable future.
Recently, the Governor has authorized $3 million of federal money to begin the engineering and permitting process to evaluate where dredging should be on the San Jacinto River. An additional $2 million has been authorized to study the San Jacinto River watershed. While this is a good first step, I will work to ensure that actual dredging occurs as soon as possible. With the last months rains, the San Jacinto river already flowed out of its boundaries. Dredging must be begun before a significant rain event occurs. This money allocated to the Texas Division of Emergency Management needs to be spent in a timely manner, in all of the affected areas, including the unincorporated areas where devastation took place.
If you need assistance with FEMA or a government agency, please reach out to my Texas office at 281-446-0242. We stand ready to help. As always, please keep in touch and let me know what issues are most important to you and your family.
GOD and TEXAS,
Member of Congress