Concerns about lack of flood mitigation in Montgomery County are in the news again.
- “Montgomery County commissioners respond to accusation of lack of flood mitigation efforts” The Courier, October 25, 2019
- “Montgomery County commissioners respond to concerns over lack of flood mitigation” Community Impact News, October 23, 2019
Montgomery County residents may ask, “Who oversees flood control for Montgomery County?”
Unfortunately the answer is that there’s not a single entity that is in charge of flood planning and flood management for all of Montgomery County. Just as significant—there’s no dedicated funding to pay for regional projects that benefit the county as a whole.
Throughout its existence, in addition to providing water supply and other similar services, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) has engaged in planning efforts related to flooding in its home base of Montgomery County, however county-wide flood mitigation plans have not been realized for a number of reasons including a lack of a dedicated funding source and a broad consensus to implement county-wide flood mitigation plans.
Creation of the San Jacinto River Authority
The SJRA was created by the Texas Legislature in 1937 to develop, conserve, and protect the water resources of the San Jacinto River basin—all without funding from the State of Texas. Covering all or part of seven counties, the organization’s jurisdiction includes the entire San Jacinto River watershed, excluding Harris County. SJRA is one of 10 major river authorities in the State of Texas, and like other river authorities, its primary purpose is to implement long-term, regional projects related to water supply and wastewater treatment across various counties in Texas. As defined by its enabling legislation, SJRA also has the authority to provide flood control and numerous other activities within its jurisdictional boundaries. SJRA actively seeks grant funding for projects, participates in regional watershed planning across its seven county area, and recently implemented a Flood Management Division to coordinate with various political subdivisions and partners on studies and funded projects.
Creation of the Harris County Flood Control District
The same year SJRA was created (1937), the Texas Legislature also established a flood control district in Harris County. The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) was created with the Harris County Commissioners Court as the District’s governing body. Funded by a dedicated ad valorem property tax collected by Harris County, the HCFCD is the single entity dedicated to providing flood damage reduction plans and maintaining flood reduction infrastructure in Harris County.
The Current State of Affairs
Montgomery County does not have a single entity like HCFCD to implement flood damage reduction plans, construct and maintain flood reduction infrastructure, and fund these efforts with a dedicated source. Instead, Montgomery County Commissioners Court, Montgomery County Engineering Department, Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Montgomery County Flood Plain Management, SJRA, various working groups, and local water districts all contribute their specific solutions to combat flooding which results in the current shotgun approach to flood mitigation.
A Preview of the Past
Dedicated funding and a dedicated governing body, such as a flood control district, could make mitigation projects easier to devise, implement, and monitor. It could also improve oversight and provide a coordinated effort to improve the entire county, not just those areas that may have more active and politically engaged residents. Between 1983 and 1985, SJRA participated in efforts to establish a flood control district to serve its home base of Montgomery County. These efforts ultimately failed when local voters did not approve the establishment of the district or its recommended funding mechanism.
Figure 1 – San Jacinto River Watershed with SJRA Boundary
So, who oversees flood control for Montgomery County? Over the next several days on the SJRA Blog we will explore the history of the failed Montgomery County Flood Control District, historical efforts of SJRA, and current day SJRA plans and projects. Check back for additional posts.