The Intercept: Before Harvey, Houston Sought Funding to Mitigate Floods — But Congress Refused

THE RAINS WERE going to come eventually. It was only a matter of when, and how bad.

With flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey still inundating Houston — exacting a toll of 31 deaths and incalculable damage so far — the city is left asking what could have been done to prevent the extent of the catastrophe, or at least diminish its effects. One of the questions is why federal funding that should have been in place to help Houston deal with flood mitigation never arrived.

Houston and surrounding Harris County, in Texas, had many ambitious proposals for flood mitigation projects lined up, but couldn’t afford them. And, despite the efforts of one of the city’s congressional representatives, Capitol Hill declined to fund the cash-strapped local governments.

“We’ve gone at this from every angle we could,” said Rep. Al Green, a Democrat from Houston who sponsored a bill to fund various projects after the “Tax Day flood” of April 2016. “We were hoping to help mitigate flooding across the city. I don’t know if we’ll ever mitigate all of it, but we can mitigate some.”

After the Tax Day flood, which left 16 dead, Green introduced a bill to fund $311 million for the Harris County Flood Control District. That bill stalled out in the House Budget Appropriations Committee and never came up for a vote. (Committee Chair Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., did not return requests for comment.)

The federal funds provided in the bill could have jump-started flood mitigation projects in Houston that had already been approved by the Army Corps of Engineers. Those projects had languished for years, even decades, because the federal share of their budgets was never appropriated by Congress.

“What I can tell you is that if it would have allocated funds, we would have tried to use those to our best ability,” said Nicholas Laskowski, the Corps’ Galveston District project manager, who declined to comment specifically on Green’s legislation.

Source: Before Harvey, Houston Sought Funding to Mitigate Floods — But Congress Refused

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