Texas Dives Into Flood Planning
A trend we are seeing throughout land-water interface?
On this episode of the American Shoreline Podcast, Peter and Tyler sit down with Kathleen Ligon, Special Assistant to the Administrator of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), the state agency responsible for water planning and administering the state revolving funds for drinking water and clean water (i.e. sewage treatment) facilities. In the good old days, flood planning, mitigation, and flood control projects were largely handled by local governments -- cities, counties, drainage and levee districts and the like. The state did not play a leading role in either planning or funding flood projects. That all changed in the 2019 legislative session after the trauma of major flood events, including Hurricane Harvey (2017) and Hurricane Imelda (2019), which drowned the city of Houston and surrounding communities. Faced with an outcry of "never again," the Texas legislature passed Senate Bills 7 & 8 in June 2019 and voters in November 2019 passed Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that pumped $800 million into a new state Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF). The new laws add flood planning and response responsibilities to the TWPD portfolio, with billions in new spending authority. The laws also require creation of new Regional Flood Planning Groups (RFPGs) in every river basin in the state and mandate that local governments in the basin work together to produce a Regional Flood Plan due January 2023. By January 2024, the state will compile the State Flood Plan, opening the funding spigots to the regions. To get the ball rolling, initial flood project applications for FIF grants and loans will be accepted beginning in March 2020. Along with the General Land Office, another state agency, more than $2 billion in new flood response spending is on the table in Texas, much if it available right now, with significant new funds for coastal communities. Spinning up these new flood management programs will not be easy but Texas is taking a solid step forward to address flood risks, especially along the coast. Is it a model for other coastal states? Find out in this interview with Kathleen Ligon.