Gulf of Mexico
Rescue boats work along Tidwell at the East Sam Houston Tollway helping to evacuate people on August 28, 2017. Much of the area was flooded from rains after Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff photographer

Remember Harvey? Houston remains unprepared for the next big flood. [Editorial]

There’s something uniquely Houston about the fact that one of the most flamboyant celebrations the city ever held was in commemoration of a bayou infrastructure project.

In 1914, upon completion of the Houston Ship Channel, city leaders organized a massive carnival on the scale of Mardis Gras, which involved hundreds of revelers riding decorated floats down Buffalo Bayou, a football game between Texas A&M and Rice (final score: A&M, 32; Rice 7) and a cannon to be fired via telegraph by President Woodrow Wilson himself. The Deep Water Jubilee, as it was known, may seem like an over-the-top way to mark a glorified dredging project — but it was an appropriate response to Houston’s single most important piece of 20th century infrastructure.

Don’t expect a similar celebration for post-Hurricane Harvey infrastructure plans. We’re nowhere near completing the projects that Houston needs. Keep that in mind as the Texas Legislature prepares to pass a trio of Harvey recovery bills targeting the next generation of bayou work, emergency response plans and flood management.

That’s not to say Senate Bills 6, 7 and 8 — and the Senate Bill 500 that funds the whole thing — are a bad package. Texas should be impressed, and relieved, that the three key bills sped through the Senate. Senate Bill 6 will ensure that localities plan for the next big storm, requiring training and planning for the inevitable cleanup and recovery. Senate Bill 7 creates mechanisms to tap $1.6 billion in state dollars to help finance flood projects and speed local governments’ ability to tap federal dollars. That’s less than the $3 billion plan advocates say we need, but it’s a good start. Senate Bill 8 creates a statewide flood plan to coordinate related projects across Texas. Water doesn’t recognize political boundaries. Neither should our floodwater infrastructure.

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