Reps. Al Green and Gene Green: Federal proposal could abate flooding woes
Our world-class, international city is faced with a growing threat to the lives of our citizenry and our economy, a threat that is obvious to anyone who lives in the Houston area, and there is a way you can actively become a part of the solution.
Expensive, life-taking floods are becoming commonplace in Houston. Last year's Memorial Day Flood took eight lives and cost taxpayers more than $100 million. This year's Tax Day Flood took nine lives and cost approximately $2 billion. Based on past weather occurrences, it's not so far-fetched to believe that Houston will face more flooding, more damage and potentially more lives lost.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center, Harris County had 96 days with reports of flooding or flash flooding from 1996 through 2015, with at least one report of flooding for each of those years. This is an average of four to five days of flooding each year, four to five days of pain and suffering, four to five days of destruction of personal and real property, as well as four to five days of lost business productivity.
Although Houston has a recurring flood problem, there is a lifesaving solution that will cost far less than the catastrophic economic losses the area has experienced. The Harris County Flood Control District has a number of flood control projects under construction which, if expedited, could eliminate or mitigate a good deal of flooding as well as save lives and money. Congress can and should help with federal funding.
The district estimates that existing flood prevention and mitigation projects would require approximately $311 million to be completed. This is a common-sense approach, and while it would not eliminate all of the flooding problems in our area, completion of the projects would begin to address the crisis.
H.R. 5025, the 2016 Tax Day Floods Supplemental Funding Act, is bipartisan legislation that would appropriate the $311 million for flood control projects in the Houston area. The funds would be available until 2026, and returned to the U.S. Treasury if not used for these projects. This timeline will provide some degree of certainty that the additional funds will be used timely and efficiently to expedite the completion of these vital projects. Additionally, if properly implemented, H.R. 5025 could create approximately 6,000 jobs in the Houston area and save untold amounts in future flood-recovery tax dollars.
Congress has supported disaster relief in the past, and Houston should be no different. Congress appropriated an estimated $16 billion for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Gustav and Ike; $5.35 billion for Hurricane Sandy relief; and approximately $6 billion over the past 30 years for flood control projects. We have provided monetary relief for other disasters such as oil spills, wildfires, tornadoes and earthquakes. We have supported our friends around the world, including $90 million to the Philippines after the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, $150 million to Pakistan after the 2010 summer floods, $3.1 billion to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, as well as $950 million to aid countries affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami. Houston deserves no less.
H.R. 5025 has experienced a groundswell of support, with more than 80 members of Congress signing on to support this legislation, including Reps. Brian Babin, R-Woodville; Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands; Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo; John Culberson, R-Houston; Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston; Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas; Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land; Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso; Ted Poe, R-Humble; Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth; Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, and Randy Weber, R-Friendswood.
In Houston, exigent circumstances created by inclement weather may be inevitable, but with the right proactive solutions we can reduce risk while making preparedness and increased safety the norm. More important, we will save lives as well as reduce the recovery funding after a future tragic event. We have an obligation to our city and our future generations to do all that we can to minimize expensive, deadly flooding in our city.
In the midst of this process to find solutions, we are constantly asked, "What can I do to help?" You can help by reaching out to your family and friends across our country and asking them to contact their members of Congress about the importance of cosponsoring and ultimately voting to approve H.R. 5025. This is an issue that affects the welfare of our great city. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to be tireless advocates for Houston.
Al Green, a Democrat, represents Texas' 9th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Gene Green, also a Democrat, represents the state's 29th Congressional District.