The Houston-Galveston Area Council has conditionally allocated Liberty County $21.3 million for flood mitigation. The funds were part of $488 million in Community Development Block Grant mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Twelve of the 13 counties that make up the Houston-Galveston Area Council will receive their piece of the pie with the exception of Harris County. The lion’s share of the funding – $60.375 million will go to Montgomery County, followed by $56.03 million to Fort Bend County and $43.326 million to Brazoria County. Liberty County ranked fourth in the distribution of funds.
Liberty County Judge Jay Knight says the funding is the first step in developing an overall flood mitigation plan for the county.
“The first step will be to order a drainage study and then a drainage plan,” he said. The study will cost around $3 million and the plan will be another $15 million. The beauty of it is that we can approve the drainage plan in commissioners court and then make developers adhere to it.”
By adhering to the drainage plan, developers should avoid creating new drainage woes in the communities where they are building and improve the already-existing drains in those areas.
“We will charge them an impact fee and force them to fix things the right way as they go,” Knight said.
While it might be argued that the money should be spent directly on cleaning existing ditches and digging drains in communities that are troubled by flooding, Knight said the plan has to come first so that drainage improvements and developments in one area does not cause problems in another area.
In January 2020, Liberty County and seven other Southeast Texas counties formed the Southeast Texas Flood Control District. Other participating entities are Chambers, Jefferson, Newton, Orange, Tyler, Jasper and Hardin counties, Sabine River Authority, Lower Neches Valley Authority, and the Angelina and Neches River Authority.
The County also is part of the Cedar Bayou Flood Control District, which is being managed through the Harris County Flood Control District. The area west of Dayton, along the county line that borders Harris County, is included in this district.
While being included in the other drainage districts and studies should positively impact Liberty County, neither cover the entirety of Liberty County. The new flood mitigation/drainage plan funded by H-GAC will be for the entire county.
Knight expects the funds from H-GAC will be transferred to Liberty County within the next two months and work on the drainage plan can begin soon afterward.
“It will take six months for the study and another 2-3 years for us to get the plan,” Knight said.