Research-Based Position about flooding in Houston and or its surrounding areas

20 17; R EM EM BER I NG H AR VEY ; T H E D AM S – H o usto n Chr o nicle (T X) – D e ce mbe r 31, 20 17 – p age A0 27
De ce mbe r 31, 2017 | Houston Chronicle (T X) | Pa g e A027

AS we come to the end of one of the most difficult years in our city’s history, it’s tempting to
believe our g reatest challeng es in the wake of H urricane H arvey lie behind us. But anyone still living
in temporary housing or rebuilding a flood-damag ed home knows how much hardship lies ahead.
T he simple truth is that some of the most important work has barely beg un.

Just as countless homeowners awoke in shock to discover flood waters rising in their bedrooms,
our entire reg ion has awakened to a host of flood-related hazards that continue to threaten our
communities and our lives. As we rebuild our homes and our neig hborhoods, it’s become more
clear than ever that we must prepare for the storms that inevitably lie in our future.

As the calendar turns to a new year, we cannot allow the passag e of time to diminish our
commitment to prepare for the future. T he lessons we learned during this disaster must not be
forg otten.

In the days following H arvey’s landfall, we wrote that this was H ouston’s “seawall moment,”
comparable to the time in the last century when our T exas coast neig hbors responded to the
g reatest natural disaster in American history — the Galveston H urricane of 1900 — with a project
to literally lift the city out of harm’s way and build a barrier protecting future g enerations from a
similar catastrophe. We believe maintaining a sense of urg ency is crucial. So as 2018 dawns, we
think it appropriate to review some of the key points from editorials published on these pag es in
the H arvey’s aftermath.

After all, the ominous reality is that another disastrous storm could strike in any year. And the 2018
Atlantic hurricane season is only five months away.

Before H urricane H arvey hit, all too many people living in the H ouston area were blissfully unaware
of the critical importance of the Barker and Addicks dams. Even people living in the flood pools
around the dams didn’t know their neig hborhoods were specifically targ eted for inundation during
major storms. T he damag e done in those subdivisions was stunning , but a catastrophic failure of
the dams could have been apocalyptic.

On the west side, two earthen berms have held back a wall of water that, if it breaks free, would
create a delug e unseen since H urricane Katrina submerg ed New Orleans.

A failure at Addicks alone would leave nearly 7,000 people dead and inflict $22.7billion in property
damag e, H ouston Chronicle reporter Lauren Caruba wrote last year.

So if you think the situation is bad enoug h, that is how thing s g ets worse .

We’d like to tell you that these dams, located near the intersection of Interstate 10 and T exas 6,

are up-to-date marvels of technolog y and that everything was under control. But we’d be lying .

T he Corps branded both dams with the ag ency’s worst safety rating and labeled them as being at
“extremely hig h risk of catastrophic failure” in 2009. Only four other dams in the nation earned that
rock-bottom rating , and none are near a city as big as H ouston.

Aug . 29, 2017

A breach would send forth a half-mile-wide wall of water powerful enoug h to knock homes off their
foundations, Precinct 3 County Commissioner Steve Radack told the editorial board. Imag ine an
inland tsunami sweeping east along the Energ y Corridor toward the central business district, killing
upward of 7,000 people.

“It’s next to impossible to g et people to believe the unbelievable,” Radack said.

A disaster of this scale may seem unthinkable, but environmental and eng ineering activists have
been ring ing the warning bell for years.

T his pag e wrote an editorial last year urg ing local and federal officials to make the dams an
immediate priority. “T here’s always the chance, however small,” we wrote, “that the next storm will
be ‘the perfect storm.’ ” We may be living throug h it. H arris County, thoug h, has preferred to focus
on development foremost, even allowing construction within the reservoirs themselves.

Aug . 29, 2017

About 31,000 property owners in H arris and Fort Bend counties learned only after H urricane
H arvey that their homes lie in an area the U.S. Army Corps of Eng ineers knew it mig ht have to
inundate. Whole subdivisions were built in the flood pools behind the Barker and Addicks dams,
areas federal authorities considered dry lake beds desig nated to g o underwater in an emerg ency.
A corps official later said there was no question homes in those subdivisions would flood someday,
it was only a question of when it would happen.

And yet, many of the people living in this area had no idea their neig hborhoods were basically
doomed to flood. As hard as it is to believe, that critical information was never revealed to
homebuyers. T his stunning lack of disclosure is one of the many issues that state lawmakers need
to address in the wake of H urricane H arvey.

Oct. 4, 2017

It is too late for studies and delays – H ouston needs action. Any H arvey recovery bill must include
the funding necessary to bolster our two existing reservoirs and construct a third on Cypress
Creek. Experts have peg g ed the bill at $500 million. T hat project is priority No. 1. Following close
behind are $300 million to update bayou infrastructure and a whopping $15 billion for coastal storm
surg e protection.

T he cost of a new reservoir may seem hefty, but the price of a worst-case scenario on H ouston’s
west side would be incalculable.

Sept. 30, 2017


Chronicle, Houston. “2017; REMEMBERING HARVEY; T HE DAMS.” Houston Chronicle (T X), Houston ed., sec. A, 31
Dec. 2017, p. A027. NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current,
Accessed 23 Apr. 2021.

Copyrig ht (c), 2017, Houston Chronicle . All Rig hts Re se rve d.

2017; REMEMBERING HARVEY; THE DAMS – Houston Chronicle (TX) – December 31, 2017 – page A027

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