#HarrisThrives - 2 Years After Hurricane Harvey
On the second anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas coast, Texas Appleseed and our allies in the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME) coalition and the Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience (CEER) have come together to support a just recovery and flood protection and mitigation for all Harris County neighborhoods. All of our neighborhoods deserve the same level of safety and infrastructure, from protection from flooding to air quality, from sidewalks to street lighting. One major step towards this vision was taken when voters overwhelmingly supported the passage of the bond for flood protection in 2018. While dozens of “shovel ready” projects have already started in neighborhoods throughout Harris County, we still need an overall framework for delivering future flood protection and other infrastructure throughout the county.
The reality is that these projects take real time — time for scientists to do research and map out projects using the most up-to-date techniques, time for engineers to design the infrastructure, and time for actual construction to take place. Many of them may take years to finish. But, what many of us realize and even what the Houston Chronicle editorial board stated yesterday is that Houston isn’t prepared for another hurricane. Until we get to the point where all neighborhoods have adequate flood protection, what’s needed is a fair way to prioritize projects throughout Harris County, beginning by helping the neighborhoods and people most vulnerable to flooding.
As broad based coalitions of groups, we fully support the #HarrisThrives resolution being brought by County Judge Lina Hidalgo. The resolution strikes a balance — prioritizing bond flooding projects by helping the most people with the best flood protection, as well as putting a priority on protecting those who are the most vulnerable to flooding. It helps prioritize projects by how many buildings each project will protect from future flooding, and also the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI).
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) created the SVI specifically to “measure the resilience of communities when confronted by external stresses on human health, stresses such as natural or human-caused disasters, or disease outbreaks.” It has been shown to predict where people will experience the worst effects of natural disasters, and also the areas which will take longest to recover.
For years, gridlock in Washington D.C. has left our local flood control and flood mitigation projects underfunded and undone. The formulas they used to decide on the few projects that were completed ended up putting property values ahead of people. The #HarrisThrives resolution will make Harris County a leader in the fair provision of disaster recovery funding. To our knowledge, no other agency in the entire U.S. has adopted this kind of comprehensive, balanced approach to disaster preparedness and mitigation. We look forward to the Harris County Commissioners Court moving forward with this huge step.