New regulations passed by Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday will add an additional layer of protection for families and communities at risk of severe flooding. Commissioners Court adopted new regulations for the Harris County Engineer’s office that will require new developments to provide increased water detention and other standards for upstream development that will help protect downstream communities. Commissioners Court also approved new guidelines for the Harris County Flood Control District to utilize updated floodplain maps based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Atlas 14.
Decades of development fueled the Houston area’s rapid growth but also exacerbated flooding as concrete increasingly replaced prairies and forests. By requiring new developments to increase detention for holding back storm water and anticipating new floodplain maps, these new items adopted on Tuesday are a step towards keeping residents out of harm’s way.
“This is about building a resilient future for Harris County,” said Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis. “The era of unchecked development belongs in the past. These new standards will allow us to confront the challenges of flooding, climate change and growth head on and work toward solutions that keep our neighborhoods safe.”
Multiple “500-year” floods over the past few years and more recent storms have made it clear that Harris County’s current floodplain maps are insufficient or inaccurate, especially given the growing threat of climate change to the region. The new guidelines adopted by the Harris County Flood Control District ensure that Harris County’s development and mitigation standards are based on the best engineering and scientific data available until Harris County completes its own updated floodplain mapping project in 2021.
Additionally, the new standards require developers to set aside more space for flood water detention. While developers have raised concerns, these new rules are a critical tool to protect families and could not be delayed.
Commissioner Ellis added, “While I understand the concerns from some in the development community that these necessary updates may increase their costs, my priority is ensuring that we as a county government do everything we can to protect our constituents— whether rich or poor, homeowner or renter, upstream or downstream— from flooding.”