A round up articles on the management, or maybe, mis-management of flood plains in Texas:
The main challenge to rational planning for flood risk in the country is that private property rights trump even modest limitations on floodplain development,” Nicholas Pinter, a professor of geology and environmental resources and policy at Southern Illinois University, told the Times. “And that sentiment runs deep in Texas. The result is unchecked construction on flood-prone land, up to the present day and in some places even accelerating.
One such flood analysis, for the northern part of Hays County, begun in 2011 and is just now entering final review. The risk was laid out four years ago in an announcement of the study:
Hays County’s population has been increasing dramatically – the county’s population grew from 97,589 in 2000 to 157,107 in 2010, a 61% increase. Development has subsequently increased as well. This growth has the potential to place residents at a greater risk for human and economic losses from floods.
In a telephone interview, Randy Cephus, a public affairs official in the Corps’s Fort Worth district office, said this was a fast pace. “The Corps has gone through a transformation,” he said. “In the past, studies have taken 8 to 10 years to complete. We’re trying to undergo those within 3 years.”
Local flooding expert Steve Graham says that when it comes to whether urban sprawl played a role in the numbers of homes lost in this week's flooding, the answer is a more nuanced, "maybe, maybe not." He noted that in a primarily rural place such as Wimberley, which also was hard hit by the flooding, climate, topography, and randomness also played a significant role in flooding.
But in general, he explains, “urban development not done properly can increase the risk of flooding at the development and downstream of the development.”
“Every single flood event shows the errors of our ways,” Pinter said. “This is mostly local development and political pressures against the widely agreed upon advice of floodplain managers and scientists.”
Houston may be doing things to try to improve … but there’s a long history of pre-existing stuff that is still there,” said Walter Peacock, an urban planning professor at Texas A&M and director of the school’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center.
“Think about every time you put in a road, a mall and you add concrete, you’ve lost the ability of rain to get into the soil and you’ve lost that permeability,” Peacock said. “It’s now impermeable. And therefore you get more runoff.”
American Society of Civil Engineers Report on Texas Infrastructure also is sobering reading - they gave flood control in Texas a D:
Since 2004, the National Flood Insurance Program State Coordinator office has been relocated under TWDB; additional staff and funding for mapping and planning projects has also been provided for the office. Texas still hasno statewide floodplain management plan and is not a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program,
although many of its communities are. Texas leads the U.S. in terms of dollars paid for flood claims. Other than lowinterest loans and small grants, Texas does not fund flood
We will mention, again, that one simple way for Austin to clean up its land code and still deal with these issues is to create wildfire and flooding overlays. These overlays can be put on areas that need additional restrictions, while freeing up other properties from unnecessary building requirements.