In June 2019, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed into law two bills that make historic investments for flood mitigation projects and require the state to conduct flood planning on a watershed basis. Still recovering from Hurricane Harvey and other devastating storms, communities in Texas have been unable to sufficiently prepare for major flooding, in part because of a lack of coordinated planning and inadequate funding. These new laws could help provide a solution.
As part of efforts to implement the laws, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) hosted a series of listening sessions around the state and requested public input on guiding principles for using the new mitigation funds and putting a statewide planning process in place.
In comments submitted Sept. 19, The Pew Charitable Trusts called on the board to remain committed to the principles set out in the legislation: to approach flood risk planning and flood infrastructure investments from a watershed perspective. This type of framework allows communities to address shared vulnerabilities and can result in coordinated, cost-effective, and enhanced benefits for all residents of a watershed.
Pew also provided examples of how states and municipalities have included future risk in flood planning and, noting more frequent and heavier rainfall, stronger storms, and dramatic population growth in Texas, urged the board to consider the changing nature of flooding when it plans and evaluates projects. Pew also encouraged the TWDB to ensure that nature-based mitigation solutions are evaluated and used in regional flood plans.