Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle knows all about the pain that comes from floodwaters. “When I talk about the impact of flooding on human lives, I understand,” Cagle said.
He then clicked to a PowerPoint photo of debris, trash, mildewed clothing and spoiled furniture in front of a home flooded two years ago by Hurricane Harvey.
“That was my home. I know what it was like,” Cagle told attendees of the Lake Houston Chamber’s May 28 luncheon, State of the County, at the Club of Houston.
On the positive side, Cagle pointed to Harris County’s robust economy, saying that the commissioners court is trying to keep ahead of all the growth. He offered a quick engineering history lesson, mentioning how the Romans centuries ago built roads to improve drainage during heavy rainstorms.
“We’ve finally caught up with the ancient Romans,” Cagle said, referring to rebuilding Hamblen Road in southwest Kingwood which he believes could provide better mobility and improve drainage. There are only three entrances into Kingwood, he said, all potentially blocked by train tracks, but some residents object to improvements to the road.
“If you support a better Hamblen Road that includes better drainage and a bridge over the tracks, contact Houston City Councilmember Dave Martin’s office and let him know because there still are Kingwood residents who object,” Cagle said.
He said it would be impossible to make Harris County flood-proof.
“Without going into the other problems that caused flooding for the first time in north Kingwood, I can tell you that you’re going to have problems when 6.5 inches of rain falls in 45 minutes,” he said, “and when we try to make an area flood-proof, we create other problems. Water flows downhill and that’s why we must focus upstream and downstream.”
Of 236 flood-related projects funded by the voter-approved $2.5 billion bond, Cagle said 146 already are underway and all the projects are to be completed in 10 years. He applauded Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo for taking what he called the “NASA Approach” to completing the county’s many flood projects.
“NASA didn’t do everything itself to get our space program underway. They contracted with the best companies and then ‘managed the managers’ to get a man on the moon,” he said. “With this NASA approach, maybe we can get the job done in five years instead of 10.”
Also speaking at the luncheon was Matt Zeve, deputy executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District, who focused on two issues important to Kingwood residents. Zeve’s staff recently finished a walking assessment of water channels in Kingwood. He’s also requested authorization from the City of Houston to access and begin work on Taylor Gully which flooded Elm Grove Village during the Mother’s Day Flood.
“I understand how residents feel when we say we’re conducting a study,” Zeve said, “but FEMA has awarded us a grant to study the upper San Jacinto River watershed to help us figure out what flooding we can control. We’ve got all this water flowing through Kingwood to Lake Houston and, at this time, Lake Conroe is the only waterway we can control.”
Zeve praised Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Board No. 10 and chairman Stan Sarsman for partnering with the flood district to financially assist studying how to prevent future flooding.
“Everything we do, the projects we’re working on and the cost, is on our website,” Zeve said. “You can even discover which watershed you live in at hcfcd.org.”
The June chamber luncheon, the annual State of the State, will summarize legislation affecting Lake Houston that was passed in the recently adjourned Texas Session. At press time, a date and location had not yet been determined. For more information and to register, visit lakehouston.org.