Harris County Will Use Toll Road Revenue to Pay for Flood Control

A new Flood Resilience Trust will create a permanent source of funding for flood control purposes, but the county still faces a shortfall for planned projects.

2 minute read

July 6, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Houston Texas

Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock

Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, "will unveil a new plan to address a funding gap for its flood bond program, which will rely more heavily on diverted toll road revenue instead of federal aid that may never arrive." The county's Commissioners Court also plans to "approve a new, permanent fund for flood control purposes and give priority to the most vulnerable areas to receive aid from it." The plan also comes on the heels of analysis that shows a disparity in funding: ""In March, the county announced that some of the watersheds with the wealthiest communities, such as White Oak and Buffalo bayous, had their projects close to fully funded." Meanwhile, "[w]atersheds with some of the county’s poorest neighborhoods, such as Halls and Greens bayous, had less than half the necessary dollars," reports Zach Despart in the Houston Chronicle.

"The revised strategy sprang from county officials’ realization this year that the original bond plan is not working. Voters in 2018 passed the $2.5 billion bond, though the county planned about $5 billion in mitigation projects — such as detention basins, buyouts and channel improvements — while anticipating federal matching dollars would pay for the rest." The new fund, known as the Flood Resilience Trust, "would direct Harris County Toll Road Authority revenue — a lump sum of $230 million plus $40 million annually — to a new Flood Resilience Trust. This account would be used to plug funding holes in projects where federal aid failed to arrive." But as Despart writes, "[t]he plan still leaves approved projects $950 million short, however, raising the possibility that a new bond or flood control tax increases may be needed in the future to pay for all planned projects, according to budget office documents."

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