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Houston's Rapid Growth Will Make Future Floods Worse

Houston's development has meant the loss of many wetlands, a key factor in protecting the against floods. This, coupled with climate change, will mean more floods, causing more danger and damage to the growing city.
December 15, 2016, 5am PST | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States. It's a particular concern in Houston. "Scientists, other experts and federal officials say Houston's explosive growth is largely to blame. As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater," report Neena Satija and Kiah Collier for Probulica. They go on to say, "Scientists say the Harris County Flood Control District, which manages thousands of miles of floodwater-evacuating bayous and helps enforce development rules, should focus more on preserving green space and managing growth."

This view of the problem is not shared by all of those in charge of protecting the city from flood damage. "Houston’s two top flood control officials say their biggest challenge is not managing rapid growth but retrofitting outdated infrastructure," the piece says. Mike Talbott thinks these scientists are engaged in some kind of conspiracy against development. "The longtime head of the flood control district flat-out disagrees with scientific evidence that shows development is making flooding worse." Talbott told the Texas Tribune, “They (scientists and conservationists) have an agenda ... their agenda to protect the environment overrides common sense,” Probulica reports. While Talbott is retiring, his view is not uncommon in the agency he ran for 18 years.

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Published on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 in ProPublica
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