HOUSTON - In a move that represents a major shift in Houston’s approach to improving drainage and mitigating flooding, Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday announced the formation of the Storm Water Action Team (SWAT).
SWAT will work proactively to reduce drainage problems that are not directly attributed to overflow from bayous, which are under the control of the Harris County Flood Control District.
Projects have been selected based on 311 calls and other data on the frequency of flooding.
The goal is to expand maintenance capabilities and improve the movement of water from day-to-day storm events through rehabilitation and upgrades of existing drainage infrastructure.
“No longer will we be reactive,” Turner said. “This approach will allow us to anticipate when and where improvements are needed and then take care of them before we have a problem. Last year, we focused on repairing potholes and streets. In 2017, the emphasis will be on flooding and drainage. This is the next big step in improving Houston’s infrastructure. There will be more announcements to come about additional work in this area later in the year.”
Approximately 100 deferred maintenance projects throughout the city have been initially identified for inclusion in the SWAT program.
City Council has approved an initial round of funding of $10 million so work can begin on 22 of the projects, two in each council district.
The work encompasses everything from replacing sewer inlets and grates to regrading ditches and resizing culverts to minor erosion repairs and regular mowing.
A map of the locations of the first 22 projects and a description of the work planned is available at SWAT Projects.
“I know a forecast of stormy weather causes anxiety and fear for many Houstonians,” said Turner. “There is no reason why we can’t help alleviate some of those concerns. These are practical improvements that can be completed quickly to provide the greatest amount of relief and reduce the possibility that water will enter homes and strand motorists.”
The $10 million set aside by City Council comes from the proceeds of city land sales and a higher-than-expected fund balance in the city’s general fund, the result of conservative budgeting and careful management of expenses, Turner said.
Tracy Stephens' Sunnyside neighborhood consistently floods in southeast Houston after heavy rains, so the city's new plan should help the area.
"It's very important. Because we've been neglected for decades with our drainage system and our infrastructure," he said.
Stephens said he wanted the city to fix and find the actual problem and not waste taxpayers’ money.
"You have to make sure that you follow the water all the way to where it actually needs to drain in order to help," Stephens said.
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