What happened at first Senate hearing on Barker, Addicks reservoir release

HOUSTON – The Texas Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs held its first hearing Monday morning in regards to the Barker and Addicks reservoirs. 

“This is the beginning of a process to find out what the state, what the county, what the water authority, river authority can do to try and help litigate this in the future” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who was also at the hearing, which took place in New Caney at the East Montgomery County Improvement District. 

The committee heard from the Harris County Flood Control District as well as public testimony. 

"We want to make sure we're doing (everything) possible and that we learn from this event so that if we ever have another storm like this, that we do not have this level of devastation," Patrick said. "Yes, it's a storm unlike we've ever seen before, but the amount of flooding we had, I believe (damage) can be reduced if we now can get everyone on the same page to make the investments."

He spoke about local, state and federal governments working along with the private sector to help reduce future damage from another major storm. 

"We had an unprecedented storm and the question is how many people flooded from rain and how many people flooded from the release of water; obviously, (the) released of water was caused by the rain, but was there something we could have done? Could we have released water ahead of time?" Patrick said. "If we have a new reservoir, and I think we're going to need several in the area, where would it be? And how much would it have changed things? How much is this natural fall ... how much can we can control?"

Patrick said the state would need billions of dollars from the federal government to help with all the projects and the state has requested $20 billion. 

The committee not only explored fixing infrastructure and the possibility of new reservoirs, but also wanted to evaluate the current data-sharing methods when it comes to rainfall totals and how to centralize the information for the public.    

Lawmakers also looked into whethe a  real-time flood warning system could be developed and connected to phones, TxDOT electronic signage and other forecasting systems. 

People who live in the Memorial Thickette neighborhood, which is downstream from the Barker Reservoir, had around five feet of water in the homes. 

Danny Middleton lives in the neighborhood and has flood insurance, but gets emotional when thinking about most of his retired neighbors who don't. 

"I am blessed because I have another home. I have flood insurance, I have some money in the bank. I'm lucky but everyone else around here is a disaster, and they don’t have flood insurance and they're in their 70's. Their life is changed forever," Middleton said. 

He has attended information sessions about legal action against the Army Corps of Engineers and is involved in many meetings regarding the flooding but didn't know about the Senate hearing. 

“What are they going to accomplish, so they’re going to build another reservoirs five to 10 to 15 years from now? What about now? What about all the people here that live here now, especially the 75-year-olds that have $100,000 in the bank and get $5,000 a month? They can't rebuild their house, don’t have flood insurance and have to leave," Middleton said. 

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