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‘We are not powerless’: Hidalgo highlights progress on flood mitigation projects despite coronavirus

HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo held a news conference on Tuesday where she talked about the progress on the county’s flood mitigation projects.

According to a news release, the projects have “continued unabated during the COVID-19 crisis and stay-home-work-safe order.”

Hidalgo was joined by Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle and Matt Zeve, deputy executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District.

Fairbanks-North Houston detention basin

According to Hidalgo, the basin, which is located in northwest Harris County near Wook Bluff Boulevard, is just days away from being completed.

It will hold about 75 million gallons of water, which is roughly equivalent to 114 Olympic-sized swimming pools, Hidalgo said.

While the basin is days from being complete, Cagle said the final step is to make the space not only strong and useful, but also beautiful.

“This facility, when it is done, is one where we will make it (so) it can have park amenities and be tied into our White Oak and other areas," Cagle said. "...Not only will (we) have protection of our homes and our safety, but we will also have a place where we can protect our spirits and souls so we can be outside and enjoy the gifts of God.”

The project is part of a series of projects all along White Oak Bayou and will make a big difference for communities in the area, Cagle said.

“Water flows downhill and our bayous connected," Cagle said “We need to make sure that in our projects ... we take care of the top of the hill, the middle of the hill and the bottom of the hill, because if we don’t take care of the water at all levels, somebody in the system is going to be left out. This is a pearl in a string of pearls of protection for our community.”

Other flood-control projects

According to Hidalgo, the projects will go from Jersey Village to Inwood Forest and when they are completed, the detention basins will hold enough water to fill NRG Stadium three times.

“There is no silver bullet solution to flooding,” Hidalgo said. “It’s not something we can snap our fingers and have done tomorrow ... (But) we are committed to move as quickly as possible. We are not powerless against this.”

Hidalgo said that in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, the work has continued and has been done quickly given the circumstances.

The county still has an accelerated schedule for drainage projects for unincorporated Harris County that are designed to push water from the streets into the bayou, according to the judge.

“Just as with COVID-19, we’re putting science above politics,” Hidalgo said. “We require the most stringent detention requirements that can possibly be done under the law so when developers build in Harris County outside the city of Houston, they are not allowed to displace water to where they’ll flood people downstream.”

Hidalgo said the Harris County Flood Control District is looking at the big picture and working to take every piece of data into account to come up with creative solutions to flooding.

“Flood control does not stop, because the risk of flooding does not stop,” Hidalgo said. “We’ve made it work and we continue to work full steam to get all of our flood control projects done on scheduled and to ask, ‘What more needs to be done to protect this community.' We are still at risk. It’s not easy, but we’re doing everything we can to protect you guys and makeup for lost time."

Coronavirus update

Hidalgo said she has been hearing Harris County residents complain that they have been getting mixed messages on whether it is safe to reopen.

“Let me give it to you straight,” Hidalgo said. “It’s not any safer than it was two weeks ago or three weeks ago. We still don’t have a cure. We still don’t have a vaccine. This may well be the calm before the storm. Let’s hope it’s not.”

According to Hidalgo, it is just a matter of waiting to see what happens.

“We won’t know for another couple of weeks when we start seeing the hospital admissions numbers come in,” Hidalgo said. “Keep that in mind when you think about whether to go out or not ... If we get cocky and we get sloppy, we get right back to where we started on this.”

Hidalgo said it is up to the community to be responsible and follow health guidelines.

Watch the full news conference below:

🔴 WATCH LIVE: Judge Lina Hidalgo highlights progress on flood mitigation projects despite coronavirus

Posted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Tuesday, May 12, 2020

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