With Hurricane Harvey still fresh on the minds of many Texans, one state senator has filed a series of bills to create the state’s first flood plan to better respond to future disasters.
Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, authored three proposals — Senate Bill 396, Senate Bill 397 and Senate Joint Resolution 28 — to establish a comprehensive plan for addressing flooding across the state. The plan would be overseen by the Texas Water Development Board and implemented by 2024. Perry said the plan is important even for non-coastal areas in Texas.
“Flood events in Texas are not limited to our coastal communities,” Perry said in an email. “If we think back to the month of May 2015, Texas experienced record rainfall from Amarillo at over nine inches, Wichita Falls received 13 inches and Dallas-Fort Worth got almost 17 inches. Rain and river basin flooding can happen throughout the state.”
A key element of Perry’s plan is establishing a State Flood Plan Fund. Perry wants the money for the reserve to come from Texas’ Economic Stabilization Fund — more commonly known as the rainy day fund. Taking money from the rainy day fund to create the new Flood Plan Fund would require an amendment to the Texas Constitution, making Perry’s effort more complicated to pass than a regular bill.
Josh Blank, manager of online resources at the Texas Politics Project, said the Texas Constitution is amended more frequently than its federal counterpart.
“The Texas Constitution is amended repeatedly … It’s not like an amendment to the federal constitution which would be a very laborious process,” Blank said. “They just have to get a super majority — two-thirds — of the Legislature to agree, and then they pass it to voters. We have constitutional amendment elections all the time.”
Perry said he is confident both voters and lawmakers would support funding for the flood plan.
“I’ve been working with my colleagues and I’ve listened to Texans all over the state,” Perry said. “Our state has the opportunity to be a leader in the country again just as we have been with our water supply planning and funding.”
While a significant amount of the funding would be put towards building infrastructure such as dams and reservoirs to better control flooding in the future, Perry said another important element of his plan involves giving local authorities across the state more avenues to communicate with each other.
“Many regional flooding planning organizations exist, but a State Flood Plan puts all planning and project interaction into one collaborative approach,” Perry said.
Leo Angulo, a biochemistry senior from Katy, has friends and family members who were seriously affected by Hurricane Harvey. He said a more comprehensive plan for addressing flooding in the state would be appreciated in his hometown.
“Katy is really prone to flooding and there’s always a ton of flood problems,” Angulo said. “So it’d be really nice to see some legislation put forward that really focuses on the well-being of the citizens of that part of the city because there’s not a lot of flood protection or flood prevention that goes on.”