Hurricane Harvey: One Year After – Q&A with County Judge Ed Emmett
HOUSTON – (Realty News Report) – Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25, 2017 and it plagued southeast Texas for days. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, a visible leader during the storm, has spearheading the drive to help fix the flooding problem. The Commissioners Court has called a bond election for Aug. 25 for the Harris County Flood Control District. Registered voters in Harris County will be asked to vote on $2.5 billion in bonds for flood-risk reduction projects throughout the county. A preliminary list of projects includes $919 million for channel improvements, $386 million for detention basins, $220 million for floodplain land acquisition, $12.5 million for new floodplain mapping and $1.25 million for an improved early flood warning system. To find out more about the plans to alleviate flooding and the bond issue, Realty News Report talked with Judge Emmett.
Realty News Report: Over 100,000 homes were damaged during Hurricane Harvey and a lot of commercial properties and local merchants were hit hard, too. Some 300,000 cars were flooded. Many folks didn’t have insurance and they have absorbed big financial blows. In short, the hurricane slammed a lot of households and drained off a lot of financial security. So where do we go from here? How can the county avoid severe flooding that it experienced from Harvey? What needs to be done?
Judge Ed Emmett: We must realize that we’ve all got to work together. The county can do its part, but the city and state have to do their part, too. The state has a rainy-day fund and if Harvey wasn’t a rainy day, I don’t know what was! The state has a Water Development Board to generate more water, so now the focus should be on flood control and now may be the time to help us with that.
Realty News Report: Even with the flooding, what’s your prediction about the future of Houston? Will Houston remain the “can do” city it has always been?
Judge Ed Emmett: Only if we get flood control right. The recent storms — Tax Day, Memorial Day, and Hurricane Harvey – showed a different image of Houston to the world – that Houston and Harris County were flood prone areas. That image can harm us if we don’t fix it. Weather conditions and development paths are changing. That’s why we’re having so much flooding. Meyerland didn’t used to flood; 610 didn’t used to go under water. That’s the challenge – fixing the problem. We have a $2.5 billion bond issue that is supported by property tax coming up in August that would allow us to complete major work including the bayous such as Brays, White Oak, and Hunting and basically remove thousands of people and businesses from harm’s way. We’ve never focused on solving our flooding problem, it has never been the priority in the past. But after these three major storms, it has to be the priority. If we don’t get that straight, the rest doesn’t matter.
Realty News Report: Houstonians have endured numerous floods and other problems Mother Nature has thrown at it. What makes Houston so resilient? Is there something special in Houston’s DNA??
Judge Ed Emmett: I think so. I’m a native Texan and we all have that same Texas pride. The reality is, if you travel around world, you see the human spirt in many places, but it is taken to the ultimate here. Perhaps it’s because we grew up as an independent nation. We’ve learned to take care of ourselves. I also think it’s the ranching and farming mentality that built Texas — you did the work and you survived, and if you didn’t do the work, you didn’t survive. People helped each other. During Harvey, I went on TV and said, ‘if you have a boat, come help.’ People were going to do that anyway, whether we asked them or not. But we will never know how many hundreds of lives were saved by individuals taking it upon themselves to help.