Mitigate flooding before it occurs

To the editor:

We need to be proactive! The Texas Tribune and ProPublica exposed a lack of flood preparedness in Houston in an article “Hell and High Water.” They predicted a serious flood would occur soon. We now face a catastrophe that cost lives and property. Taxpayers around the nation will foot the bill, an estimated $30 billion to restore Houston to a liveable city.

Even though it is possible to mitigate the impacts from extreme weather, Houston and many other cities continue to make choices that increase extreme weather effects. We continue to pay property owners to rebuild homes in harm’s way, instead of changing these flood-prone areas into green zones that can accept floodwater.

The article points out that developers and officials long advocated for development of wetlands and prairies around Houston, land that once absorbed the rainwater and mitigated effects of flooding. Development reduced flood-absorbent Katy Prairie to a quarter of its size. The state funded expansion of I-10 and Grand Parkway, opening more land for development and creating hard surfaces that cannot absorb floodwater. Officials also encouraged development in flood-prone areas with more than 7,000 units built in the 100-year floodplain since 2010.

Our representative in Congress, Jack Bergman, wants to stop runaway spending in D.C. One good way to do that in the long term is to mitigate flooding before it happens, instead of waiting until there is a catastrophe that the government must spend billions of dollars to fix. Too often, budgets cut programs that would ensure the least amount of damage is done by catastrophic storms, such as programs in the Department of Agriculture or those like the EPA-funded Estuary Program.

Shortsighted legislators regard regulations intended to preserve wetlands, natural coastline and stream buffers as environmental fluff that represses the economy, but tell me, how repressive was Hurricane Harvey? Legislators and flood-zone residents gamble away our tax money by not approaching flooding proactively. They may think that economic expansion is a winning hand, but a good gambler knows when to fold. I bet that Houston thought it had a winning hand, too, converting green space to property taxes, until Harvey joined the game.

Benjamin Franklin said it well: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Please support environmental regulations and programs that mitigate the effects of catastrophic storms.



Lake Linden