Congressman Michael McCaul huddled with Katy officials last week and introduced a new plan that draws on some old thinking to address the flooding that wrecked havoc on the area when Hurricane Harvey made its appearance on the Gulf Coast.
McCaul ventured back to a plan that was designed in 1940 that along with the Barker and Addicks reservoirs, a levee be placed at the Cypress Creek to prevent further flooding in the area. But funds were not available to complete the plan in 1940, and it was shelved.
“That is why we want to talk about what happened with Harvey and what we need to to prevent this kind of flooding in the future,” McCaul said.
McCaul said when Cypress Creek over flooded due to the rains of Harvey, it caused a watershed event to hit the Barker and Addicks reservoirs and a controlled spill into Buffalo Bayou and then into the downtown Houston.
“This is the core of the problem,” McCaul said. “This is where it originates and this is where it comes from.”
McCaul said during meetings with the Army Corps of Engineers, Katy and Harris County officials, it was bantered around about constructing a reservoir near Cypress Creek to prevent a flooding event like the one that Harvey produced in the area.
“We have had three floods in the last two years and they all started with Cypress Creek,” McCaul said.
The plan that McCaul introduced during last Friday’s meeting was to build a reservoir around Cypress Creek that is estimated to cost between $550-600 million.
“It will not be easy or cheap but in my view, it has to be done,” McCaul said. “We had a supplemental bill that we voted on a week ago that provides disaster relief funding and there will be another bill in the Congress in the next week for the same thing.”
McCaul said Texas Governor Gregg Abbott has requested in the second bill for $10 million for the Army Corps of Engineers.
“We plan to work closely with the Army Corps to get this project done,” McCaul said. “We will also seek funds from FEMA to jumpstart this project. We cannot afford to wait five to 10 years to fund this project. It is my goal and highest priority to get this project started and get it done as fast as possible.
“This is not easy but it has to be done,” McCaul said.
McCaul pointed out that the Katy Prairie Conservancy owns some of the land where the reservoir is planned and the other property that is being sought is undeveloped at this time. He said preliminary conversations with the KPC have gone well.
McCaul held the press conference in the confines of the Katy city council chambers, which itself was damaged by flood waters during the storm and is still under construction.
“I was very proud of the city of Katy and Katy High School opening its doors to the Texas National Guard as a support operating base,” McCaul said. “That allowed us to save lives, more than 20,000 lives were rescued during Harvey. I called it Operation Dunkirk in that it was Texans helping Texans.”
State Representative Mike Schofield, which the majority of his district includes the Katy area, said this plan was one that was planned 70 years ago but ran out of money and then World War II soon followed.
“I think we are fully engaged at the local, state and federal level to get this fixed so that going forward we are not faced with flood after flood,” Schofield said.
McCaul and Schofield touched upon a federal buyout program that is in the works for houses that flooded during Harvey. But Schofield pointed out the buyout is only for homes that were impacted that were not or have never been impacted before.
“We are not talking about people in a flood plain and expect the government to constantly bail them out,” Schofield said. “We are talking about people who were never expected to flood. We are talking about people who are getting flooded through no fault of their own for two or three years in a row and we can’t wait for a decade to do something about this.
“We appreciate moving forward on this,” Schofield said. “While some of us living in western Harris County want the flood relief from Cypress Creek flowing right down into Katy, we all need to remember that the original purpose of the three-prong program with the levy and two dams was to protect Buffalo Bayou and protect Houston. What we are asking for is not just for a solution for our constituents and our neighbors here in Katy but for the four million people that live in this county and the people that live between here and Galveston Bay.”