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Hurricane Recovery snagged by floodplain rules

HARRIS COUNTY – The public doubtlessly wants to stop flooding, but with new rules adopted in early July, building new will come at a premium.

Harris County Commissioner’s Court has established new rules that require that builders set off as much retention as would handle flooding at the 500-year floodplain. The vote was unanimous on July 9 concerning unincorporated Harris County to move the model from the 100-year to 500-year floodplain. The new rules are related to projecting increases in the state’s rain from federal studies and the Atlas -14 rainfall data. All of this is atop of any other requirements by enforcers like the Harris County Flood Control District.

According to County Judge Lina Hidalgo at the assembly, “To make sure the new development takes into account the latest rainfall protections and the new development is required to retain as much water as possible so as to offset any impact they would have on the folks downstream.”

All eyes now are on the Federal Emergency Management Agency that is affixing flood maps that are due in 2021. The county’s guidelines are much like the new rules adopted by Houston. Locations that did not flood during Hurricane Harvey are being made to build higher and have more detention because they are in the 500-year floodplain.

All this, of course, has builders upset and begging for enactment to be delayed or reconsidered based on development cost. Houston Association of Realtors for instance, although they are in favor of unincorporated Harris County having housing being better able to withstand floods; they are reacting with sticker shock over building costs.