Comments on Houston Floodplain Ordinance

By Brian Zabcik
Clean Water Advocate

We submitted these comments to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, City Council and the acting director of the Public Works department in support of stronger standards to address flooding.
March 5, 2018
Dear Mayor Turner, City Council Members, and Director Haddock,
Environment Texas advocates for clean water, clean air, and open spaces on behalf of our 35,000 members and online activists, many of whom live in Houston. We’ve been working for several years to promote the greater use of green infrastructure and low impact development to reduce runoff pollution. More than 80 percent of bayous and creeks in the Houston metro area are unsafe for swimming and fishing, and runoff pollution is the primary cause.
But because runoff pollution is part of the larger problem of stormwater management, we recognize that it must be addressed in concert with solutions that reduce the risks of flooding in Houston. That is why Environment Texas supports the proposed changes to the Chapter 19 Floodplain Ordinance that will require new homes to be built up to 2 feet above the 500-year floodplain. The changes are an important step in confronting the flood risks that Houston will continue to face, especially as a changing climate produces more extreme weather events. The Chapter 19 revisions are essential to protect public safety.
However, we believe that the city can do more. The Redevelopment and Drainage Task Force convened by the city’s Chief Resilience Officer voted at its last meeting to support a number of changes to the city’s regulations on detention, fill, and right-of-way drainage. We are eagerly awaiting the public presentation of these recommendations, as well as a clear outline of how they will be adopted and implemented. We hope that there will be sufficient opportunity for residents and stakeholders to offer comments on these recommendations. We note that the the public comment period for the Chapter 19 revisions had to be extended after City Council members indicated that the original comment period was too short. 
In addition to representing our own members in Houston, Environment Texas is also a member of two local groups, the Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience (CEER) and the Bayou City Initiative (BCI). We support the recommendations that CEER and BCI have made in their own comment letters on the Chapter 19 revisions.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments.
Brian Zabcik
Clean Water Advocate
Environment Texas