The Houston-Galveston Area Council approved a plan Tuesday to spend nearly $500 million in federal flood mitigation funding, setting aside only a small fraction of that for the city of Houston.
The regional council of local governments is made up of 37 members representing 13 counties and more than 100 cities in the Houston-Galveston area. The contentious vote on how to spend the council’s allocation of federal Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funds came after heated pushback from city of Houston officials.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner — along with a number of city council members and the city’s recovery officer — attended the board meeting Tuesday to speak on behalf of the city. Turner told board members that given how much flood damage the city has sustained over the past few years, an allocation of 1.9% of $488 million was not nearly enough.
“If there’s something that I’m missing, then I would certainly appreciate someone telling me what I’m missing,” Turner said.
Jeff Taebel, director of community and environmental planning for H-GAC, said Houston’s allocation was determined by considering the proposed — and not yet approved — $750 million allocation to Harris County from the Texas General Land Office. The GLO’s flood mitigation funding plan was initially rejected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in January.
“This is all coming from an amendment to the original state action plan that the General Land Office had received approval on,” Taebel said. “This is an area that the committee has been wrestling with.”
Members of the board who represent the Houston area offered alternatives that failed to pass. Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia asked the board to delay the vote until after the GLO releases its revised flood mitigation funding plan.
Houston City Councilmember Sallie Alcorn proposed a plan that would send about one-third of the funding to Houston. Under Alcorn’s plan, Houston would have received $148 million, compared to $9.2 million in the plan that the board approved.
The majority of H-GAC board members voted in favor of the plan, with seven members voting against it — Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Deer Park Councilmember Bill Patterson, Houston City Councilmember Sallie Alcorn, Houston City Councilmember Ed Pollard, La Porte Councilmember Chuck Engelken Jr., Pasadena Councilmember Cary Bass, and Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman.