Jul 05, 2019

Houston, Texas, Regulations May Protect Against Future Flooding

Updated regulations may help offset effects of heavy storms in the city

Updated regulations may help offset effects of heavy storms in the city

In Houston, Texas, new development regulations must think “outside the flood plains,” advocates say. According to Community Impact, new regulations should offset the effects of heavy storms and reduce those at risk in targeted areas in the city. The regulations include adjustments to floodplain boundaries, higher elevation requirements and detention requirements outside of the floodplain. 

“The 610 loop is the epicenter of the city of Houston, so when we’re thinking about how we can make resiliency work for all Houstonians, how can these neighborhoods play their part?” said Jordan Macha, director of advocacy group Bayou City Waterkeeper, according to Community Impact. “There are going to be people that are moving into this area... so we’re trying to think through what that will look like while maintaining the integrity of these communities.”

Around 25 drainage permits in the Houston area have been approved around the floodplains of Buffalo and White Oak Bayous since events such as Hurricane Harvey. According to Community Impact, advocates and environmental researchers cannot agree on if the regulations are helping address the city’s flood risk. 

“I think it’s important to keep the bigger kind of regional or watershed perspective in mind and focus on the fact that it’s all interconnected system,” said Ryan Bare, a researcher specializing in low-impact development for The Houston Advanced Research Center, according to Community Impact

One tool used by government agencies is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) floodplain maps. According to Community Impact, homeowners within some of the map’s boundaries have to buy flood insurance, and some developers may be subject to regulations depending on jurisdiction. 

FEMA updated the maps using new rainfall data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to the Great Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, map adjustments may take years to complete.