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USA – Houston Launches Storm Water Action Team

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As a part of the city’s response to the devastating “Tax Day Floods” of 2016, Mayor Sylvester Turner recently announced the formation of Houston’s Storm Water Action Team (SWAT).

It is a move that represents a major shift in the City’s approach to improving drainage and mitigating flooding. The city will now work proactively to reduce drainage problems. According to Mayor Turner, in 2017 the emphasis will be on flooding and drainage.

According to a statement by the City, the SWAT will work proactively to reduce drainage problems that are not directly attributed to overflow from the bayous that are under the control of the Harris County Flood Control District.  Projects have been selected based on 311 calls and other data regarding frequency of flooding.  The goal is to expand maintenance capabilities and improve the movement of water from day-to-day storm events through rehabilitation and upgrade of existing drainage infrastructure.

“No longer will we be reactive” – Mayor Turner

Mayor Turner said, “This approach will allow us to anticipate when and where improvements are needed and then take care of them before we have a problem.  Last year, we focused on repairing potholes and streets.  In 2017, the emphasis will be on flooding and drainage.  This is the next big step in improving Houston’s infrastructure.  There will be more announcements to come about additional work in this area later in the year.”

Approximately 100 deferred maintenance projects spread throughout the city have been initially identified for inclusion in the SWAT program.  City Council has approved an initial round of funding of $10 million so that work can begin on 22 of these projects, two in each council district.  The work encompasses everything from replacing sewer inlets and grates to regrading ditches and resizing culverts to minor erosion repairs and regular mowing.

A map of the locations of the first 22 projects and a description of the work planned is available at SWAT Projects (pdf).

“I know a forecast of stormy weather causes anxiety and fear for many Houstonians,” said Turner.  “There is no reason why we can’t help alleviate some of those concerns.  These are practical improvements that can be completed quickly to provide the greatest amount of relief and reduce the possibility that water will enter homes and strand motorists.”

The $10 million set aside by City Council comes from the proceeds from City land sales and a higher than expected fund balance in the City’s General Fund that is the result of conservative budgeting and careful management of expenses.

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