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Culberson Urges President Trump to Expedite Projects to Protect Houston from Flooding
Press Release
Thursday, November 29, 2018


Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative John Culberson (TX-07), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS), issued the following statement about a letter he wrote to urge President Trump to issue an executive order directing the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite their work to protect Houston from future floods.  

“After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, I spearheaded passage of a $141 billion-dollar hurricane recovery package for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. This package included enough money to finish every federally authorized flood control project in Harris County at full federal expense. 

“While I included language in the hurricane package to put Harris County at the top of the flood control construction list, the Army Corps is not moving fast enough. Therefore, today I wrote a letter to President Trump asking him to issue an executive order directing the Army Corps to immediately begin excavating Addicks and Baker Reservoirs and to expedite the buyout of homes from willing sellers to increase the capacity of Addicks and Barker Reservoirs.

 “An executive order from the President will dramatically speed up the work of the Corps and will open up additional capacity in Addicks and Barker Reservoir. It will also allow the Corps to draw down additional money from the $141 billion hurricane relief package.  

“Every moment that I have the privilege of representing District Seven I will be in regular contact with the White House and the Army Corps. I will do everything in my power to expedite the excavation of Addicks and Barker Reservoirs to create additional capacity to protect the people of Houston from future floods.”

Full text of the letter is below. 

November 29, 2018

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500 

Dear President Trump: 

I am writing to request immediate action by your administration to issue an executive order that would waive permitting requirements for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and direct the agency to expedite projects on the Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries watershed, which includes the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, to reduce the flood risk for Houstonians.  

I am asking for your help because you saw firsthand the widespread damage the storm caused when you visited Houston, and you are a builder who gets projects done, and done quickly. There are risk reduction measures that could be undertaken immediately to help reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding. 

In response to catastrophic flooding in Houston in 1929 and 1935, Congress authorized the construction of two reservoirs located on the western edge of Houston which became the Barker Reservoir (Barker) and the Addicks Reservoir (Addicks). Barker was completed in 1945 and Addicks was finished in 1948. Together, they encompass more than 25,000 acres of government-owned land and can retain almost 410,000 acre-feet of water to prevent downstream flooding along Buffalo Bayou. Barker and Addicks were constructed by the USACE and have been continuously operated and maintained by the USACE. 

There was a comprehensive drainage plan prepared by the USACE in 1940 to address Buffalo Bayou’s flooding that led to the construction of Barker and Addicks. The plan also suggested additional upstream facilities and the construction of more conveyance downstream. Unfortunately, none of those additional facilities were constructed. Modifications to the dams that added gates converting the reservoirs from detention facilities (restricted continuous flows) to water retention facilities (gated to stop all flows) and the raising and extension of the reservoirs’ levees have been undertaken in the years since they were completed. The gates were necessary to control outflow, but has resulted in prolonged ponding in the reservoirs, which was not intended in the original design. 

Today, only 40 percent of the storage capacity of Barker and 64 percent of the storage capacity of Addicks is within government owned land. During Hurricane Harvey, Barker and Addicks both filled beyond the capacity of government-owned land and flooded approximately 8,000 private properties upstream of the reservoirs. Additionally, releases from the reservoirs, both uncontrolled and later controlled, impacted tens of thousands of homes downstream of the reservoirs. This resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and the loss of several lives downstream of the reservoirs.     

On July 5, the USACE announced the allocation of $6 million for a Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries studies that will take a comprehensive look at potential projects to reduce the flood risk for those upstream and downstream of Barker and Addicks. I am convinced a third reservoir is necessary to control the amount of water flowing into the reservoirs. I am glad the USACE will be moving forward with this comprehensive study for a long-term solution and I look forward to working with them to get this done quickly.  

However, I believe more can be done right now. I am confident that risk reduction measures can be undertaken immediately that would reduce potential flooding in the future. 

First, the USACE should rapidly buy out properties on the edge of the reservoirs that have repeatedly flooded. Buying out these homes and extending the boundaries of the government owned land would increase capacity. Additionally, since this land has been developed, the USACE could rapidly begin excavation of that land with minimal permitting.   

In February 2018, the Galveston District of the USACE also issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the excavation and removal of soil from the flood pools of Barker and Addicks. The intent of the excavation is to increase reservoir storage capacity on government-owned land. The response date for submissions to the RFI was May 4, 2018.    

I request that you order the USACE to expedite the review of submissions to the RFI and, as quickly as possible, begin excavation activities in the areas within the reservoirs where they believe it would be viable and create the greatest reduction in flood risk. Your actions to direct interim risk reduction measures by buying out homes and excavating within the reservoirs will provide tremendous relief to the citizens of Houston. 

Thank you for your time, attention and action to advance these critical construction activities. I look forward to working with you to provide meaningful reduction in flood risk for Houstonians. 

Sincerely, 

John Culberson
Member of Congress




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