Monthly Featured Story - August 2019 | Texas Water Development Board

Informed Flood Planning for Texas August 2019

This spring, the 86th Legislative Session and Governor Abbott greatly increased the Texas Water Development Board's role in flood planning and financing through the passage of several flood-related bills, including Senate Bill (SB) 7, SB 8, and SB 500. With the passage of this legislation, our agency was charged with creating Texas' first state flood plan and implementing a new flood financing program. We're working quickly to get these programs off the ground, and stakeholder input will play a large part in ensuring we meet the needs of the state.

As we've seen throughout history, anywhere it rains in Texas, it can flood. According to FEMA, each of the state's 254 counties has endured at least one federally declared flood disaster. The need for formal flood planning and additional financial assistance has become more evident in recent years and was strongly recommended by stakeholders during our work on the first-ever State Flood Assessment released earlier this year. The new legislation will help address these and other issues identified in the assessment.

The new flood planning effort will resemble the state's water planning process by bringing together entities and resources for collaborative, comprehensive planning that considers regional impacts. Unlike water supply planning, though, the flood planning regions will correspond to river basins. Each region will have a flood planning group comprised of diverse stakeholders and will produce a regional flood plan. This proactive planning approach is intended to help communities better manage flood risks, including providing greater protection for Texans against loss of life and property from flooding.

The state flood plan will focus on evaluating existing flood infrastructure and will include a statewide, ranked list of ongoing and proposed flood control and mitigation projects and strategies. Additionally, the plan will recommend legislative policy changes needed to facilitate planning and project implementation. The first state flood plan is due on September 1, 2024, with later plans due every five years thereafter.

To help fund projects in the state flood plan and to meet immediate needs for funding, the legislature authorized a one-time, $793 million transfer from the Rainy Day Fund to provide grants and low-cost loans for drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects. Prior to the first state flood plan's adoption in 2024, political subdivisions of the state—cities, counties, river authorities, and other districts—that work together cooperatively to develop solutions to address drainage and flood issues could use the funds toward those efforts.

The public rulemaking process, which will take place this fall, will consider what types of flood projects will be eligible for funding. Both structural (e.g., levees and channels) and non-structural (e.g., wetlands and elevation) projects will be eligible for financial assistance. After adoption of the first state flood plan, the fund by law may only be used to provide financing for projects included in the state flood plan.

To help us gather as much information as possible before we begin the formal rulemaking process, we are soliciting stakeholder input through August 30. We invite stakeholders to provide written feedback on issues presented in Implementation of Flood Legislation from the 86th Texas Legislative Session. We will also discuss this document and solicit comments through a series of stakeholder meetings held around the state this month:

  • August 6: Bastrop and Orange
  • August 7: Tyler
  • August 8: El Paso and Arlington
  • August 9: Lubbock and Tomball
  • August 13: Kerrville and Lake Jackson
  • August 14: San Angelo and Rockport
  • August 15: Abilene and McAllen
  • August 19: Online webinar
  • August 23: Houston

The meetings are open to the public and no RSVP is required.

After we have incorporated comments from this outreach effort, we will publish proposed rules. The public will have the opportunity to comment on them this fall. We anticipate our governing Board adopting final rules by early 2020.

In addition to the TWDB's oversight of the state flood plan and increased financial assistance capabilities, over the next two years we will also expand our existing flood-related programs, including floodplain mapping and development of an online dashboard of flood- and water-related information. Part of this effort includes establishing a clearinghouse of information about state and federal flood planning, mitigation, and control programs that may serve as sources of funding for flood projects.

Flooding is a statewide concern that must be addressed statewide to benefit the lives and livelihoods of all Texans. The coming months and years will be a defining time in the state's water planning history, so we hope you'll take time to provide input.

For more information on the flood legislation from the 86th Legislative Session, review the Frequently Asked Questions available on our website. You can also sign up to receive email updates with flood-related information and meeting notices. Be sure to check the box for "Flood Information."