GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas — Help is on the way to shore up the infrastructure in Galveston County in an effort to soften the blow of natural disasters that have devastated local communities.
The Texas General Land Office approved $179 million in flood mitigation projects for Galveston, Texas City, Dickinson, La Marque and Hitchcock.
They are intended to benefit residents in low-to-moderate income areas that have been hammered by storms, including Hurricane Harvey.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said the improvements "will make life better for generations of Texans."
“We received more than $6.5 billion in requests for mitigation projects from majority low-to-moderate-income communities. This demonstrates the abundant need for resiliency assistance across the state," Bush said Friday.
“The infrastructure improvements associated with our Southshore Drainage Project will reduce long-term risks of damage and loss of property and help alleviate suffering, and hardship for our residents," Galveston Mayor Dr. Craig Brown said.
La Marque Mayor Keith Bell said the money his city receives will allow them to complete crucial big-ticket projects.
"We want every citizen of La Marque to enjoy the same quality of life and peace of mind - during sunny days and during storms," Bell said.
The GLO said it awarded the money based on applications submitted by each city. The money will come from funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD defines mitigation as activities that increase resilience to disasters and reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of loss of life, injury, damage to and loss of property, and suffering and hardship, by lessening the impact of future disasters.
HUD requires that at least 50% of total funds must be used for activities benefiting low- to moderate-income persons.
City of Galveston
The island city will use its share -- nearly $55 million -- for the South Shore Drainage Project where frequent flooding has been a problem. Runoff in the city generally flows from south to north towards the bay. Elevations in this area range from approximately 1- to 18-feet above sea level.
City leaders say the South Shore Project "will reduce long-term risk of damage to and loss of property, suffering, and hardship for residents within the designated improvement and service areas by increasing the capacity of the existing storm drainage system."
The City of Dickinson, where 80% of the residents flooded during Harvey, will receive $49 million for two large storm sewer systems. This drainage project will help improve the drainage of floodwaters from several bayous.
The GLO awarded La Marque nearly $49 million to help improve the city's lift stations and wastewater treatment plants.
Texas City, Hitchcock and Galveston County also received GLO money.
Harris County leaders, meanwhile, complain they were left out in the cold by the process.
“They are blind to the needs and the challenges that we face here in Harris County,” Commissioner Adrian Garcia said. “I'm frustrated, folks. I'm angry.”
County Judge Lina Hidalgo said before she took office, the county got a verbal commitment for $1 billion in federal dollars to be passed down by the state, but they never got it in writing. Judge Hidalgo also said some construction costs were higher than expected.
Mayor Turner issued the following statement on the GLO’s decision:
“The City of Houston and Harris county account for over 50% of the damages from Hurricane Harvey. It is because of the damages incurred by Houston and Harris County that HUD awarded $4.2 billion in mitigation infrastructure funding to Texas.
“For the State GLO not to give one dime in the initial distribution to the City and a very small portion to Harris County shows a callous disregard to the people of Houston and Harris County. And it is unfathomable that the State GLO would redirect most of these dollars to areas that did not suffer much from Hurricane Harvey.