Judge Hidalgo spoke earlier that morning with officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has been working with the county on the improvements.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, and we saw it yesterday,” said Judge Hidalgo. “Certainly, hundreds if not thousands of structures that would have flooded if we hadn’t done the work we’ve done so far on Brays.”
The Meyerland neighborhood in southwest Houston flooded three times in a two-and-a-half-year span, most recently during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
That storm prompted government leaders to pump money into the mitigation efforts, known as Project Brays, and speed up construction.
Project Brays is a multi-year, $480 million project that includes more than 75 improvements spread across 31 miles. Those include widening bayous, building detention basins, and rebuilding bridges.
Melvin Houston has lived near Brays Bayou since 1996. He’s watched the improvements take shape while biking or jogging along the bayou’s trails.
“I see that it actually worked out (during Beta) cause there’s no flooding,” said Houston. “I like the way the flow of the water is on the bayou.”
Azra Keskin, whose home flooded during Harvey, agreed.
“I’ve seen a difference,” said Keskin. “We didn’t get flooded.”
Mayor Sylvester Turner told City Council Wednesday he believed water would have come out of Brays Bayou and damaged nearby homes without the improvements.
“The project did work,” said Mayor Turner. “It does prove that these mitigation efforts are worth their weight in gold.”
Mayor Turner highlighted several more detention basins in the works near Willow Waterhole Bayou, Keegans Bayou, northwest Houston, and west Houston, along with flood mitigation projects at Lake Houston and downtown.
Most work on Project Brays was finished as of Wednesday. Judge Hidalgo expects all work to be complete by 2021 or 2022.
“Some of these areas, even if the bayou is doing great, the city needs to do work on the drainage,” said Judge Hidalgo. “Same goes for other jurisdictions. The county will take care of the bayous and channels, but the cities need to do that work so that the water actually goes to the drains into the channels and bayous.”
Judge Hidalgo said she urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday to focus on improving flood mitigation at Clear Creek, which experienced heavy flooding during Beta.
She’s also pushing the Corps and Congress to fund the Ike Dike to protect Galveston Bay from storm surge.
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People can keep up with the progress of Harris County flood mitigation projects at HarrisThrives.org.
In the meantime, Judge Hidalgo is recommending everyone in Harris County get flood insurance to help with recovery in case of flood damage.