On Tuesday, Harris County Commissioners took a step forward on a controversial flood control proposal.
The commissioners voted unanimously during their bi-weekly Commissioners Court meeting to authorize negotiations with engineers to study the impact of removing vegetation and digging detention basins along Buffalo Bayou in Terry Hershey Park, an area roughly between State Highway 6 and Beltway 8.
Supporters of the idea say vegetation blocks the water flow and makes flooding worse. However, opponents, which include many homeowners flooded during Harvey, say not only do the trees help clean the surrounding air and water, they also can absorb up to 90 percent of the runoff.
“If you make water flow through faster in one part of the stream, you’ve got to do it to everybody downstream or else it’s just going to send the water downstream and flood their homes and cause more erosion, too,” said Susan Chadwick, Executive Director of Save Buffalo Bayou.
Chadwick told KHOU she and members of Save Buffalo Bayou are “very much in favor” of detention, but only if it occurs before rain runoff gets into the stream, rather than siphoning off flow already in the stream, like in the county’s proposed detention basins.
Russ Poppe, Executive Director of Harris County Flood Control District, told commissioners crews are already out along the bayou identifying which vegetation is beneficial for flood control and which is not.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett told reporters he doesn’t have a timeline for when the study will be complete but expects it to happen “fairly quickly."
“I think the public really expects us to move forward with flood control projects,” Emmett said. “Every project’s gonna have people who are for it and against it, but we have to start that process, and that’s what today was.”