Houston City Council Member Dave Martin was blunt and to the point: “We’re ‘Kingwood Strong’ but this could happen tomorrow.”
The “this” Martin was talking about was the flooding that occurred after Hurricane Harvey.
“And make no mistake about it,” he said as he displayed photos of the sand-clogged San Jacinto River and the devastation to homes, businesses and the terrain, “this was all man-made.”
Martin and Texas State Representative Dan Huberty teamed up in what was billed as the “Dan and Dave Show” at the Lake Houston Chamber’s Kingwood BizCom Dec. 7 at Kingwood Park High School to discuss their efforts to make sure that the devastating late August floods never happen again.
“We need a new regional authority to coordinate the San Jacinto River Authority,” said Huberty. “We need to dredge the San Jacinto and its tributaries and get rid of the sand and soil that flooded us. And we need to install a third lock.”
“When New Orleans flooded, those residents screamed their heads off, demanding the state and federal governments solve the problem,” said Martin, who is a Louisiana native. “We need to scream as much as New Orleans did. I know we’re ‘Kingwood Strong,’ but that’s not going to prevent a flood from occurring again.”
With damage to more than 6,000 homes and 3,300 businesses, Huberty estimates the cost of the flooding will be $2 billion.
Without a warning or notice, the San Jacinto River Authority released water from Lake Conroe, causing parts of Kingwood and Humble that had never flooded before to flood.
“We were fine before the water release,” said Martin.
“The chamber has organized the Lake Houston Area Long-Term Recovery Task Force to help rebuild the community and prevent future catastrophic floods,” said chamber CEO Jenna Armstrong. “We’ve identified three immediate-action steps that must be taken.”
Armstrong described two flood-related Chamber initiatives – “Plea for Three” and “Back to Business.”
“Plea for Three” encourages Lake Houston residents to contact the governor and other state officials.
“It’s easy to do,” said Armstrong. “Go to our recoverlakehouston.org website and send emails to your elected officials. A letter and all the address information you need is right there.”
The “Back to Business” program focuses on the 3,300 businesses that flooded.
“The impact to our community is significant,” said Armstrong. “Employees are displaced, the customer base is affected, and most small businesses have no recourse, no federal money or large corporate office to help them.”
One successful program for businesses has been the Lift Fund, a project of the Michael Dell Foundation.
“We’re their pilot project,” said Armstrong. “Five businesses applied, three were approved for funds that carry zero interest, and two are in the queue for approval.”
Armstrong estimates that 71 percent of the businesses that flooded will reopen, an extremely high percentage since FEMA estimates 90 percent of businesses affected by a disaster will not reopen. Visit the chamber website, lakehouston.org/lhabacktobiz, for information about businesses’ re-openings.