The Political Committee monitors area political activity, promotes the awareness of environmental issues as they relate to the ballot box, and promotes environmentally responsible candidates for political office. The committee is especially active at election time.
Houston Regional Group - October 25, 2018
Houston Sierra Club Flood Management Policy
Since its founding in the late 1960’s, the Houston Sierra Club (Sierra Club) has advocated for flood management that not only “Keeps people out of harm’s way” but also “Works with, and not against Nature”. These two principles, along with public participation and transparency for public decision-making processes, are the foundation of the Sierra Club’s “Flood Management Policy”. The Sierra Club favors a cooperative regional approach for flood management and ecosystem protection, which extends over multiple counties and entire watersheds, in the greater Houston area and Galveston Bay. The Houston Sierra Club supports:
1)Protection of greenspace– Flood management entities must emphasize solutions rooted in the Houston Region’s natural ecology which includes prairies, riparian areas, forests, woodlands and savannahs, coastal shorelines, wetland areas, estuaries, lakes and ponds, and rivers and streams. The Sierra Club supports project priority criteria that favor non-structural above structural solutions.
Prioritization for the acquisition, preservation, protection, and management of ecologically important lands and property within and next to floodplains in each watershed, as greenspace, can simultaneously accommodate floodwaters and parks, natural areas, wildlife habitat, and compatible recreation.
The Sierra Club favors off-line detention over in-line detention to protect existing streams and rivers and riparian, bottomland, and aquatic vegetation and ecosystems. In-line detention widens and channelizes streams and eradicates their ecological values. A program that identifies, maps, and protects agricultural and forest lands in the greater Houston area would be beneficial for flood management and ecosystem protection and should be implemented.
2)Decisions based on the latest scientific data– Flood management decisions must be based upon the best scientific information that are available or that can be obtained in a seasonable time. Timely updates of Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and use of the latest precipitation frequency maps and elevation maps must become the norm. To make sound, long-term planning decisions, FIRMs must document at a minimum, watershed overflow zones, and show the 500, 250, and 100-year floodplains. This will empower residents to evaluate their susceptibility to flooding. Updated FIRMs must be used to evaluate dam adequacy and safety and other flood problems.
3)Prevention of future harm– Flood warning systems must be expanded and include more U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream-gages, especially upstream of Harris County, to ensure watershed flood modeling, monitoring, and early warning systems on local and regional watersheds work as effectively and efficiently as possible.
4)Neighborhood-centered solutions– To sustain neighborhoods in each watershed, there must be public input to determine flood problems and solutions. Neighborhoods must have significant and effective input when decisions are made about prioritization of residential buyouts versus offering financial support to elevate structures.
To ensure equality, inclusion, and environmental justice we must identify and support funding mechanisms for economically disadvantaged neighborhoods which create houses that are sustainable in floods, protect people, and are environmentally appropriate. Flood management entities must emphasize watershed planning, public education and participation, and regulatory enforcement. Property sales must disclose the flood history of the structure in addition to the FIRM flood zone. Renters must be told if the property they want to rent has flooded.
5)Maximize transparency and public involvement– Effective and frequent public involvement and political transparency must be required for all significant flood management decisions. Public meetings and hearings with public review and comment periods of appropriate length must be mandatory.
6)Continued monitoring for optimal decision-making– Audits must be implemented to gauge the degree of flood management success for all permits so that they are consistent with FEMA’s “substantial damage” guidelines. A system of Post-Harvey flood protocols must be created and implemented to ensure rapid implementation of FEMA guidelines for issuance of construction permits and accurate calculation of substantial damage estimates.
7) Planning – To assist in planning and modeling for flood management strategies, assume a minimum of 80% or greater of impervious surface in areas of high urban development in each watershed. Conduct and implement the study results about how much pervious surface should be protected and left in each watershed. Watershed planning should include opportunities for robust public participation.
8) Climate change preparation and implementation– Plan for and implement climate change impact mitigation which reflects an increase in intensity, frequency, and magnitude of storm and rainfall events and sea level rise. Governmental entities will implement a reduction in carbon dioxide, methane, and other air pollutants which cause climate change.
9)Sea level rise– Flood management must identify and map sea level rise buffers on low-lying coastal floodplains. These buffers must reflect at least 100 years of sea level rise on public and private lands. Storm surge and sea level rise can magnify flood impacts on waterways that are tidally influenced.
Current buyout programs are voluntary. Increased storm surge incursion, due to sea level rise, will render some properties economically unreasonable to protect or insure in the future. These properties should be subject to buyouts or determined ineligible for federal flood insurance. This strategy mimics the current ban on building in the regulatory floodway. Buy-out programs should be based on risk to public safety, health, and ecological health.
Our coastal flood management policy should implement strategies like “strategic withdrawal”, “keep people out of harm’s way”, “protection of our ecosystems”, and “green infrastructure”.