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New Texas Law for Flood Control Funding Depends on Voters this November

Louisiana has declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Barry heads for land, bringing the potential for a life-threatening storm surge. In Houston, we breathe a collective sigh of relief while simultaneously, our Hurricane Harvey memories are refreshed.

What has Texas done to avoid the type of flooding and damage experienced in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey?

This year, the 86th Texas Legislature responded and worked hard. A large percentage of the new laws that were passed last month at the end of the session address the issues of water, flooding, and emergency preparedness.

Texas Senate Bill No. 7, authored by a Conroe senator and signed by Governor Abbott, appropriates nearly $2 billion from the Texas “rainy day fund” to help pay for repairs from hurricane damage and for flood control projects. This fund is an economic stabilization fund, and Texas has the largest such “rainy day fund” in the United States. The exact fund amount is unclear, but roughly $11 billion is in the fund based on information posted on the Texas Comptroller’s website. New law regarding the way the “rainy day” fund is invested also came out of this legislative session, but that is the subject of a different blog.

Damage left from Harvey presented a stark wake-up call and posed a challenge to all Texans forcing the realization we must prepare for future flood events, and the Texas legislature accepted the challenge. Despite an attempt by lawmakers to pass law that would result in the transfer of nearly $3 billion from the “rainy day” fund to flood and infrastructure funds, the passage of new law will potentially result in the transfer of $1.7 billion to both the Flood Infrastructure Fund, and the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund found in new law which amends the Texas Water Code.

The Texas House and Senate passed Joint Resolution 4, and voters will vote on November 5, 2019 for an amendment to the Texas Constitution authorizing the creation of the Flood Infrastructure Fund, and money in that fund will be administered and used without further appropriation by the Texas Water Development Board. The Fund will be used to assist in financing drainage, flood control projects, and flood mitigation. Texas municipalities will be able to obtain loans from the Fund, and the interest can be deferred for 10 years or until construction of flood projects are completed.

The language in the new law defines “flood project” for purposes of the Resiliency Fund as drainage, flood mitigation, or flood control project, which includes planning and design, construction, nonstructural control strategies, or federal projects to deepen a ship channel. Federal dollars by way of matching funds are dependent on the passage of this constitutional amendment. This is particularly true for parts of Texas still recovering and rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey, and more specifically the Houston area.

Senate Bill 8 also sets forth new Texas Water Code provisions with the requirement that the Texas Water Development Board prepare and adopt a comprehensive state flood plan incorporating approved regional flood plains.

Elected Officials in Texas recognized the urgent need for action and the voters must support their efforts by voting in November; otherwise lawmakers’ efforts are wasted, and much of this new law will not take effect.

Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Information about our real estate practice can be found here.

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