By The Houston Chronicle
Kingwood residents have long complained about feeling like the unwanted stepchildren of Houston ever since the neighborhood was annexed in 1996.
The city and county’s recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey should set out to prove them wrong, and this means treating Kingwood’s flooding problems with the same seriousness reserved for a coastal barrier near Galveston and a third reservoir in west Houston.
Kingwood residents, on the banks of the San Jacinto River, are sitting ducks for flooding. The north Houston community suffered mightily during Hurricane Harvey, and damage from that storm left Kingwood vulnerable to flooding from even small rainfall events, the Chronicle’s Mike Snyder reports.
How? Harvey washed sediment — some of it from nearby sand mines — into the river, shallowing the waterway so it can hold less volume. The destruction was so bad entire sandbars formed in the river, displacing so much water that parts of Kingwood flooded when a mere half-inch of rain fell in a February downpour.
Fighting this flooding means regulating sand mining along the San Jacinto, which feeds Houston’s massive appetite for construction concrete.
A 2011 law requiring sand mines to register and be inspected was a start, and Humble Republican state Rep. Dan Huberty is correct to call for that law to be strengthened, perhaps even to include a ban on sand mining along the San Jacinto.
Fixing the damage already done by dredging the river would cost millions and potentially lower the quality of Houston’s main source of potable water. Houston and Harris County officials are making the right move to push for dredging as soon as possible, so long as they consult with environmentalists to minimize disruption to the river’s ecology.
With flooding in Houston expected to worsen with additional development and climate change, neglecting to create a long-term plan to keep sand banks from washing into the San Jacinto could end up costing far more, and needlessly subject Kingwood residents to flooding of their homes.
This risk has already led businesses to tell the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce that another flood would convince them to leave town, a move that would justify District E Council Member Dave Martin’s fears of losing the community’s tax base.
Houston and Harris County policy makers have shown a rare willingness to consider spending billions on building infrastructure to handle future flood-producing storms. Harvey was undoubtedly a wakeup call for this city, and Kingwood must be included in long-term efforts to protect the city from future deluges.