Houston Launches Resilience Plan To Prepare For Its New Normal

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner signs Resilient Houston plan     Photo: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle 

Houston has been deluged by six major flooding events in the last five years, including Tropical Storm Imelda last September — five of which resulted in federal disaster declarations.  Now, in order to turn the page and get ahead of these disasters, the City of Houston has adopted a plan to prepare the city for what is expected to be more of the same for decades to come due to climate change — through a range of actions such as the planting of 4.6 million new trees and the removal of all homes from city floodways.

Why This Matters:  FEMA studies have shown that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure — $1 invested before a disaster saves on average more than $5 after — and sometimes much more.  Houston has been hit hard by severe storms and they are vying for a big portion of the $4.3 billion in federal mitigation grants allocated to Texas, which will be rolled out through the General Land Office.  They are also seeking to make the most of Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery funding because these fixes are not cheap.  Shell Oil funded the development of the plan — but given big oil’s connection to Houston’s climate change problem – perhaps the company should also fund some of the solutions.  Ironically, making the city carbon-neutral by 2050 is also an objective of the plan — it includes creating 500 miles of additional bike lanes to take cars off the road.  Perhaps other cities will follow Houston’s forward-leaning resilience blueprint.

How Houston Plans to Solve Its Problem

According to the Houston Chronicle, the plan “addresses resiliency at five scales — people, neighborhoods, bayous, the city and the region — and sets 18 targets, along with a corresponding set of 62 actions to make those happen.”  Not all the actions are new, but the plan provides a structure to ensure coordination across the city government.  Here are some of the major actions the plan calls for:

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