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Report: 1 in 6 Texans live or work in known flood hazard areas

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(The Center Square) – Roughly one in six Texans, or more than five million people, live or work in known flood hazard areas, according to Texas’ first State Flood Plan.

The report was published this month in accordance with a new law requiring the state to “perform comprehensive planning to reduce flood risk and take a broad look at flood hazard” statewide.

In 2019, the Texas legislature passed SB 8, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law, to implement a regional flood planning process after the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. A Category 4 hurricane, Harvey was the second most expensive natural disaster to impact the U.S. Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain in the Houston area nonstop for four days, causing more than $125 billion in damages.

Overseen by the Texas Water Development Board, the process involved holding more than 550 public meetings, with more than 300 regional flood planning group voting members, consultants, and administrative sponsors within a 15 regional planning group system. They identified 15 regional flood plans, which were first presented to the TWDB in January 2023. The board then published its findings in the 2024 State Flood Plan report this month. The findings include “thousands of specific, actionable flood management evaluations, flood mitigation projects, and flood management strategies with identified costs and sponsors.”

The public is invited to review the plan and provide comments by June 17 online.

The results of their findings are extensive.

The plan identified existing risk to lives and property from flooding and potential actions to mitigate those flood risks. Significant risk of flooding exists in all 15 planning regions, the report notes, although the extent and type of flood hazard varies due to several factors.

It identifies three aspects of flood risk: “the flood hazard (the magnitude and extent of flooding), the potential exposure of people and property to that hazard (who and what might flood), and the vulnerability (degree to which communities or critical facilities may be affected) of the people and property exposed to that flood hazard.”

The plan “confirms that the flood risk across Texas is significant and widespread. Almost one fourth of Texas’ land area (66,831 square miles) is in either the 1 percent (100-year) or 0.2 percent (500-year) annual chance flood hazard areas, with approximately 21 percent of the land area (56,053 square miles) within the 1 percent annual chance flood hazard areas.”

Roughly one in six Texans lives or works in known flood hazard areas, including in the 1% (100-year) and 0.2% (500-year) annual chance floodplains. This equates to 2.4 million people living or working in the 1% annual chance floodplain, and 2.8 million in the 0.2% annual chance floodplain.

The number of buildings in the two floodplain zones total 878,100 and 786,100, respectively.

More than 6,258 hospitals, emergency medical services, fire stations, police stations, and schools are located in both floodplain zones.

Likewise, 1,239 Texas communities and counties with flood-related authority participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, the report found, with more than 500 having floodplain management standards that exceed the program’s minimum standards.

The 15 regional flood planning groups recommended 4,609 flood risk reduction solutions, which include 3,097 flood management evaluations, 615 flood mitigation projects, and 897 flood management solutions in their regions.

They total an estimated implementation cost of more than $54.5 billion; total cost of recommended flood management evaluations exceeds $2.6 billion.

The total cost of recommended flood mitigation projects totals over $49 billion, with more than half associated with the Galveston Bay Surge Protection Coastal Storm Risk Management project, the report states.

The total cost of recommended flood management strategies is more than $2.8 billion.

“Texas has a long history of flooding and flood-related loss that has taken an enormous toll on people and property,” the report states. If its proposed flood plan were implemented, “an estimated 843,339 people and 214,292 buildings would be removed from the 1 percent annual chance floodplain,” it says.