Houston - the GOP model for American development
Fri Sep 1, 2017 7:41am

(excerpts - I recommend reading the whole article.)
Since Houston, Texas was founded nearly two centuries ago, Houstonians have been treating its wetlands as stinky, mosquito-infested blots in need of drainage.

Even after it became a widely accepted scientific fact that wetlands can soak up large amounts of flood water, the city continued to pave over them. The watershed of the White Oak Bayou river, which includes much of northwest Houston, is a case in point. From 1992 to 2010, this area lost more than 70% of its wetlands, according to research by Texas A&M University.

In recent days, the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey has raised water levels in some parts of the watershed high enough to completely cover a Cadillac. The vanished wetlands wouldn’t have prevented flooding, but they would have made it less painful, experts say.

The Harvey-wrought devastation is just the latest example of the consequences of Houston’s gung-ho approach to development. The city, the largest in the US with no zoning laws, is a case study in limiting government regulations and favoring growth—often at the expense of the environment. As water swamps many of its neighborhoods, it’s now also a cautionary tale of sidelining science and plain common sense. Given the Trump administration’s assault on environmental protections, it’s one that Americans elsewhere should pay attention to.

“What’s likely to happen is we’re going to spend tens of billions of dollars rebuilding Houston exactly like it is now, and then wait for the next one,” says Rob Moore, a senior policy analyst on water issues for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Largely unobstructed either by rules or by natural features such as mountains, the Houston area sprawled. Between 1992 and 2010 alone nearly 25,000 acres (about 10,000 hectares) of natural wetland infrastructure was wiped out, the Texas A&M research shows. Most of the losses were in Harris County, where almost 30% of wetlands disappeared.

Altogether, the region lost the ability to handle nearly four billion gallons (15 billion liters) of storm water. That’s equivalent to $600 million worth of flood water detention capacity, according to the university researchers’ calculations.

To be sure, that’s a drop in the bucket of what Harvey will eventually unleash. The estimate was already at nine trillion gallons a couple of days after the storm made landfall. But saving and restoring wetlands is nonetheless an important part of making Houston more storm resistant, says Mary Edwards, a wetlands specialist at Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension.

Much of the destroyed wetlands were covered with pavement to accommodate the region’s explosive population growth. So these days, even a run-of-the-mill storm causes water to gush down the streets and can lead to flooding. “We generated a lot of runoff and until now we haven’t been able to keep up,” she said.

It won’t be long before remaining undeveloped places in the Houston area are swallowed up. Take a look at the Brays Bayou watershed, in southwestern Houston. The maps below show how the area lost nearly half of its wetlands, shown in purple, as development (the gray areas) expanded. The area has flooded for the past three years in a row.

Houston has been stuck in a vicious circle. More people means more subdivisions, and more subdivisions means more runoff. That results in more flooding, which ends up affecting more people.

“The idea that we just don’t care is radically changing,” says Jacob. “The real-estate people, to them Houston is a one-night stand. The rest of us want this to be a place where our grandkids are happy and safe… This storm just cements that there’s consequences to the way we’ve done stuff.”

Turning your environment over to the real-estate developers is a really bad idea.

  • Oh, kariiiist... Short-sightedness galore. (nm)Sia☺giah, Thu Aug 31 10:23pm
    • Houston - the GOP model for American development — Jeeves, Fri Sep 1 7:41am
      • someone MUST destroy one for some reason, they have to replicate it nearby and that only happens if there's NO special critters or plants living there. I'm talking single homes with that. Huge... more
        • Have you ever been to Rock Springs, Wyoming?PH👁👁EY, Mon Sep 11 7:49pm
          It is an oil town. Booms and busts. When its booming it a wild ass place that will curl your hair. Texas is kinda like that, no respect for the natural order. It's all about money and plundering the... more
          • Nope. Nowhere near it. (nm)Sia☺giah, Wed Sep 13 2:20am
            • Count your blessings.PH🍻🍻EY, Wed Sep 13 11:59pm
              When I was traveling through that area it was known as an oil boom town. Wild as hell. Crazy. Rip roaring. Happiness was seeing the last of the place in my rear view mirror.
      • Do we prohibit folks from reproducing?Sprout, Fri Sep 1 8:36am
        Do we prohibit people from moving to a city like Houston? IMO population is ultimately the root of the problem. Human beings need places to live and places to work. And as long as there are ever more ... more
        • Again, from the article: Just 10 days before Harvey struck, the president signed an executive order that rescinded federal flood protection standards put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama.... more
          • Again, easy to say what NOT to do...Sprout, Fri Sep 1 9:55am
            But it doesn't say what TO do... Easy to say where NOT to build. But it doesn't say WHERE to put the houses and other support structures for the next 10K people in the Houston area... I guarantee you ... more
            • Stop breeding or die younger! (nm)PH👶👶EY, Mon Sep 11 12:19am
            • " So, in the 10 days between the executive order and the storm, all of these problems occurred? LOL... sure... let's blame Trump for stuff that happened before he was in office. " No, I'm blaming... more
              • live in cities like Houston, New Orleans, Los Angeles, etc... Interesting.
                • That would keep the population down,Jeeves, Fri Sep 1 4:53pm
                  You could do it by lottery if you want. But the population in wetlands needs to be severely limited.
                  • Interesting....Sprout, Fri Sep 1 6:20pm
                    How remarkably discriminatory against the poor. It doesn't bother me, but I suspect the advocates for the poor would be unhappy with your proposal to price them out of many of the major cities.
                    • It won't "price them out of the cities"Jeeves, Fri Sep 1 7:11pm
                      Only the wetlands. Which tend to flood anyway. The current system tends to concentrate the poor in flood-prone areas. Why not put the wealthy, who can afford the loss, in the floodplane?
                      • But why would they?Sprout, Fri Sep 1 7:37pm
                        If you make the flood prone areas more expensive the rich will buy up the non-flood prone areas. Rich folks generally didn't get rich by making foolish financial decisions. So, if you make the flood... more
                        • Let's just say I don't agree
                          • OK... I'm hard pressed to understand whySprout, Fri Sep 1 8:06pm
                            wealthy folks would intentionally choose to build on land that will be VASTLY more expensive tax wise voluntarily as opposed to building on land that would be much cheaper tax wise to build on?
                            • Now you understand Jeeves, Fri Sep 1 9:20pm
                              The goal is to have people NOT build on wetlands/floodplains. 8^)
                                • No you don't.HeavyHemi, Sat Sep 2 2:26pm
                                  Why do you insist that something thinks or is saying something despite them telling you directly you're wrong?
                                  • If not, who do you expect to END UP with it? By reducing the SUPPLY of a commodity without reducing the DEMAND for a commodity, how do you plan on AVOIDING a price increase? And if you don't, who do... more
                                    • It's the tax structure that forces the destruction of the environment. In my county not so very long ago standing timber (TREES) was taxed. What did that encourage? Yep, you guessed it. Land holdings ... more
                                    • You mean I can only use your metrics?HeavyHemi, Sat Sep 2 5:41pm
                                      That the ONLY way to implement policy is via taxation. Methinks you're repeating the same mistakes we point out to you time and time again: The argument you are having in your head, isn't the one... more
                                      • Taxation was the proposed solution...Sprout, Mon Sep 4 4:57pm
                                        Not my proposal, but the proposal we have been discussing. Care to offer a different proposal? One that WOULD in some way not only prevent construction on flood prone lands, but ALSO ensure that real ... more
                    • Why do you believe only the poor live there?HeavyHemi, Fri Sep 1 6:23pm
                      How remarkably narrow minded...and of course not an honest and accurate reflection of the content of his post. Grow up.
        • Development should be permitted only if the consequences of development are addressed and how the consequences will be handled so that the consequences do not cause unintended problems...traffic,... more
          • Some other sucker's dime. Pikes, Fri Sep 1 10:06am
            Cheyenne Mountain is home of NORAD. Over the last three decades, developers built mostly large scale, mansionesque homes on the eastern flank of the mountain, adjacent to the wealthy area of the... more
          • they have already outstripped their water supply... They should perhaps be required to exile 30% of their population, or maybe more? Under what legal authority CAN Los Angeles do this? Again, easy to ... more
            • It's a great big Mexican sponge. (nm)PH👹🙏🏽EY, Thu Sep 14 3:24pm
            • Los Angeles should be allowed to expand Merlin, Fri Sep 1 10:07am
              subject to government regulations requiring development be permitted only if the consequences of development are addressed and how the consequences will be handled so that the consequences do not... more
              • of the resources available. Study up on the water wars that went on as LA annexed water resources. Plus look at all of the ecological damage done by farming all of that natural land to feed all of... more
                • Yes...we should do absolutely nothing.HeavyHemi, Fri Sep 1 6:28pm
                  Maybe just laugh at your silly antics of posting extremes and dishonestly portraying what has been posted by others. Seriously, grow up. For certain Spout, things are not going to get better in some... more
                  • This gets back to the question I have been asking. Not just what not to do. What to ACTUALLY do? And a plan must be ACTUALLY applicable in the real world. Simply pricing people out of homes isn't... more
              • Eric Berger summed it up pretty wellJeeves, Fri Sep 1 10:38am
                Eric Berger just published an account of what he went through in Houston during Harvey. It's a good read. I completely agree with his conclusion. This is probably the worst US flood storm ever, and... more
                • for a WORST CASE, he said about 25 inches... of course we got DOUBLE THAT... Yet it is remarkable how hindsight is 20/20... at least for this forecaster... Ours humbly admitted that foresight wasn't... more
                • One way Trump intervenedPikes, Fri Sep 1 1:23pm
                  An Obama executive order Trump recently repealed required government notification of property owners who chose to rebuild on determined flood plain or flood drainage lands, that they did so at their... more
                  • They gov't can alwasy be asked...Sprout, Fri Sep 1 6:27pm
                    Lots of folks ASK FEMA and the federal gov't for all sorts of crap.... The proper answer I such cases is a simple and polite, "no." No reason to take extra effort to notify them. When they get denied ... more
                    • This is differentPikes, Fri Sep 1 7:14pm
                      It requires people with lost property in a flood zone to be notified that for future reference, as per future needs, FEMA and other Federal assistance cannot be expected if they rebuild there.
              • Applied to CongressPikes, Fri Sep 1 10:22am
                Congressional spending could follow a similar model. Any bill submitted must include a plan for payment that does not add to the debt. No more unfunded mandates. If a bill doesn't have such a plan,... more