Congressional committee holds Harvey relief hearing

- The U.S. House Homeland Security Committee held a field hearing Monday in Cypress to look at lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey and the path forward.

The hearing at the Berry Center was chaired by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and lasted several hours.

Members of Congress questioned Houston-area leaders including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on how to improve the disaster response if one is needed again.

“A reservoir needs to be done like now,” Mayor Turner said, also telling Congress members he'd like to see HUD release funding to the Houston area sooner than August or September. 

He was among the local leaders pushing for another reservoir in addition to Barker and Addicks.

Members of Congress took note.

“One of the big takeaways for me was one of the things that caused the downtown flooding in the first place, and that was the Cypress Creek," said Rep. Michael McCaul. "Flood mitigation is so important. We have to direct these moneys towards the Army Corps of Engineers to build and construct this third reservoir.”

He also interrogated representatives from the Army Corps, the Coast Guard, FEMA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“How soon can we expect this reservoir to be built for the people of Texas?” asked McCaul to the panel at the hearing.

He asked questions about the procedure the Army Corps followed when releasing floodwaters from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs.

“Why did they have to do this at 1:30 in the morning?" asked McCaul. "Why couldn't the residents downstream have been given more adequate notice of that. That’s something my committee will be investigating to make sure something like that never happens again.”

The committee asked how to expedite getting help to the people who are still struggling to get back on their feet after Harvey. Houston-area leaders responded: cut the red tape and the studies.

"More studies lead to more studies and not solutions," said Mayor Turner.

“On the issue of Community Development Block Grants to rebuild these communities, it is imperative that perhaps we bypass the bureaucracy and block-grant this money directly to Houston and Harris County,” said McCaul.

The members of Congress noted they’ve appropriated $132 billion to disaster relief since Hurricane Harvey. McCaul said he’s going to make sure Texas gets as big a chunk of that funding as possible.

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