State lawmakers in Houston to help with Harvey aftermath

- State lawmakers have gathered in Houston to try to find out what the Bayou City still needs after being hit hard by Harvey.

The House Committee on County Affairs has been hearing from top local leaders since this morning. The group’s two main questions, "How did things go during Harvey and what do you need now?"   

"Lessons that we learn from this will help us,” Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis told the committee. 

Houstonians learned many hard lessons as a result of Harvey.

"We have hundreds of tributaries and drainage ditches all over the county. We need all of those to work to their absolute capacity if we’re going to remain as flood proof as we can,” says Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.  Emmett, speaking before the Texas House of Representatives Committee on County Affairs, told the group one of the only ways to do that is to maintain and make improvements to those waterways, which costs money.

The county government operates only on property taxes. The judge says that isn’t nearly enough.

“So if we can’t use property tax to adequately fund flood control, then we need to be able to get that money from somewhere else," Emmett said. "Hopefully the state committee can help us with that."  

The committee left the meeting room to take a tour of University of Houston Downtown which is still rebuilding after having water nearly waist deep like so many other homes and businesses.

"We had almost $200 million of damage to current flood control infrastructure. Just to get back to where we were before Harvey we need that money, and that seems like a good use of the Rainy Day Fund,” adds Judge Emmett. 

State Representative Garnet Coleman, chair of the committee, says he can’t promise a dollar amount but hopes the state can help.

"We know we’ll come across this again and if we don’t fix it now when will we?” Coleman asks.

The Judge says the county could also use funding for a third reservoir.  As for buyouts, Judge Emmett says they are "progressing slowly because until a federal bill is passed we won’t know how much money will be available for the major buyouts.  We’re still doing buyouts from previous storms."

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