Conservationists want to preserve wetlands to avoid catastrophic flooding

There’s a call to preserve area wetlands so we don’t experience catastrophic flooding in the future in a story brought to you from FOX 26 News in partnership with Community Impact Newspaper Cy-Fair edition.

Paul Marshall saw water from the Tax Day 2016 flood come within six feet of his back door.

“First time it’s done that,” said Marshall. He’s lived near Cypress Creek since 1982. It crested just below the level of the 1994 flood, but this time damage was much worse. Why was this the case?

"There's been a lot more development in the past 20 years, and it's impacted the way floodwaters are handled in Houston,” said Suzanne Simpson, stewardship director for the Bayou Land Conservancy.

Simpson has witnessed the painful transformation of wetlands into subdivisions in northwest Harris County. 

“Our wetlands act as natural sponges for our ecosystem," explained Simpson. "The more we have impervious surfaces like concrete upstream, the more that's going to affect the people downstream.”

The Cypress-Fairbanks area was ground zero on Tax Day. Hundreds of homes flooded and schools shut down for a week.

“Our main goal at Bayou Land Conservancy is to protect the floodway from being impacted with development,” said Simpson. She hopes the flooding will result in a closer look at the construction permitting process, for which she believes mitigation requirements aren’t enough.

“Sometimes mitigation isn't done at the impact site, so impacts can be in the Houston area but mitigation can be in east Texas, so communities aren't seeing benefits,” added Simpson.

Perhaps changing people’s perceptions about wetlands is the first step. 

“We have to view wetlands not as a burden on the economy but a benefit to living in Houston,” said Simpson.