Has flood protection in Harris County improved since Hurricane Harvey?

Exactly four years ago, much of Harris County and the surrounding region was immersed - a drenching of biblical proportion delivered by a hurricane known as Harvey.

Like many of us, Bruce High was more than an eye-witness. Aboard the Precinct 3 airboat he piloted, more than 600 waterlogged neighbors found refuge from their flooded homes.

"Happy to have their lives. Every one of them were thanking God the second they got in the boat," recalled High.

MORE: Four years after Hurricane Harvey, Houston mayor says the city is less vulnerable

Aboard the same boat built for rescue, County Commissioner Tom Ramsey toured John Paul Landing Park, among the dozens of floodwater retention spaces vastly expanded since the 2017 storm.

"500,000 dump trunks of detention that's been created since Harvey came through. I'm excited I'm optimistic," said Ramsey.


Call it badly needed storage space for stormwater - so a system overloaded by deluge can clear out.

"We are better off! Are we done yet? No, but here's what we have done - every project on the 2018 bond issue has been initiated and is ahead of schedule," said Ramsey.

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An engineer by trade, Ramsey says a key metric of progress is the 11,000 homes pushed out of the flood plain in the past four years. Long-term, he's advocating for the construction of massive tunnels to handle what the bayous cannot.

"I mean a big drain is a 40-foot diameter tunnel a hundred feet underground - a siphon, if you will, to siphon the water to the ship channel," said Ramsey.

Nearly 40 miles away we caught up with businessman and columnist on Braes Bayou near hard-hit Meyerland.

"You know this project was originally supposed to be completed in 2002 and here we are in 2021 and as you can see there's still a lot of work to do," said King next to a construction site on Project Braes.

MORE: Flood mitigation projects in Meyerland showing promise

King fears flood re-mediation isn't happening quick enough to beat the next big storm - and the kind of repeat disaster which could cement Houston's reputation as a chronically flood-prone community.

"If you have another event that accentuates that impression, it's going to be very hard to undo that bad branding," said King.

King says local leaders could make a near-immediate impact by more aggressively purchasing flood-prone homes and apartment buildings near bayous and creating "green space" after demolition.

Ramsey says Harris County's total investment will soon approach $5 billion, an amount he calls a "down payment" on what's needed for the future.