Rosenberg city officials are celebrating after the Texas General Land Office’s recent decision to award them $47.5 million in disaster mitigation funding to construct a detention pond and make other drainage improvements.
But the dispersal of more than $1.2 billion in federal funding didn’t pass without some controversy in Fort Bend County.
Officials with the county have filed an appeal to the land office’s decision, asking them to reconsider a request to fund a $96 million erosion project along the Brazos River between the Grand Parkway and Highway 59, according to Mark Vogler, chief engineer with the county.
“Fort Bend County communities, businesses and our local infrastructure has been severely damaged by flooding in 2015, 2016 and again in 2017 with Hurricane Harvey,” said Tami Frazier, spokesperson for County Judge KP George. “The need for improved drainage infrastructure in many areas of Fort Bend County has been a priority for many years, and effective flood mitigation and disaster response is a priority of Judge George.”
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) was tasked with dispersing more than $1.2 billion in federal grant funding and received more than 290 applications totaling $6.5 billion in funding requests, said Brittany Eck, spokesperson for the office.
Communities across Texas had to submit the applications by Oct. 28, 2020.
Rosenberg’s drainage projects received funding, in part, because they would benefit residents in low-to-moderate income areas that have faced repetitive storm damage, according to a GLO news release.
“This incredibly generous $47.5 million grant from (Texas Land) Commissioner George P. Bush and the Texas GLO will enable us to make many of those critically needed improvements to our drainage channels, culvert crossings and storm sewers,” Rosenberg Mayor Kevin Raines said.
More than 80 homes in Rosenberg were flooded during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, City Manager John Maresh said.
The project covered with the funding will allow crews to add channel improvements and slope paving, storm sewer improvements and regional detention along Dry Creek, Theater Ditch, Rabbs Bayou, Graeber Road and Theater Ditch North, Maresh said.
It’s not yet clear when work on the project might begin, Maresh said. City officials must first enter a formal agreement with the land office, a process which might take several months to complete.
Maresh also wasn’t yet sure exactly how funding would work. Previous land office projects have been funded on a reimbursement basis as the work progresses, Maresh said.
Vogler on Wednesday praised his colleagues at Rosenberg, while also expressing frustration that the Brazos River project didn’t receive funding.
“As a specialist in drainage, my concern is drainage,” Vogler said. “I felt like most of the money should have gone to those kinds of issues.”
Fort Bend County wasn’t alone, however, in finding itself on the outside looking in.
Both Houston and Harris County were denied any funding, despite them both applying for about $900 million, according to an ABC13 report.
Bush later asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to give Harris County a direct allocation of $750 million for mitigation projects, according to a land office news release.
Fort Bend officials have filed an appeal with the land office, but it still may be some time before they hear back, Vogler said.
That appeal will be heard Monday, but state officials will then have 15 days to comment, Vogler said.
The land office still has $1.14 billion remaining in mitigation funding to disburse, according to a news release.
“We’ll continue on to that second phase,” Vogler said. “See if we can catch up.”