TEMPLE – Projects to repair and rehabilitate flood control structures across Texas will now be funded thanks to a $150 million appropriations bill legislators passed this session. The Governor signed the bill into law on June 6, 2019. These structures serve as a critical protection for our state’s infrastructure, private property, and lives. The State appropriated the funds to the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) to administer through grants to the local sponsors of Flood Control Dams, including Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs).
“The primary purpose of these Flood Control Dams is to protect lives and property by reducing the velocity of floodwaters, thereby reducing flows to a safer rate,” said Barry Mahler, TSSWCB Chairman.
The Texas Legislature also addressed statewide flooding issues with the passage of Senate Bill 8, authored by Senator Charles Perry, which creates the first State Flood Plan for Texas. Partnering with the Texas Water Development Board, TSSWCB will incorporate earthen dams as part of the bigger picture for flood mitigation strategies, establishing a ten-year plan to have all high-hazard dams meeting high-hazard safety standards.
Senator Perry has been an advocate for addressing the State's earthen dam funding saying, "The funding of the earthen dam program is a responsible, and proactive measure to ensuring the safety of the citizens of the state as we continue to grow into areas which once had little development."
Currently there are 2,041 dams which were originally built by the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) through federal programs in Texas with the understanding that local sponsors would supply operation and maintenance. Local sponsors include Soil and Water Conservation Districts (a subdivision of state government), cities, counties, water control improvement districts, river authorities, and other special purpose districts.
“TSSWCB recognizes the monumental importance in the upkeep of flood control structures and is proud that the Legislature chose to make a significant investment to safeguard a critical element of the State’s infrastructure,” said Rex Isom, TSSWCB Executive Director and current Chairman of the National Watershed Coalition.
There are 622 dams that are classified as high hazard, meaning there is a potential loss of life if the dam fails; however, only 123 of these meet high hazard criteria. That means that currently 499 dams need rehabilitation and upgrade to meet safety criteria that will adequately protect lives downstream totaling over $1.5 billion, including anticipated federal and local match over a ten-year period.
Established by the Texas Legislature in 1939, the TSSWCB is governed by seven board members, all of which are actively involved in agriculture or silviculture. Five of the board members are voted in by a delegation of their local peers, and two board members are appointed by the Governor of Texas.
TSSWCB works in conjunction with local SWCDs across Texas to encourage the wise and productive use of natural resources. TSSWCB is the lead agency for planning, implementing, and managing coordinated natural resource conservation programs for preventing and abating agricultural and silvicultural nonpoint sources of water pollution. TSSWCB also works to ensure that the State’s network of over 2,000 flood control dams are protecting lives and property by providing operation, maintenance, and structural repair grants to local government sponsors.
For more information visit: https://www.tsswcb.texas.gov/flood-control-repair-projects