Congressman Praises Hurricane Rebuilding Efforts on Anniversary of Storm

By George Slaughter

City Administrator Byron Hebert, Mayor Chuck Brawner, U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul, Police Chief Bill Hastings, and Fire Chief Russell Wilson at a Monday news conference – George Slaughter photo

U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul praised Katy and other Texas leaders for their efforts to rebuild following Hurricane Harvey Monday, the one-year anniversary of the storm.

McCaul praised Harris County voters, who on Saturday passed a $2.5 billion bond package focused on flood risk reduction projects. McCaul described the bond as a “force multiplier” to make sure the Cypress Creek watershed reservoir would be built as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Katy voters in May approved a bond package worth $19.25 million. The bond covers street work to elevate the 1st Street bridge and Katy Hockley Road (Avenue D), drainage projects for the Fortuna and Pine Forest subdivisions, and for expansion of the city’s sewer plant.

On the federal level, McCaul said that Congress has passed $140 billion in appropriations for hurricane relief in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Of that amount, $12.5 billion will be spent on Army Corps of Engineers projects in Texas.

Recalling one year ago, McCaul, R-Austin, said he recalled talking with area mayors about deploying the National Guard as expeditiously as possible, because of concerns about possible loss of life.

“Fortunately, we didn’t have the loss of life as we did” in the historic 1900 Galveston hurricane that McCaul said that his grandfather survived. “But, we did have a lot of damage that was done in the aftermath.”

The key federal project for Katy is the Cypress Creek watershed reservoir. McCaul and other officials have said that plans to build that reservoir, to complement the already-existing Addicks and Barker watershed reservoirs, existed in 1940.

“Unfortunately, that wasn’t done,” McCaul said. “The good news is, it’s going to get done.”

By federal law, the Corps of Engineers must perform a study before embarking on such a project. McCaul said efforts are being made to compel the Corps to use the data gathered from both Harvey and the 2016 Tax Day Flood to expedite the study.

Another idea being explored is the use of a private contractor to build the reservoir, acting under Corps supervision. McCaul said that in his judgement, having a private contractor doing this work would make the reservoir construction process go even faster.

McCaul visited with storm victims before the news conference to hear their experiences.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure our citizens are made whole,” McCaul said.

Following the news conference, McCaul got to see some of the city’s new rescue equipment purchased after the storm, including multiple high-water rescue vehicles and a swift water rescue boat.

McCaul is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. His district stretches from north Austin to the Houston area and includes much of Katy.