AUSTIN (KXAN) — Senate Bill 7 could create something Texas has never had: a statewide plan for massive flooding. Oncoming water rushing through Texas towns is common but it took the historic rain — and the damage that came with it — of Hurricane Harvey for lawmakers to put it in place.
Republican Brandon Creighton of Conroe passed Senate Bill 7 out of the Texas Senate. It now must pass the House and be signed by Governor Abbott. SB 7 would create the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund, a special state account used for projects related to flood planning, protection and mitigation.
“We have a state water plan and it’s revered all over the country, but we don’t have a statewide flood plan and I think we’re spending a lot of money in recovery because we lack certain planning,“ Sen. Creighton told KXAN in an interview.
The Senate passed the measure with $900 million in it as part of a larger package of bills. The Texas Senate plans to fund SB 7 by tapping the Economic Stabilization Fund — known as the “Rainy Day Fund.“
Creighton’s idea would provide grants and loans to cities and counties, in the hopes they could drag down larger matching grants from the Federal government. Creighton says many towns are too small and don’t have the resources to rebuild on their own.
“We don’t traditionally play that role. We did with the West Explosion and we did with the wildfires in West Texas. Those are examples of where we have provided a match — with the Bastrop fires,” Creighton said. “But this is the largest national disaster in American history and local governments are not prepared. They don’t have the reserves to tackle the mitigation projects to rebuild and also plan for the future. This bill helps with that.“
TIRF would be under the auspices of the Texas Water Development Board, a three-member board appointed by the governor.
SB 7 passed the Texas Senate but will need to pass the Texas House as well as be signed by Gov. Greg Abbott into law.