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Land Acquisition and Restoration Projects in the Greens Bayou Watershed in Harris County, Texas: Greens WetBank and Bayou Greenways 2020

In Texas, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and other local partners, including the nonprofit Houston Parks Board, are implementing different land acquisition, restoration, and conservation projects in the Greens Bayou watershed in Harris County and the City of Houston. Two programs and initiatives include the Greens Bayou Mitigation Bank (Greens WetBank) and Bayou Greenways 2020. The Greens WetBank is a wetland mitigation bank on nearly 1,000 acres of land in Harris County, where HCFCD restores wetlands and generates revenue by selling “wetland credits” to developers who need to offset wetland losses at locations outside the Greens WetBank’s land in Harris County. In addition, Bayou Greenways 2020 is a large-scale, public-private initiative led by Houston Parks Board to create 150 miles of greenways and trails and an additional 3,000 acres of public greenspace along Houston’s major bayous through land acquisition and conservation efforts. Bayou Greenways 2020 has been the result of an extensive community engagement campaign and funding leveraged from federal, state, local, and private sources to create local parks and open spaces in Houston. Greens WetBank and Bayou Greenways 2020 are examples of how comprehensive land acquisition, restoration, and conservation actions can increase local resilience in a specific watershed by mitigating future flood risks, enhancing the environment, and creating community assets. Other jurisdictions could consider a similar model to coordinate future land uses in a watershed with climate adaptation, including managed retreat strategies, hazard reduction, and natural resource and open space management. 

Resource Category: Solutions

 

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — City of Austin, Texas: Flood Risk Reduction Buyout Projects

July 15, 2020

The City of Austin, Texas has adopted a model to provide consistent relocation benefits for voluntary home buyouts in the city’s floodplains as a part of its “flood risk reduction projects.” In addition to the cost of a person’s original home, the city will provide homeowners with moving and closing costs, and a replacement housing payment if the cost of a new comparable home (located outside of the city’s 100-year floodplain) is more than the original home. This policy encourages owner participation in the buyout program and helps to minimize the economic and social costs of relocation. The city’s Watershed Protection Department prioritizes buyouts in accordance with a Watershed Protection Master Plan that strategically guides related city actions, including potential buyouts, to reduce the risks associated with erosion, flooding, and poor water quality. A mix of municipal bonds, federal grants, and local funds (primarily through a drainage fee paid by owners of properties based upon impervious surface cover) have been used to fund the buyouts. Austin’s example is noteworthy for its emphasis on implementing buyouts in accordance with a comprehensive flood mitigation program and facilitating transitions for people located in floodplains through relocation assistance. Other jurisdictions considering managed retreat could implement an interdisciplinary buyout approach across different sectors and government agencies (e.g., floodplain and emergency management and housing and community development). .

Resource Category: Solutions

 

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Harris County, Texas: Flood Control District Local Buyout Program

July 15, 2020

Harris County, Texas established a voluntary home buyout program through the regional government agency, the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD), that can serve as an example for other local jurisdictions considering retreat from coastal and riverine flood-prone areas. The buyout program is focused on risk reduction and flood mitigation best practices, where once bought out, properties are returned to open space uses to restore their natural beneficial flood retention functions. HCFCD has developed an effective communication and outreach strategy to educate the public and encourage program participation. Historically, properties have been acquired with grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance program, Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, and local funding from a dedicated ad valorem property tax (i.e., a tax based on a property’s assessed value). Other state, regional, and local jurisdictions considering managed retreat could implement a similar comprehensive buyout model that operates in both a pre- and post-disaster context to reduce flood risks and engages the community throughout the entire process. This case study is one of 17 case studies featured in a report written by the Georgetown Climate Center, Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies.

Resource Category: Solutions

 

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The Texas Title Project

2013

The Texas Title Project was a two-year program that began in 2013 after Hurricanes Dolly and Ike devastated Texas, and critically impacted lower-income communities. The purpose of the program was to help low-income families whose homes were destroyed during the hurricanes to acquire clear title to their property so that they could be eligible for government funding. In clearing any issues relating to these titles, homeowners then became eligible for federal government rebuilding assistance. The project's threefold mission was to: clear titles for those homeowners and families that participated in the program; develop a general model for providing these types of legal services that could be implemented in the future, when another disaster occurred; and to study the barriers that existed that prevented low-income homeowners from having a clear title, especially in areas that are disproportionately affected by disasters. In the two years it was operational, the Texas Title Project provided services for more than 350 families seeking disaster recovery assistance in East Texas and the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Resource Category: Solutions

 

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Under 1 Roof Initiative, San Antonio, Texas

2016

The Under 1 Roof Initiative is an example of local funding programs that create incentives for residents to retrofit vulnerable homes to prepare for climate change impacts like urban heat. In 2016, San Antonio launched the Under 1 Roof Initiative to replace old roofs with free, energy-efficient cool roofs. Under 1 Roof distributes funds through the city’s Neighborhood Housing Service (NHS) to replace the roofs of qualifying applicants, including the elderly, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and low-income residents. Under a partnership between the municipal utility and the city, households that do not qualify for direct funding from the NHS remain eligible to receive rebates for self-installed cool roofs. In 2018, San Antonio’s city council approved a $2.25 million budget to expand the Under 1 Roof Initiative to five other districts in the city.

Resource Category: Funding

 

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Organization

Gulf of Mexico Alliance

The Gulf of Mexico Alliance is a partnership of the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, with the goal of significantly increasing regional collaboration to enhance the ecological and economic health of the Gulf of Mexico. The Alliance has identified six priority issues including water quality, habitat conservation and restoration, ecosystem integration and assessment, nutrients and nutrient impacts, coastal community resilience, and environmental education.

 

 

Organization

NOAA Office for Coastal Management

The Office for Coastal Management (OCM) is tasked with implementing the Coastal Zone Management Act. OCM activities include working with states and territories to conserve and protect coral reefs, operating a system of National Estuarine Research Reserves, and developing a system of marine protected areas.

 

 

Organization

South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center

The South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center is one of eight regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs) under the Department of the Interior (DOI) managed by the U. S. Geological Survey's (USGS) National Climate Adaptation Science Center. The mission of the Centers and National CASC is to "deliver science to help fish, wildlife, water, land, and people adapt to a changing climate. " CASCs provide the tools that managers need to develop and implement strategies that address the impacts of climate change on natural and cultural resources.

 

 

Organization

Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP) - RISA

Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP) is a member of NOAA's Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program, which supports climate research for decision-makers and policy planners at a regional level. SCIPP represents Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi, investigating major climate hazards of the region.   The program provides education and outreach, collaboratively develops an all-hazards assessment tool, and actively engages community-level decision makers to determine hazard planning and climate data gaps.

 

 

Organization

Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF)

The Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF) is a non-profit organization consisting of State Foresters from Alabama, Arkansas, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, U. S. Virgin Islands, and Virginia. SGSF provides leadership in sustaining the economic, environmental and social benefits of the forests of the Southeast, and works to identify and address existing and emerging issues and challenges that are important to southern forests and citizens.