Q & A with Wendy:
Q: Why should we vote for you?
A: Unlike State or Federal Government, County Government is focused on issues that are non-partisan in nature – roads and bridges, drainage and flood management, health and human services, and safety – to name a few.
All these issues affect each individual resident regardless of party affiliation. As Commissioner, I will work for ALL residents in Precinct 3 of Fort Bend County.
Geographically, I live in the middle of our Precinct not in Sugar Land. Every day, I see what you see. I share your feelings of frustration over our traffic and the gnawing concerns of future flooding. I want low taxes and quality of life for my family, neighbors…my friends.
I absolutely will not stand idly by, while we all go down the same path that Precinct 3 has been on for the past 20 years under current leadership.
Q: Should development below the Barker Reservoir be stopped until flood control measures are in place?
A: Much of the area downstream of Barker Reservoir is already developed and was built before the 2009 TCEQ standards were put into place. According to the study conducted by Meyers Research, https://meyersresearchllc.com, “Hurricane Harvey: Impact of Harvey on Houston MUDs,” newer developments fared very well in this unprecedented event with only 3 percent of homes flooded during Harvey built after 2009 as compared with 65 percent of the flooded homes built before 1981. One of the conclusions from this study is when “we learn more about flooding and implement stricter regulation, home flooding is reduced.” We need to focus on responsible development which adheres to the regulations put in place to provide protection of life and property as well as retrofitting older neighborhoods to meet these standards through additional retention and detention facilities, increased channel conveyance, home modifications, and/or buyouts.
Q: Is flooding getting worse in the region?
A: The Greater Houston Area has experienced devastating flooding for over 100 years. We have built infrastructure which has helped to reduce flooding.
However, in this decade we have experienced rainfall events which are producing greater volumes of precipitation in shorter amounts of time. NOAA has released the new Atlas 14 map. Local governments such as Fort Bend County have responded by changing the standards for the 100-year rain event (1 percent chance that a structure will flood in a given year). The old standard was 12.5 inches in a 24-hour time period; the new standard recently adopted is 16.5 inches in a 24-hour time period. The result is that more flood mitigation and infrastructure will be needed to keep homes out of the 100-year flood plain.
Q: In recent memory, Tropical Storm Allison, Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Harvey all caused historic flooding. Is overdevelopment to blame?
A: During the flood of 1935, an 8-inch rain event over Houston with 10-20 inches falling on the largely undeveloped prairie land to the northwest of Houston caused Buffalo Bayou to come out of its bank and create a raging river flowing through the streets of Downtown Houston. The problem in that storm was not overdevelopment of natural lands; the problem was that our natural lands are composed of “high run-off soils” such as clay. These soil compositions are what made our area excellent for rice farming. The clay acts much like concrete and prevents water from absorbing past the clay barrier. In response to a series of floods in the 1920s and 1930s, the citizens demanded flood control which resulted in the construction of Barker and Addicks Reservoirs. Other solutions proposed in the same U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 1940’s study, were not constructed including the Cypress Creek Levee, Buffalo Bayou improvements, the North and South Canal and the White Oak Bayou Reservoir. If all this infrastructure had been constructed, it seems obvious that Houston would have experienced less flooding over the years. I believe lack of adequate flood control infrastructure caused loss of life and property damage in the flood of 1935, and the lack of adequate flood control infrastructure is what is causing on-going loss of life and property damage from flooding today. We cannot design a system to alleviate 100 percent of flooding in a Harvey situation, but we can build infrastructure that will help control and reduce chronic flooding in seasonal rain events.
Q: Who has been most helpful with your efforts?
A: Steve Robinson has been instrumental in getting me involved in working on this issue. He has worked tirelessly for many years to bring Houston world-class flood control for our world-class city. Matt Zeve and Matt Lopez from Harris County Flood Control have been a fantastic example of how government entities should engage the community with transparency and professionalism.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been exceptionally responsive to Barker Flood Prevention. We have participated in Stakeholders’ Meetings, received a briefing and tour of Barker Reservoir, and met with leaders in project management to discuss a project which would increase the capacity of the reservoir. My partner, Marlin Williford, has been a steadfast source of energy moving our organization in the right direction. I appreciate his tenacity and positivity. The citizens who volunteer their time and talents on the Steering Committee are to be commended: Patrick Friend, Erich Schroeder, Libby Clark, David Clark, Susana Dias, James Uhl, Chancie Davis and Tim Miller.
Q: Has there been any opposition?
A: Finding a solution for the Cypress Creek Overflow has brought to light some differences of opinion. In the end, the priority must be protecting people. Generations before us gifted us with two reservoirs that have protected the people of our city for many decades. It is now time for us to show the political will to build flood control infrastructure which protect us and future generations.
Q: How did you become involved with the Willow Fork Drainage District and Houston Stronger?
A: In 2011, Willow Fork Drainage District (WFDD) was seeking to pass a bond program for the purpose of building additional parks and trails within its boundaries. Part of the bond program included allocation of funds to each of the 10 schools within the district’s boundaries to make improvements to the schools’ outdoor spaces utilized by the public during non-school hours. At that time, I was the PTA president of Williams Elementary, and one of the WFDD board members, April Renberg, engaged the PTAs to encourage awareness of the bond program. Our PTA passed a resolution in support of WFDD’s bond program. Several years later, April resigned from WFDD’s board because she and her husband were moving out of state, and she asked me to put my name in as a candidate for her position. After an interview with the board, I was chosen from four candidates who applied. Several months later, Hurricane Harvey hit our area, and I was thankful to have crucial and helpful information to give to our community during and after that crisis.
In the aftermath of Harvey, I learned from WFDD’s legal counsel, Steve Robinson, that the solutions to Houston’s flooding problems had been known for decades but had only been partially implemented. I felt compelled to work toward acquiring additional flood mitigation for our region. With the help of my friend, Michelle Anderson, we set up meetings with local, state and federal officials to deliver Steve’s powerful message of a better path forward for flood control for the Greater Houston Area. During this time, Steve invited me to be a part of the Houston Stronger which had been working toward this goal for many years. Houston Stronger is a coalition of civic groups, business associations and active citizens from throughout the Texas Gulf Coast region dedicated to working with government officials to implement a comprehensive regional flood and storm resiliency plan that safeguards our citizens and property.
Q: What led you to form Barker Flood Prevention?
A: An active and engaged community is the key ingredient to successful and positive change in society. Through an introduction by Steve Robinson, Marlin Williford and I met in June of 2018 to discuss ways we could join efforts to produce immediate and substantial flood control solutions for upstream and downstream of Barker Reservoir. Marlin suggested that we form a coalition to help educate the public about the 2018 Harris County Flood Control District Bond Program and lend support for its approval by voters.
Barker Flood Prevention was quickly formed, and our first community meeting featuring Steve Robinson’s presentation was held three weeks later. From that meeting, several community members emerged with offers to lend expertise to our efforts. Barker Flood Prevention’s Steering Committee was formed from these volunteers and include a hydrologist, engineers, and marketing and financial experts. After the passage of the HCFCD bond, Barker Flood Prevention held our second community meeting featuring speakers from HCFCD, Fort Bend County Drainage District and Willow Fork Drainage District.
Q: What are the goals of Barker Flood Prevention and how are you working to achieve those goals?
A: The purpose of the Barker Reservoir Flood Prevention advocacy group is to identify and promote immediate and substantial flood control projects in the Barker Reservoir Area, both upstream and downstream. We are using community meetings, our website www.barkerfloodprevention.org, our Facebook Page @barkerfloodprevention, and newsletters sent via email to educate the public about flood control solutions for the Barker Reservoir Area and to inspire the public to advocate for these solutions. We are working with federal, state and local government officials and agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to realize the execution of these flood control solutions. We have been fortunate to develop positive relationships with those that serve our community in positions of influence and authority. We will remain steadfast in our resolve to get these solutions completed as well as empower and support community groups who are working to implement solutions in support of flood control initiatives.
Q: What is the group’s role relative to the Harris County Drainage District?
A: Barker Flood Prevention has developed a very positive working relationship with HCFCD. I see our role relative to HCFCD as a support for their initiatives to restore the drainage systems from the damage from Harvey as well as deliver additional flood mitigation to provide more protection from future events. We support their effort to restore channels to original capacity, build additional retention and detention facilities and study the feasibility of infrastructure such as the flood tunnel.