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Harris County Passes Bylaws for Community Task Force to Create a More Resilient Future

Listen below as Texas Living Waters’ Danielle Goshen discusses the reconstituted Harris County Community Flood Resilience Task Force with two of the architects of the Harris Thrives Resolution: Iris Gonzalez, Director of CEER, the Coalition for Environment, Equity and Resilience, and Jordan Macha, Executive Director of Bayou City Waterkeeper.

Iris Gonzalez, Director of CEER, the Coalition for Environment, Equity and Resilience
Jordan Macha, Executive Director of Bayou City Waterkeeper

Danielle Goshen, Water Policy & Outreach Specialist, Galveston Bay Foundation

On August 11, 2020, Harris County Commissioners approved bylaws to reconstitute the Harris County Flood Control District Task Force as the Harris County Community Flood Resilience Task Force (CFRTF). The previous task force, in place since 1972, was criticized for its lack of independence and frequent failure to reach quorum requirements.

The Harris Thrives Resolution (HTR) passed by Commissioners Court in 2019 called on the county to create this new community-centered task force. This resolution required Harris County to ensure that a “geographically diverse range of community members is represented” on the task force.

Purpose

The purpose of the CFRTF is to advise the Infrastructure Resilience Team (IRT) and Commissioners Court to promote collaboration and encourage equitable resilience planning efforts and flood resilience projects that:

  • support nature-based solutions
  • achieve multiple benefits
  • take into account the needs and priorities of the community, and promote equitable community-level outcomes in the face of flooding
  • protect communities, homes, and businesses across Harris County from flooding

Selection Process

To fulfill the vision of the CFRTF, it is essential that the task force be truly representative of Harris County residents that have not traditionally had a seat at the table. The newly adopted bylaws set new composition and qualification requirements for membership on the task force. The CFRTF will consist of 17 members. Five of those members will be appointed by the Harris County Commissioners and will serve as the Selection Committee for the remaining 12 members. There are a few rules in the bylaws that we believe will help ensure true community representation on the Task Force:

  1. It is required that the task force members represent the geographic, gender, age, racial, and ethnic diversity of Harris County.
  2. Members of the CFRTF must have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to serving the community.
  3. Where possible, members must meet one or more of the following qualifications:
    • Be able to represent one or more communities that have been adversely impacted by flooding.
    • Have a demonstrated knowledge of or interest in innovative and environmentally sustainable approaches to flood resilience and flood risk mitigation.
    • Have a demonstrated knowledge of or interest in equitable approaches to flood resilience and the socioeconomic, demographic, and environmental factors that affect the relative resilience of communities in response to flooding. 
  4. At least two CFRTF members must be able to represent low-income communities that are flood prone or impacted by flooding, and at least two members must be able to represent a community of color that is flood prone or impacted by flooding.
  5. There are Competency Area requirements that will ensure various interests are represented on the task force. The competency requirements will ensure that individuals with expertise or experience in areas such as housing, public health, environmental sustainability, equity and social justice, among other areas, will be represented on the task force. 

These groups are expected to be finalized by the end of 2020, with the first meetings beginning early 2021. 

We are encouraged by the county’s efforts in creating the CFRTF and hope this new body will bring accountability and transparency to flood planning in Harris County!

Danielle Goshen

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