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Will ‘Gray’ or ‘Green’ Flood Infrastructure Protect Houston?

As greater Houston seeks protection from the next Hurricane Harvey, using natural features like prairies and sand dunes to control water is gaining purchase.
Residents are evacuated through flood waters caused by Harvey in West Houston, August 30, 2017.
Residents are evacuated through flood waters caused by Harvey in West Houston, August 30, 2017.Adrees Latif/Reuters

HOUSTON— With the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season under way as of June 1, Texas has taken a major step toward improving its flood defenses by passing a bill to tap into the state’s savings—the aptly nicknamed Rainy Day Fund—for a sum of $1.7 billion. The move comes almost two years after Hurricane Harvey deluged Texas in August 2017, killing 68 people and causing an estimated $125 billion in damage statewide.

Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 7 in late May, and it now awaits the signature of the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott. For municipal governments around the state, small and large, the bill’s passage means an influx of money through grants and loans that will unlock cost-sharing federal dollars for as-yet-unspecified resilience schemes.