Statement from Jordan Macha, Executive Director & Waterkeeper
By finalizing a new rule to replace protections to local wetlands, the Trump Administration has placed individuals across our region at risk for flooding.
Throughout the Greater Houston region, wetlands play key roles in filtering surface water that makes its way into the City’s drinking water supplies, while also protecting against floods and providing wildlife habitat. With Texas made up of mostly privately-owned land, having rules to require developers to identify and mitigate the destruction of these natural landscapes is critical. The removal of basic watershed protections has real potential to cause significant harm to surrounding communities, and those living downstream.
Across the region, relatively pristine expanses of wetlands remain intact around Trinity Bay, the San Jacinto River’s East and West forks, and Cedar Bayou. As the Grand Parkway continues to be built out to the east of Houston, these wetland-dense areas are vulnerable to rapid development, particularly under the Administration’s new rule.
We already know what happens when development regulations aren’t consistently applied or enforced. New neighborhoods are built in flood zones, removing natural flood protection for neighboring communities and creating new hazards. One recent example is the ongoing Woodridge Village development in Kingwood, in which a developer seemingly bypassed the Clean Water Act’s previous restrictions to clearcut 268 acres that included wetlands, documented by the U.S. Geological Survey. Local residents contend this new development flooded neighbors twice in 2019. In League City, a development across from Bayou Brae, a small subdivision built in the early 1960s over several acres of wetlands without a permit, has left residents fearing their once-safe community will begin to flood.
For meaningful resilience, what we need now – and into the future – are better protections for our natural systems that limit the worst effects of flooding and storm surges. Reducing protections for wetlands is a recipe for disaster when the next Harvey, Imelda, or other heavy rainstorm that has become a regular part of living in this region of Texas, comes our way.
Read our coverage in the Houston Chronicle, 24 Jan 2019: Trump Administration scraps Clean Water Rule aimed at protecting streams, wetlands