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Houston Considering New Floodplain Rules after Harvey

More than 80 percent of homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey in Houston’s floodplains could’ve been spared if they were at the higher elevation now being proposed by the mayor, according to a new report.

The figures come from a new Houston Public Works analysis of the storm’s damage, as city leaders consider rewriting the ordinance that governs Houston’s floodplains, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The city agency found that about half of the more than 31,800 damaged single-family homes it examined in the floodplains wouldn’t have flooded during Harvey if they’d been built to the city’s current elevation standard.

The standard requires new or redeveloped homes to sit at least a foot above the projected water level in a 100-year storm, which has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

More than 47,000 single-family houses in the floodplains took on water during Harvey.

But the city left about a third of the homes out of the analysis because it didn’t have complete data on water or elevation levels for those properties.

The report comes about two months after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner first outlined his proposal, which includes new elevation standards for future development in flood-prone areas.

Turner proposed placing homes 2 feet above the projected water level in a 500-year storm, which has a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

The Houston City Council is expected to consider the new rules next week. Councilman David Robinson said the report made him more comfortable with Turner’s proposal.

“No one at all that I know is questioning that things have to be adjusted,” Robinson said. “The challenge is figuring out what is the right threshold.”

He said the report shows that anything over Turner’s proposed elevation “emerges as the point at which there’s a significant diminishing return, and for that reason I find it quite satisfying that we are apparently paying attention to our numbers.”

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