Land use and development in areas that experience seasonal or periodic flooding is complicated. Responsibilities in the event of a flood that causes property and land damage are spread out among local, state, and federal government agencies. Climate change and population growth predictions suggest increased episodes of flooding and drought are likely to continue and increased pressure for development is going to take place in Texas floodplains.
Local governments are responsible for land use and development plans, including publishing building codes and issuing building permits and inspections. The state is responsible for providing technical assistance, monitoring community programs, and coordinating between local communities and the federal National Flood Insurance Program, a part of FEMA.
The National Flood Insurance Program is designed as an alternate to disaster relief and assistance in the event of a flood. The program is designed to offset some of the costs of clean up and repair of land and property damage in the event of a flood. Disaster relief and clean-up costs are shared between individuals, the local community, state organizations, and the federal government.
Land use planning is becoming more complicated as the effects of climate change bring increases in both drought and incidences of flooding. Historical data on flooding may no longer give community planners adequate information for land use planning. Several community organizations, such as the Cyprus Creek Flood Control Coalition, and research arms of the state universities, are working to help municipalities enact building codes and land use plans that reflect current science.
Another complication for land use planners is population predictions. The areas of greatest anticipated population growth in the next fifteen years are in the Texas floodplains. Residential development is usually associated with loss of wetlands, and wetlands act as a floodplain’s emergency holding tank in the event of flooding. Wetlands are also crucial environments for some native species of nesting and migratory birds, and wetlands are crucial for a healthy fishing and shrimp industry.
Jake Posey noted that a researcher at Texas A&M Agrilife Research division, Professor Jaehak Jeong, has developed a tool called a Soil and Water Assessment Tool, or SWAT. This tool performs hydrological modelling, quantifying the effects of development on water, sediment, and contaminant flows in flood plains. Tools of this type can help local and state land and development planners analyze the effects on Texas floodplains of population growth and climate change, and hopefully prevent the catastrophic effects of flooding.