The state of Texas will provide a $47 million no-interest loan to Houston to replace eight bridges west of downtown that block the flow of floodwaters during heavy downpours, according to a newspaper report.
The city will forward the money from the Texas Water Development Board to the Harris County Flood Control District so that bridge replacements along Brays Bayou can begin in March.
The loan is just one piece to the long-delayed flood-relief plan known as Project Brays, according to the Houston Chronicle .
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Other parts of the plan include widening most of the bayou, adding detention basins that can hold billions of gallons of water, and removing 15,000 homes and businesses from a 100-year flood plain.
Flooding regularly occurs in the area and thousands of the roughly 700,000 people living in the Brays Bayou watershed flooded again during Hurricane Harvey.
Sluggish federal reimbursements have been a key factor in dragging Project Brays out for two decades. Work that was originally scheduled to finish in 2014 now is expected to be completed in 2021. But it could take several more years without sufficient funding, county documents have shown.
"When you have people that flooded, they want everybody at the table helping to solve these problems," said Steve Costello, who oversees the city's flood-relief efforts. "This is the first time we're going to be able to say every sector of government is at the table helping resolve the flooding problems along Brays Bayou."
Under the terms of the loan, the Army Corps of Engineers will reimburse the county after the bridge work is complete, at which point the county will send the city the money needed to pay off the loan.