Officials want 1940 plan to build levee to become reality

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Joseph Mustacchia's Nottingham home on Houston's west side is a mess.

"I'm busy here cleaning up my house," he said on a muggy Monday morning. "I'm doing okay. I'm just fixing my house."

It flooded after the water release from the strained Barker Reservoir. He said two feet of water stayed in the home for eight days.

"Right now, my house is probably worth land value," he said. "So I've lost half of my equity."

He'd like compensation and a fix.

"I think they definitely could do something to improve the dam capacity, whether it's strengthen it or raising it to some degree," he said. "(At least) to keep water from leaking and deliberately flooding us."

The Harris County Flood Control District is working on solutions. Some are with federal agencies. Some are large, long multi-tear projects. Some are merely maintenance. All are working toward a better preventative network, but it can only do so much.

"There's nothing we can do to prevent what happened during Harvey," said Operations Director Matthew Zeve. "No one can prepare for 40-plus inches of rain over four days."

Still, they work at lessening impact on homeowners. On Friday, buyout letters went out to 3,300 homeowners deep in the flood plain. Coincidentally, those letters were ready to go before Harvey struck.

"San Jacinto River, Cypress Creek, Greens Bayou, White Oak Bayou," said James Wade, also with the district. "Those are really the main areas that we're looking at."

Beyond buyouts, Texas Congressman Michael McCaul wants to see prevention. He took an aerial tour of the damage Monday with the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, Bill Shuster. He agreed we need help.

"There's never enough money to go around," said Rep. Shuster when asked about funding. "But when something like this happens, we figure it out."

McCaul even showed us an Army Corp of Engineers map from the 1940s that penciled in levees at Cypress Creek. It would alleviate pressure on all of the water southeast of it, but it was never built.

"To put a levee system up in that Cypress Creek area is absolutely critical," he said.

It might have helped Joseph Mustacchia as it is, though he still wants action of some kind, and says he'd consider a buyout too.

So far the district says it's gotten 2,400 requests for buyouts. About 400 of them are the homes they identified before Harvey. As of yet, they have no funding for the buyouts and there's no money yet for a new levee either.

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