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From Katrina to Harvey: Five Ways Banks Are More Resilient to Disaster Today

Houston: Developers failing to follow wetlands mandate

Houston area wetlands

More than 38,000 acres of wetlands vanished in greater Houston over the past two decades despite a federal policy that “no net loss” can be caused by encroaching development.

More than 38,000 acres of wetlands vanished in greater Houston over the past two decades despite a federal policy that “no net loss” can be caused by encroaching development.

That’s an area about the size of The Woodlands and Sugar Land combined turned into neighborhoods, office buildings, strip malls, parking lots and roads.

To remedy the damage, federal permits require developers to create man-made wetlands or preserve them elsewhere, often by a ratio of at least 2 acres for every one destroyed. But the Army Corps of Engineers, by statute the nation’s primary steward of wetlands, doesn’t track whether most developers satisfy the requirements of their permits, a recent study found.

 

More than half of the permit records reviewed by researchers revealed little or no evidence of compliance in an eight-county region. The lack of documentation suggests wetlands probably are not being protected as the federal Clean Water Act requires, said John Jacob, director of Texas A&M University’s coastal watershed program, which worked on the study with the Houston Advanced Research Center.  “The disappearance of wetlands is widespread and pervasive,” Jacob said. “These are the wetlands that improve water quality and reduce flooding, but there is no mitigation.”

Upstream development worsens downstream flooding, said Jim Lester, president of HARC, based in The Woodlands. “It’s crazy to me that we cover up wetlands, and then we spend a lot of money to build retention ponds.”…

 

From Katrina to Harvey: Five Ways Banks Are More Resilient to Disaster Today

The haunting images this week of Houston’s flooded highways and neighborhoods bring to mind the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina twelve years ago—almost to the day. The experience is certainly déjà vu for bankers who lived through Katrina, although thanks to the lessons of 2005, the financial industry is better positioned today to fuel recovery along the western Gulf Coast.

 

After Katrina flattened the Mississippi Gulf Coast and inundated New Orleans under several feet of water, the first challenge was rescuing survivors. But after that process, no one could get into New Orleans to return. Highway bridges had collapsed and National Guard units had closed remaining routes into the city.

Bankers who had evacuated remained on the outside looking in. After participating in volunteer rescue efforts with the famed “Cajun navy” of private recreational boaters on humanitarian missions, Guy Williams, president and CEO of New Orleans-based Gulf Coast Bank and Trust, had decisions to make. His banks’ locations were underwater, out of power and inaccessible. His employees and customers were scattered around the region.

One week after Katrina hit, Williams reopened his bank from a temporary space in Baton Rouge, 80 miles away. A week after that, he had opened a branch in…

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