$14M in infrastructure assistance for Orange, Jefferson detailed following 2019 disasters

Published 12:20 am Thursday, March 23, 2023

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Nine cities in Orange and Jefferson counties have been selected to receive nearly $14 million in federal funding to assist with streets, water and drainage facilities, the Texas General Land Office announced this week.

I addition, Orange County will receive $2 million of the more than $43 million that will be distributed across the state to assist with infrastructure projects stemming from disasters in 2019

“Consecutive disasters have devastated communities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Southeast Texas, but the Texas General Land Office is here to help,” said Commissioner Dawn Buckingham in a written news release.

“These critical infrastructure awards will divert floodwaters away from homes, increase the resiliency of communities to respond to natural disasters and restore peace of mind when the next storm hits.”

According to the GLO, the funds come from $227,510.000 million in Community Block Grant Disaster Recovery money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist with recovery from Tropical Storm Imelda, as well as flooding in South Texas.

Applications opened March 15, 2022.

According to a report from the National Weather Service, Imelda dropped more than 30 inches of water across several counties, with the highest recorded rainfall reaching 44.29 inches within 12 hours near Fannett.

Subsequent flooding followed the Interstate 10 corridor from Winnie to Orange.

“The 44.29-inch peak rainfall total makes Imelda the 7th wettest tropical cyclone (in terms of highest rainfall total for a tropical cyclone) to impact the United States, the fifth wettest in the contiguous United States, and the fourth wettest in the state of Texas since 1940,” the NWS wrote in the 2019 report by Andy Latto and Robbie Berg.

“These rains came only two years after Hurricane Harvey set the record as the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the U.S. and it affected some of the same areas as Imelda.”

Following Harvey, the GLO in 2021 announced the first round of a $4 billion Community Development Block Grant for disaster mitigation.

Jefferson County received no funding.

In March 2022, HUD released a statement saying the GLO discriminated against communities of color when dispersing the funds.

Buckingham did not oversee the GLO at that time, having been elected during the November 2022 general election.

Her predecessor, George P. Bush, was first elected in 2014 and in 2021 began a failed campaign to become the Texas Attorney General.

Orange County, which, according to a 2018 report from the Episcopal Health Foundation, filed a combined 19,314 applications for assistance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency following Harvey and received $19.5 million; while Jasper County, which filed just over 4,000 applications to FEMA, was allotted nearly $30 million.

Two years following Harvey, Imelda caused five deaths, all of which were in Jefferson County.

Funding announced this week includes:

• $2 million to Orange County for Kinard Estates and street improvements.

• $1 million to the City of Orange for sewer system improvements.

• $2 million combined to Pine Forest for street, drainage and water system improvements.

• Sewer system and lift station improvements in Pinehurst, which received a combined $2 million.

• Repairs to Archie Street and Orange Street in Vidor, which received a combined $2 million.

• $2 million to West Orange for flood, drainage and street improvements.

— Written by Monique Batson