AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott’s Commission to Rebuild Texas released a report urging the state to prepare for future catastrophic storms, stemming from the lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey.
“This report is a roadmap for Texas and the legislature, as well as local communities going forward,” Abbott told reporters during a press conference Thursday.
It’s been more than a year since Hurricane Harvey and some legal aid groups say they’re still helping victims with claims.
“We have a handful of FEMA cases that we’re appealing,” Michael Rush, Lone Star Legal Aid’s managing attorney of the disaster relief unit, said. “They’ve been denied a couple of different times and we’re submitting additional documentation to get them some benefits.
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who chaired Commission to Rebuild Texas, outlined several of the recommendations detailed inside the report, which includes forming an ongoing recovery task force, developing debris management procedures and creating a case management program at the state level to replace the federal version to better respond to individual needs.
“We think it makes sense probably for disaster victims to fill out one application for disaster relief, instead of half a dozen applications for disaster relief,” Sharp said.
The report also recommends that the Texas Division of Emergency Management be integrated into the emergency management functions currently performed by the Texas A&M University system.
“This will align emergency response, disaster assistance and mitigation planning,” Abbott said.
Abbott said as a first step in this process, the Texas Division of Emergency Management will now operate under The Texas A&M University System.
“Nim Kidd was recently hired as a vice chancellor of Texas A&M to begin fulfilling this mission,” Abbott said. “Bottom line is that by following the recommendations in this report, Texas will be better prepared to deal with future disasters.”
The report also prioritizes 4,000 potential projects to “future-proof” Texas’ infrastructure. It also addresses ideas to streamline communication and getting critical information out through one dedicated website.
“Let’s employ the lessons we’ve learned from Harvey ahead of the next disaster,” Sharp said.
The Texas Water Development Board also released its state flood assessment report the same day. In its recommendations to the legislature to reduce statewide flood risk, it includes improved and updated flood mapping and modeling and increased financial assistance for projects. The Board has also requested an additional $4.45 million in funding to improve data collection, mapping and monitoring of conditions in Texas.