September 7th Needville Wildfire Intentionally Started

30 09 2011

Houston Chronicle article published on September 28th notes that a recent fire in Fort Bend County was intentionally set.  The article by Dale Lezon is below.

A fire that burned 400 acres and charred a barn in the Needville area earlier this month was intentionally set, officials said.  The blaze, dubbed the Baker Road Fire, started at the corner of a pasture on Foster School Road near Brinkmeyer on Sept. 7, according to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.

The blaze raced southwest and jumped Baker Road. It also destroyed a facility that housed two vehicles and travel tailer. More than 100 firefighters from 20 agencies from nearby areas, including the Needville Fire Department, battled the blaze.

Officials said one firefighter, whose name has not been released, was injured. Officials did not release the firefighter’s injury or condition.  A total of $10,000, including $5,000 from Fort Bend County Crime Stoppers, Inc. and another $5,000 from a private property owner, has been offered for information leading to the charging or arrest of the person or persons responsible for the blaze, officials said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office at 281-341-4665 or Fort Bend County Crime Stoppers, Inc. at 281-342-TIPS.

wildfire in a rural portion of Fort Bend County northwest of Needville burned about 500 acres on Sept. 7. Here, Ben McCary and Dale Oberhoff of the Fairchilds Volunteer Fire Department battle the fire.

Drought in Fort Bend County likely to persist through rest of 2011

27 09 2011

Long-term prospects from drought relief do not look very good.  Per NOAA Drought Outlook valid until December 31, 2011, the entire State of Texas is forecast to be in area where drought is likely to persist or intensify.  Similar conditions are forecast for most of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  See US Seasonal Outlook map.  Click on seasonal_drought.

New Laws Could Sink Fort Bend Levees

26 09 2011

Published by Katy Times on Monday, September 26, 2011, the following article was written by James Hale, Times Staff Writer.

“Katy business and community leaders were called upon to contact their national representatives regarding the current legislation on the National Flood Insurance Program, which threatens to negate millions of dollars of development of levee systems in Fort Bend County alone.

Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert addressed the Katy Area Economic Development Council’s general assembly to discuss House and Senate bills which would reauthorize and amend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which would use actuarial rates to determine flood insurance premiums.

The House bill, passed in July, would implement the new rates over a six-year period and maintains the status quo with respect to flood control systems.

“House Resolution 1309 maintains the status quo for levee systems and land served by other flood control facilities,” Hebert said. “That’s extremely important to Fort Bend County, and it should also be important to any other county that has a creek, a river, a drainage district or is otherwise flat land.”

While both bills would implement actuarial rates on insurance policies, Hebert is particularly concerned with a provision in the Senate’s bill, known as the Johnson-Shelby NFIP Bill, that would classify land protected by levees as “areas of residual risk.”

“It means that areas located behind levees, dams, and other flood control structures – regardless of their certification or accreditation status – are areas of residual risk,” Hebert said. “Under section 107, (areas of residual risk) would be subject to mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements, and federal floodplain management regulations.”

Fort Bend County has over $10 billion in structures behind levees, and Hebert made the case that Fort Bend has already spent a significant sum of county funds – $45 million – to certify all drainage and levee systems on the 100-year floodplain.

“There’s a vast difference in the quality of design, construction, maintenance of flood control structures through out this nation,” Hebert said. “You can’t lump flood control devices into one category for the determination of risk.”

Hebert stressed that Fort Bend taxpayers have paid for the construction and maintenance of their levee system without any federal help, and have even contributed to the latest Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) project to map the flood plain.

The county gave $1.2 million, compared to $.8 million in federal money, to fund the use of light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology to generate a highly accurate flood map for the county when FEMA announced the project to map the area.

Due to a looming deadline, Hebert believes a continuing resolution funding the NFIP after Sept. 30 is a likely outcome in the immediate future.

Right now Hebert has had an amendment drafted and sent to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that would protect the investment his county, and many others, have made in flood control systems by classifying land protected by levees as above the floodplain.

In the meantime, Hebert is urging others to join the effort to stop the Senate bill, or at least amend section 107, which is seen as the most onerous part and grants FEMA power to enforce mandatory purchase requirements and federal floodplain management regulations.”