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Urgent Agenda for Rescuing and Rebuilding Texas

Aug. 28, 2017 (EIRNS)—The epic storm poses the fundamental issue for the nation: the United States must restore a nation-serving credit system, for both immediate aid, for support and rebuilding, and for big infrastructure, and fast. Lyndon LaRouche’s Four Laws are the only emergency solution.

Houston is significantly paralyzed, as are locations all along parts of coastal Texas and Louisiana, and the upland areas hit by the storm. Multiple thousands are homeless. The post-storm prospects for necessities are dire, from sanitation to power. As utility experts point out, you can’t put new electric poles down in mud.

A third of all U.S. chemical production has been disrupted. E.G. Bloomberg estimates that 37% of U.S. chlorine and 40% of ethylene output capacity are affected. Gas, oil, and other sectors, likewise.

In Congress, Houston Rep. John Culbertson (R) signalled his intent today, for getting an emergency supplemental funding bill together to be acted upon fast. He spoke on Bloomberg TV, which also reported that Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) concurs. Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee said she will tack a "robust" relief measure onto a spending bill on the House floor shortly.

Trump said at his news conference today, "You’re going to get your funding." He expects the formal request for emergency funding for Harvey victims to come soon. Meantime, FEMA spokeswoman Stephanie Moffett says, expenses from dealing with Harvey’s destruction are "quickly drawing down the remaining balance" in FEMA’s disaster-relief fund, which earlier today stood at $3.3 billion. (See separate item, on FEMA, National Guard, and other mobilization).

Some of the Congressional dead-heads are still balking, even some from Texas. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, today reverted to his johnny-one-note venality, hinting that in order to help the Gulf Coast, Federal budget cuts can be found to offset it, "from lower-priority spending."

In dollar terms, the sensible range of costs to rebuild after the storm, start at $100 billion, considering the need for completely restoring transportation, housing, power, food distribution, safe water and sanitation, factories, and farming.

Plus, it’s long overdue to build the infrastructure to protect against the vulnerability of the entire Gulf Coast to hurricanes and fierce storms. What Rep. Culberson said of this today on Bloomberg is completely false, that, "No one could have ever predicted or expected a catastrophe of this magnitude to descend on the Houston area."

In reality, Texas, itself, is host to research specialists studying the mid-latitude storm patterns. Plus, only last year came the inundation of Houston in the huge "Tax Day Flood," which hit in mid-April, 2016. This was a foretaste for Harvey.

Take a quick look at the infrastructure history of the region, centered on the San Jacinto and Brazos river systems. This is the location of the greater Houston area, which is barely 50 feet above sea level, and prone to flooding. As of 1940, a flood-protection plan was devised for Houston, which involved a couple dams, and systems of drainage channels, levees, and other structures, to manage and divert flood run-off away from heavily settled areas. Right after World War II, the Barker Dam was built (1945) and the Addicks Dam (1948), whose reservoirs hold back high run-off, for calculated release, when flooding recedes. Following this initial construction, no radical updates were made over the decades in the Houston area, in the Harris County Flood Control District.

Fast forward to the present catastrophe, and the lack of protective structures and systems is clear. The problem is not the two dams as such—they are 20 years over their engineering life span, but have been strengthened. At present, water is being released from their reservoirs, because they are overflowing with the epic rainfall and run-off.

The problem is that new, larger diversion and water-management systems were not put in place over the years. Doing so is a unique challenge, but there are examples of super-challenges that have been met in other parts of the world.

Look at Tokyo, another populous area, practically at sea level, and prone to epic flooding. From 1992 to 2006, gigantic underground silos were built outside Tokyo, to handle flood waters, in what is called the "Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel." This is the largest water diversion, and holding tank system in the world. It consists of five concrete containment chambers. Tokyo is prone to deluge from simultaneous rains, run-off from inland slopes, and sea surge. When safe, enormous pumps lift the water out of the underground storage complex.

The Harris County Flood Control District has even been short of minimal maintenance funds. Earlier this month, its Director of Operations, Matt Zeve, told the Houston Chronicle that the District had a $100 million maintenance backlog.