While Hurricane Harvey is in the rear view for many in the Greater Houston area, many are still displaced and rebuilding. The Houston area will need billions of dollars in flood control improvements and increased regulation to prevent rising damage from future floods, regional leaders said . But no one, they said, has yet identified who will pay for those projects. Seven Houston area leaders -- politicians, scientists, and lawyers -- met recently at the Houston Chronicle for a public forum on recovery from Hurricane Harvey, which unleashed catastrophic floods that killed at least 80 people and damaged an estimated 150,000 homes. The recovery is expected to cost more than $100 billion . The forum's speakers argued for the transformation of neighborhoods into green spaces and the dredging of reservoirs. They called on residents to lobby federal officials for more money to finance these and other flood control measures. Jeff Lindner , the Harris County Flood Control District meteorologist, said the region needs to consider buying out and abandoning entire neighborhoods. "We cannot live in some of these areas anymore because they are going to flood time and time again, and there is structurally nothing we can do about it," Lindner said. "We have to start accepting that fact." Southwest Houston's Meyerland, for example, has flooded three times in the past three years; so many homes were damaged, complete streets are now dark at night, residents staying elsewhere while their homes are renovated. Saving Meyerland would require buying out not just homes but the land of a local golf course so engineers could widen Brays Bayou and increase its capacity to hold flood water. Longtime resident Bess Bright commented recently that she can no longer take evening walks in her neighborhood because it is dark. "There's just no one there," she said.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett lobbied to dredge Lake Conroe and Lake Houston , to the city's north and east, so they can hold greater volumes of floodwaters. But the leaders offered no solutions for two of Houston's gravest flooding concerns -- the segregation of the poor into flood-prone neighborhoods and the area's unbridled western growth, governed by a patchwork of municipal utility districts. The region is banking on federal dollars to pay for big-ticket projects like a third reservoir in the northwest to stem flooding behind the Addicks dam, which holds back flood water and protects the inner-city from flooding. But the federal government won't provide enough, they agreed.