Were the impacts of Harvey in Houston a result of no zoning in the city of no limits? This assertion seems to be the catch-all phrase used by Houston’s detractors for all that was exposed by Harvey in terms of planning or the lack thereof.  On the other hand, critics of regulation like to point out that zoned cities fared just as badly as Houston during Harvey. Our Mayor famously said that “zoning wouldn’t have changed anything. We would have been a city with zoning that flooded.” Continue Reading »


Above all, elevate!

There are many things that we must think about as we begin to consider how to rebuild Houston. But one thing stands above the rest, literally: elevation. Elevation is the number one predictor of flooding and flood damage.  Water seeks the low spots; we need to seek the high spots. It is just that simple.  Elevation needs to be our watchword.  Elevation needs to be the metric but which we gauge all new development as well as all redevelopment.

Elevation is about getting people and structures above the level of the floodwaters. All of the practices and policy issues that involve getting people out of harm’s way involve elevation. Continue Reading »


A wildscape is a landscape created to provide habitat for your local wildlife. Wildscaping can be created by planting native plants and by providing wildlife with their essentials for life – food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young. Look for drought tolerant plants and other highly adapted non-invasive plants to use. Choose plants of varying heights and densities.  And remember to group plants according to their water needs. Select plants that provide seeds, nuts, nectar and berries throughout the year to ensure there is always food available for wildlife. Be sure to add a water source to your wildscape. This could be in the form of a pond or bird bath. Adding a bird feeder or bird house is also great ideas to incorporate into your wildscape. Keeping or adding a brush or rock pile can provide shelter for wildlife.

For many Texans, this week will be unlike any other because they got flooded. Getting on track will be long and heartbreaking. People will find their strength, but I also know their savings will be drained, debts created, and life’s plans disrupted. For many others, including myself, this week is the same as any other because my house did not flood. Water came close, but it receded in hours. For my wife and I, our nerves are frayed, but our finances and home life are whole. And, we will help friends and strangers recover.

The accounting in this disaster is simple: I and others who were spared received the Harvey dividend, while those flooded paid the Harvey premium. You don’t need to own stock to get a Harvey dividend. Live in the right place and build in the right way, and the payout for being resilient is virtually automatic. And, you don’t need to have insurance to owe premiums. Each day away from school and work, each dollar spent ripping out moldy carpet, each month that passes to get life right-side up is a premium paid.

This may seem like an unfair lottery for those that got flooded, but this is no lottery. Where we build and what we build matters greatly. The term business-as-usual is shorthand for lack of vision and courage, and business-as-usual is putting people in harms’ way. It is impossible to know when the next accounting will take place. But, here we are again, the third 100-year event in three years.

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Three exotic snail species at Exploration Green: Apple snail (Pomacea spp), Chinese mystery snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis malleata), and Giant ramshorn snail ( Marisa cornuarietis)

Mary Carol Edwards will lead a one-and-a-half-hour tour that focuses on invasive plants and animals at Exploration Green park in Clear Lake City. The tour will be co-led by Jerry Hamby, Texas Master Naturalist and lead volunteer at the Exploration Green tree nursery.

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