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Report: Natural climate change mitigation would benefit Texas

By Roz Brown

Texas News Service

HOUSTON – Texas is set to receive a significant chunk of money this year from the federal government to repair damage from Hurricane Harvey and multiple years of flooding, and a new report says much of it should be invested in natural and nature-based solutions.

Jessie Ritter is the director of water and coastal resources policy at the National Wildlife Federation, and an author of a new report that shows when weather and climate-driven hazard events occur, natural infrastructure has proven just as effective – and sometimes, more effective – than traditional infrastructure.

“When I say natural infrastructure, I mean natural features in the environment, like wetlands and healthy flood plains, restored beaches and sand dunes, oyster reefs and coral reefs,” says Ritter. “All of those things would fall into the bucket of natural systems.”

Texans along the Gulf are monitoring Tropical Storm Cristobal, which has the potential to cause destruction.

One natural infrastructure project that has proven effective is a 200 acre reclaimed urban wetland near Houston that was formerly an abandoned golf course. Frank Weary, chairman of Exploration Green, says the storm-water detention project there acted as a sponge during Hurricane Harvey, protecting residents and homes from potentially deadly flooding.

“The area has now become, instead of being storm-water detention with some amenities, it’s now almost become a wildlife preserve with storm-water detention,” says Weary.

Ritter says Texas will soon receive four-point-three billion dollars in federal money in response to Hurricane Harvey and three years of flooding, creating a timely opportunity to implement forward-looking nature-based mitigation activities.

“So we’re hopeful that there will be some creative and strategic thinking on the ground about how we can take this enormous funding opportunity before the state and invest in these natural systems,” says Ritter.

Hurricane season began on June 1, making this the sixth year in a row Texas has seen a major storm approach prior to June 1.