The city of Wharton, Texas, is 60 miles southwest of Houston on the northern banks of the Lower Colorado River. Although the flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey in 2017 took a heavy toll on Wharton — like so many other communities in that area of Texas — flooding is a recurrent problem, particularly for the city's West End neighborhood.
Much of the flooding in Wharton occurs because of extreme rain events upriver. After another significant flood in 1998, all levels of government came together to conduct a feasibility study to find a solution. The city partnered with the Lower Colorado River Authority, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Texas Water Development Board resulting in a 2006 conceptual plan for a flood protection system, including internal drainage and channel improvements, levees, and floodwalls.
After the Floods
Recovery Planning Assistance Team Report
In February 2019, a Recovery Planning Assistance Team visited Wharton, Texas, to help the city explore ways to integrate a new flood protection system funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with other plans and projects around the city. The team made recommendations around cultural programming, transportation, and flood protection.
After many years of advocacy and damage from more flooding events, in July 2018 the Army Corps of Engineers allocated $73 million to the city for the flood protection system. The city wants to leverage the large engineering project by aligning other plans and projects that will benefit the community. The city wants to identify opportunities to integrate and connect new hazard mitigation infrastructure with existing greenways, empty lots, parks, potential future public spaces, and primary hubs for public services.
The Wharton "Recovery Planning Assistance Team" project is one of the APA Foundation's 2018 Disaster Recovery Grant recipients. The project is supported by the Pisces Foundation through a grant awarded to the APA Foundation that focuses on building back better with green infrastructure after disasters.
Team leader Ennis Davis, AICP, and APA programs manager Ryan Scherzinger, AICP, conducted a preliminary visit to Wharton on November 16, 2018.
Following the preliminary visit, Davis and Scherzinger recruited additional volunteer team members (listed below) with specific expertise for the project. The full team visited Wharton on February 22–25, 2019. They met with stakeholders across the city whose input will help inform the team's recommendations. The team's final report is forthcoming.
Meet the Team
Ennis Davis, AICP
Adrienne Burke, AICP, Esq.Adrienne Burke is assistant director with the Planning and Economic Opportunity Department in Nassau County, Florida. She previously worked for Riverside Avondale Preservation, a nonprofit preservation advocacy organization in Jacksonville. Prior to joining RAP, she worked for the City of Fernandina Beach, Florida, as the community development director. Burke's expertise is in cultural and natural resource policy, with a focus on historic preservation programs and resiliency and sea level rise. She is well-versed in land development code and comprehensive plan management. Burke holds degrees from the University of Virginia and University of Florida. She is a member of the Florida Bar, serves on the Florida Public Archaeology Network Board of Directors, and is a past board member with the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.
Carlos G. Espinoza y SánchezCarlos Espinoza y Sánchez has six years of experience in the fields of real estate, land use planning, transportation planning, graphic design, and social media. He is currently a project manager with Windrose Land Planning Services and manages over 50 ongoing redevelopment projects in the Houston area. He is the founder of CGES ǀ Planning, a vlogging YouTube channel that focuses on blogging and documentary-style filming on Houston's city life in the fourth-largest and most diverse city in the country. He also serves as an APA Ambassador, helping champion diversity, inclusion, and equity in planning among young people.
Paula Loomis, PhD, AICP, FAIA, LEED APPaula Loomis is the executive director for the Coast Guard Shore Infrastructure Logistics Center with responsibility for over 35,000 buildings/structures at 2,000 sites worldwide including master planning, programming, design, construction, and operations as well as vehicles, support equipment and waterway aids to navigation. She has 35 years of experience in architecture, planning, and teaching with a concentration in public and military facilities. She was previously the Sustainability Program Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Command Architect for Air Combat Command, established the Virginia Beach office of EDAW, and taught at Hampton University. She is currently an adjunct professor at Stevens Institute of Technology where she teaches Research Methods for their Doctor of Philosophy in the Built Environment, Temporary Structures for Heavy Construction for the Master of Construction Management Program and serves on their Examination Committee. Her planning research investigated the economic redevelopment success of local communities following Base Realignment and Closure. Loomis will be retiring from federal service, taking a new position as the Director of Research/Senior Architect/Senior Planner for The Urban Collaborative firm.
Chelsea Young, AICPChelsea Young brings 10 years of professional transportation planning experience working in both the public and private sectors. Young has focused on both local and regional transportation and land use planning projects with an interest in active transportation (walking/biking). Young is active in her community, serving on two local nonprofit organizations as a board member, including Neighborhoods to Trails Southwest and Blueprint Houston. She is currently a senior associate at Traffic Engineers, Inc. (TEI) in downtown Houston.