CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB Ivanhoe Mayor Cathy Bennett stands in front of the remnants of Lake Ivanhoe. Its dam was severely damaged during Hurricane Harvey.
Funds will go toward flood mitigation projects
By Chris Edwards
IVANHOE – For a city that has seen its fair share of progress in its short life as an incorporated city, last Friday was a red-letter day for Ivanhoe.
On that date, Ivanhoe’s mayor Cathy Bennett, along with the state’s land commissioner George P. Bush and state Senator Robert Nichols announced that the state’s General Land Office (GLO) approved a funding amount of more than $11.4 million to go to the city toward flood mitigation projects, which will improve the city’s drainage infrastructure.
Bennett said when she received the good news, she was “extremely elated.” The money will go toward several projects in the city that, with its budget, could have not accomplished, she said.
Multiple flooding events, going back to 2015, and the Hurricane Harvey disaster in 2017, have damaged parts of Ivanhoe’s dams, and in the case of the Lake Ivanhoe Dam, breeched it, and caused severe erosion on the face of the dam. Lake Ivanhoe was reduced from a 22-acre lake to a body of water the size of a pond. That dam will be reconstructed, along with the Camelot Dam.
Along the Tristan Dam, the road level will be raised to match the level of the dam. Recent storms have exceeded the lake’s capacity of its emergency spillway. This has presented a hazard to first responders, as well as the public, travelling along Lakewood Drive during and after storm events.
These projects are a few of the major infrastructure works to be undertaken with the funding within the city.
According to a news release from the GLO, the scope of the work to Ivanhoe’s infrastructure will, in the long term, increase the city’s resilience to any future disasters and reduce the long-term risk of loss of life and damage to property.
“Since 2015, 140 Texas counties have received a Presidential disaster declaration,” said Bush. “The need is extensive, and this first round of mitigation funding is geared directly at helping communities that are majority low-to-moderate income and lack the resources to fund their own mitigation projects. The GLO is proud to help communities across Texas increase public safety, prevent property loss and minimize hardship on residents,” he added.
The grant carries a 1% match, which Bennett said the city still has money in its bond fund to cover. There are many in the community asking questions on social media about the coming windfall and the timetable of the work it will cover, and to that end, Bennett has scheduled a town hall meeting at the Ivanhoe City Hall for Saturday, June 5 beginning at 10 a.m. She said the meeting will address the myriad of questions that residents, as well as city officials, may have, including the timetable of the project and how the funding is awarded.
Ivanhoe’s grant award is part of more than $2.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) earmarked to protect Texas communities affected by Harvey and other severe floods going back to 2015.
Nichols made a statement last week in support of the grant funding, and noted that within Senate District 3, more than $105 million of the overall funding was awarded. Neighboring Jasper County was approved for $29.4 million, which will go toward projects in the cities of Jasper and Kirbyville.
“This grant money will be key in protecting infrastructure that we have, and it is also going to be helpful in our economic future,” Bennett said.
One bittersweet note occurred as the city’s grant award was announced on Friday. Jack Brockhouse, who served as the mayor of Ivanhoe for a term before Bennett was elected in 2014, died. Brockhouse lived on Lake Ivanhoe and had hoped to see it return one day, Bennett said.