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Abbott Announces Centralized Harvey Effort On Texas A&M Campus

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Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp

Gov. Greg Abbott has tapped Chancellor John Sharp to lead a multi-agency effort to address the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, a team that will encompass most major state agencies and will be housed on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station.

Abbott said there would be a clear division of labor in the recovery effort: the state response team will deal with public infrastructure needs and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will handle individual claims related to housing.

"Our intent is not to interfere with or duplicate the efforts of other state and federal agencies," Sharp said at a news conference Thursday morning. "We will focus on restoring the public infrastructure, to provide a one-stop shop for access to state and federal resources. To ensure local officials are armed with information crucial for decision-making, there will be an information clearinghouse team located in each [affected] county."

Sharp grew up in Placedo, near Victoria, and represented a portion of the coastline as both a state representative and state senator in the 1980s before serving as state comptroller. Abbott and Sharp, along with regional FEMA officials, will be meeting with local officials over the next three days in Beaumont, Houston, Victoria, Corpus Christi and Sugar Land. 

State leaders declined to speculate on the cost of the recovery effort, except to say the governor is empowered to use the full resources of state agencies during disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.

In a six-page white paper distributed to local officials, Sharp stressed focusing on needs with the greatest impact to each region, cutting red tape at state agencies and creating a future better than the status quo.

"The response team will also establish a group of industry professionals and research experts to review all infrastructure assessments and other available data gathered from the impacted areas to identify and recommend novel infrastructure construction and renewal practices and approaches that will maximize the resiliency and sustainability of any reconstructed infrastructure from future catastrophic weather events," Sharp wrote. "The bottom line is that we cannot just rebuild what was damaged; we must 'future-proof' what is built new to mitigate future problems to the greatest extent possible.”