FEMA Case Studies Dramatize Value of Detention Ponds in Flood Reduction

On August 27, Montgomery County Commissioners will consider a request to close a loophole that lets developers avoid building detention ponds.

Stormwater detention basins store potentially damaging floodwaters temporarily until channels can safely carry water away. Here’s how they work.

Lack of Detention Ponds Contributes to Flooding

The lack of functioning detention ponds in the new Woodridge Village development contributed to the flooding of at least 196 homes across the southern county line on May 7th earlier this year. Since publishing a series of stories about flooding in Elm Grove, dozens of Montgomery County residents have contacted me about similar complaints.

Woodridge Village had only one of five detention ponds fully functioning when this shot was taken after the May 7th flood. Lack of retention for this clear cut area contributed to damaging 196 homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest, plus an unknown number of additional homes in Porter. Drone Footage courtesy of Jim Zura, ZuraProductions.com

All the stories follow a similar pattern. “We never flooded. Then a new development came in and we did.” Residents complain that frequently the new developments alter drainage without adding enough detention to mitigate flooding.

As population growth extends northward in Montgomery County, this will become an oft repeated story. It will affect everyone in Montgomery County, not just those in the southern part and Harris County…unless the loophole is closed.

Case Studies Dramatize Value of Detention Ponds

Doubt the value of detention ponds? Consider these three case studies by FEMA. Each deals with severe rain events and explains how a pond helped reduce or eliminate flooding altogether – for homes that previously flood repetitively. Together, they make a pretty powerful case for closing the loophole.

The first talks about how a pond in Smithville, TX, that was under construction at the time of Harvey. It helped reduce the severity of flooding.

The second discusses a municipal pond in Pine Forest, a small town in Orange County, TX, north of Beaumont. After construction of the pond, “The community of roughly 500 residents and those living downstream from the ponds reported none of the flooding they had seen in the past.”

Victoria Project Protected Homes and Tax Base During Harvey

Closer to Houston, the third talks about a project in Victoria, TX. When Harvey hit the city of 68,000 in August 2017, 440 homes avoided flood damage. The City had completed the Lone Tree Creek Channel Improvement and Detention Facility Project there more than a decade earlier.

In 2005, the city recognized that its rapid residential growth created an overwhelmed drainage basin. Leaders began the planning stages of the Lone Tree Creek Project. “This project forced the creek to store water in the detention pond and not in the residential area,” said John Johnson, floodplain manager for Victoria.

Bottom line: “We are not moving the problem and recreating it elsewhere,” said Johnson.

“The quality of life is improved, and property resale is up as a result of this project,” said Johnson. “The tax base remained intact and property ownership stabilized in neighborhoods surrounding the Lone Tree Creek Channel. The quality of life is improved, and property resale is up as a result of this project.”

Learn More about Flood Mitigation Best Practices

For more information about flood mitigation best practices, see FEMA.

If you, or anyone you know, intend to speak at the Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting on the 27th, use these real-world examples to reinforce the message to close the loophole.

Help Close the Loophole

Closing the loophole is a no brainer, or at least, it should be.  However, if the court on August 27 is packed by developers and not citizens, expect the status quomore flooding.

Posted by Bob Rehak on August 10, 2019 with drone footage from Jim Zura

711 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the great state of Texas.