Correction on 7/4/2020: The article below was based on a City of Houston District E newsletter. It inferred that the City “applied for” five grants (in bullet points below). Other entities, such as the SJRA, applied for those. Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin personally supports them.
The City of Houston has submitted several applications to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) for Flood Infrastructure Fund dollars. Among the projects was one for Taylor Gully Flood Damage Reduction. It consists of evaluating flood reduction alternatives plus design, permitting, and construction of a detention basin located on a 278 acre site to the north of the Elm Grove subdivision.
Woodridge Project One of Six Apps
Other applications include:
- San Jacinto River Sand Trap Development
- Spring Creek Watershed Flood Control Dams Conceptual Engineering
- Upper San Jacinto River Basin Regional Sedimentation Study
- Lake Conroe-Lake Houston Joint Reservoir Operations Study
- Harris County MUD #153 Siltation Reduction
“All of these projects submitted for funding promote regional resiliency and future sustainability in an effort to protect life and property from future flooding,” said Mayor Pro Tem and District E City Council Member Dave Martin. “The ability to submit these projects to the TWDB for funding would not be possible without State Senator Brandon Creighton’s writing of Senate Bill 7. We continue to applaud the Senator for his forward thinking and hope to receive funding for these projects. State Representative Dan Huberty has also been a vocal proponent for resiliency within our area and just beyond the City boundary. We are thankful to have him as a local engaged leader.”
Neither Martin, nor his office, provided additional details on any of the grant applications.
However, from the wording of the release, it sounds as though state leaders are fully aligned and engaged to support the projects.
Woodridge Village Project Has Long History
The grants, if approved, could help reduce flooding throughout the Lake Houston Area.
The Taylor Gully/Woodridge Village project is the most urgent. Homes around the troubled development flooded twice last year. At a Kingwood Townhall meeting in February, Martin said the County should pay for 100% of that project. But then the County demanded that the City should pay for half of the purchase price of the land. And at the next Commissioners’ Court meeting, Commissioner Ellis changed the deal again. He demanded that the City pay for half of the construction costs also.
Both the City and County have been silent on any deal since then. The County refused a Freedom of Information Act request to release the text of the motion, which was approved in a public meeting. They even protested release of the information to the State Attorney General.
Putting Application in Historical Context
The following is speculation, but speculation based on the historical context. It appears that when County Commissioners voted to demand that the City come up with half the the purchase AND construction costs, the City found it hard. The grant application, if successful, is a way for the City to help the people of Elm Grove, who flooded twice last year after Perry Homes cleared 268 acres of adjacent land.
At the time of the floods, less than 25% of the planned detention pond capacity was in place. Perry has since developed additional detention ponds that provide the other 75%.
However, even that probably won’t be enough to absorb a 100-year rain. That’s because Perry Homes rushed to have the project approved before NOAA’s new Atlas-14 precipitation frequency tables went into effect. The new Atlas-14 standard would require about 40% more detention capacity. And that’s what the purchase is all about.
Rumor has it that political forces are aligned to accelerate this particular request.
Observations on Other Grant Applications
Of the other applications, two surprise me.
- The sand trap study seems redundant with another project already underway, the sediment trap pilot study already underway with Harris County Flood Control and the SJRA.
- The regional sedimentation study seems partially redundant with the San Jacinto River Basin Study.
A joint reservoir operations study seems necessary. Currently, FEMA is funding a preliminary engineering study to add additional gates to the Lake Houston Spillway. If FEMA also approved the money for construction of the gates, they will be a game changer.
The Spring Creek Watershed flood control dams would provide additional upstream detention. Community leaders identified that as a high priority after Harvey. They would reduce the amount of water coming downstream during a flood.
Harris County MUD #153 contains Lake Houston shoreline where silt from Rogers Gully has accumulated. Earlier this year, Harris County Flood Control cleared a large part of the Gully, but the part owned by the City remains clogged with a mouth bar.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/3/2020
1039 Days since Hurricane Harvey