TWDB Approves $10.1 Million to Widen, Deepen Taylor Gully

At its first May board meeting this morning, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved a $10.1 million loan to the City of Houston to widen and deepen Taylor Gully.

Removing 400 Homes from Harm’s Way

The project should help alleviate flooding in Kingwood subdivisions such as Elm Grove, North Kingwood Forest, Mills Branch and Woodstream Forest. Residents in each village experienced disastrous flooding, not once, but twice in 2019. Widening and deepening the gully will increase its conveyance and take more than 400 homes out of harm’s way.

Connected Issues

However, the increased conveyance could also create the need for more more detention capacity to reduce the risk of flooding elsewhere.

This graph of Brays Bayou during the last century shows how runoff accelerates with development. Instead of floodwaters being stored in wetlands and forests, storm drains rush the water to the bayou. That results in higher, faster rises during storms.

Rapid upstream development has put pressure that never existed before on downstream homes. That development decreases the time of accumulation for floodwaters. Without more detention ponds to hold some water back, widening, deepening Taylor Gully could solve a problem in one place and create a problem in another. It could result in faster, higher flood peaks downstream.

Woodridge Village Could Be Part of Taylor Gully Solution

The logical place to put the extra floodwater detention would be on the Woodridge Village property that Harris County just acquired from Perry Homes. Currently, the property is about 40% short of the detention pond capacity needed to absorb a 100-year rainfall under new Atlas-14 requirements. And it has more than 170 acres available to meet that need.

Woodridge Village and headwaters of Taylor Gully (upper left) as they existed in January of 2020

The City loan which will be matched by money from the Harris County Flood Bond and, hopefully the federal government, can be used to address both conveyance and detention issues.

Delicate Dance Between Political, Project Leaders

Thanks to the TWDB, the bulk of construction money is now committed to the project through the City of Houston. That means the lead partner on this project, HCFCD, can tell its engineering contractor to accelerate planning.

Development of such projects is often like a dance between political and project leadership. Neither side can get out of step with the other for long.

At this hour, many details have yet to be worked out on the engineering and cost estimating side. But some of the political and funding clouds are parting enough to see a clear path to completion. However, one thing is perfectly clear.

As watersheds develop, it’s important to set aside room for detention pond capacity. Once a watershed is fully developed, homes and businesses must be bought out to create those ponds.

The buyouts increase the time and cost of projects exponentially.

For the minutes of today’s TWDB board meeting, click here and view Item #6.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/6/2021

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