Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) Frontier Program is an effort to avoid the problems of past development in newly developing areas. In the past, making developers solely responsible for flood mitigation on the land they owned likely resulted in small, expensive and suboptimal projects. Often, by the time shortcomings of their efforts became apparent, it was too late to do anything. Sometimes, to make room for effective flood-mitigation projects, whole subdivisions had to be bought out – after years of repetitive flooding. See two images below.
Frontier Program Offers a Different Paradigm
The Frontier Program is an organized effort to plan for regional drainage infrastructure in advance of future land development.
Program managers work with developers and landowners to identify large-scale, mutually beneficial projects for drainage that cost-effectively maximize stormwater mitigation and water quality. Plans also include opportunities for public recreation and open space.
Basically, instead of forcing all the responsibility for floodwater detention onto developers, the developers buy detention capacity from HCFCD. But the detention capacity is in larger, more efficient ponds in optimal locations – large enough to accommodate future growth.
Currently HCFCD district has frontier programs operating in two watersheds: Little Cypress Creek and Langham Creek, both in northwest Harris County.
Little Cypress Creek Frontier Program
Little Cypress Creek’s watershed is 52-square-miles, but it has fewer than 30,000 residents. However, Little Cypress Creek is experiencing rapid development with construction of the Grand Parkway and lacks sufficient natural drainage to accommodate expected growth.
The Little Cypress Creek Frontier Program includes nine stormwater detention basins and stormwater conveyance improvements along the creek and its tributaries. The detention basins will hold more than 20,000 acre feet of stormwater. Together with conveyance improvements, flooding should be reduced 5-7 feet. This video, featuring Alan Black, HCFCD’s new acting director who lives in the area, explains how the collaborative effort with developers works.
The 2018 flood-bond funded the watershed’s Master Drainage Plan, as well as stormwater conveyance improvements on Little Cypress Creek from Cypress Rosehill to the confluence with Cypress Creek.
This innovative approach is in contrast to typical efforts in which individual land owners and developers install drainage infrastructure that serves their sites alone, resulting in smaller, isolated stormwater detention basins and minimum-width channels for stormwater management. By taking a regional approach, the Frontier Program protects existing developments and provides proper drainage for newly developing properties.
Developers participate in the Frontier Program by paying a $4,000-per-acre fee to develop in the watershed service area. Developers also participate by excavating a portion of regional drainage facilities and by dedicating property for right-of-way. The Little Cypress Creek Frontier Program will use impact fees primarily to acquire additional right-of-way along the channel and for stormwater detention basins.
Upper Langham Creek Frontier Program
HCFCD operates another Frontier Program on Upper Langham Creek in its 16 square-mile watershed.
Major elements include, but are not limited to:
- The 190-acre Greenhouse Stormwater Detention Basin in Harris County Precinct 3. The basin ultimately will provide approximately 860 acre-feet of detention storage.
- Another 865-acre basin site at Precinct 3’s John Paul’s Landing Park. It will provide 2,360 acre-feet of detention storage.
- A six-mile, 700-foot-wide, 14-foot-deep floodplain and stream corridor encompassing Langham Creek between the two basins. The variable-width, undulating corridor design features wide flood terraces (or benches), gentle side slopes and in-line detention storage volume for the mitigation of stormwater flows. Within the corridor, Langham Creek will be redesigned as a natural stable stream, with adjacent forested borders, native grasses, and stormwater quality mitigation features.
Pay Now or Pay Later
Some residents have complained about spending HCFCD funds in areas where people do not yet live when they flood now.
But this is truly a case of “You can pay me now or pay me later.” And if you pay later, the cost is almost certain to be exponentially higher and take much longer…after a lot of heartbreak, misery and human suffering.
Analogy: think about a doctor who’s so busy dealing with critical care, she has no time to deal with preventive care.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/13/2021
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