Hunting Bayou

Hunting Flood-Mitigation Project Nearing Completion

When Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and the Army Corps began Project Hunting (the Hunting Bayou Federal Flood Risk Management Project) in 2014, they estimated it would cost $100 million and take until late this year.

A flyover of the construction along Hunting Bayou looks like it is nearing completion…right on schedule. It will soon be done, except for the backslapping. Compare the shots below to those I took last year.

Hunting Bayou runs just inside North Loop 610 most of the way from US59 to Wayside. However, starting at Wayside, it dips outside the Loop, then goes back inside again, and finally outside a second time. Eventually, the Bayou works its way to the Houston Ship Channel near the City of Galena Park.

Scope of Project

Project elements include:

  • Excavating a stormwater detention basin on a 75-acre site near the northeast corner of Homestead Road and Loop 610
  • Widening and deepening about 4 miles of Hunting Bayou
  • 9 bridge replacements / 8 modifications and channel conveyance improvements under bridges

Project Benefits

HCFCD says that most neighborhoods near the bayou will see water surface elevation reductions of 3-4 feet for the 1 percent annual chance (100-year) flooding event. The number of homes and businesses subject to the 1 percent (100-year) flooding event would drop from 5,100 to 650. And all homes and businesses will benefit from the reduced frequency and depth of flooding.

Need for Project

The Hunting Bayou watershed has Harris County’s second highest percentage of Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) residents – 69%. That means more than two out of every three people earn less than the average income for the region.

Hunting is a small watershed. It comprises only 31 square miles. Its size ranks 19th out of 23 watersheds in the county.

Population grew only by 2,323 residents between 2010 and 2020. It went from 75,908 to 78,231. That now ranks it 14th in population among all watersheds, and 8th highest in people per square mile.

In five major storms between 2000 and today (Allison, Tax Day, Memorial Day, Harvey and Imelda), floods damaged 15,763 structures in the watershed. But virtually all of that damage came from Allison (8,270) and Harvey (7,419). The other three storms combined damaged only 74 structures, according to statistics compiled from HCFCD Federal Reports.

Thus, Hunting ranked 7th in total damage out of 23 watersheds, but because of its small size and high density, it had 508.5 structures per square mile damaged by floods since 2000. That means…

Hunting ranked #2 out of 23 watersheds in damage per square mile.

Data Obtained from HCFCD Via foia request

The watershed is highly urbanized with a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial developments. It’s home to one of the largest rail yards in the Houston area.

Union Pacific Englewood Yard in NE Houston along Liberty Road (right). HCFCD had to replace three railroad bridges over Hunting Bayou as part of the project.

Aerial Survey Shows Mitigation Construction Almost Complete

On Tuesday this week, I flew over Hunting Bayou with Ken Williams and Bill Callegari. Both are fellow members of the Harris County Community Flood Resilience Task Force. The pictures below show highlights of the construction.

Looking west at Hunting Bayou while hovering over US59 North. The widening of Hunting stretches downstream for about 4 miles to where Loop 610 North (on the left) turns right and heads south.
Same area. Looking SW toward 59 and downtown. Notice the rip rap (irregular chunks of broken concrete or rock) below storm sewer outlets. It disperses the force of rushing water and slows it down to reduce erosion.
Work continues around two neighborhood bridges at Falls St. and Leffingwell St.
Likewise, widening continues at Hirsch Road.
Looking back upstream at all three bridges, plus a pedestrian bridge over a small tributary in the distance.
Wider shot, looking upstream over Wayne Street.
Previously finished section around Wipprecht bridge.
Note how bayou narrows under Lockwood Bridge due to commercial development on either side.
Looking back upstream (west) from over Kelly St. at linear park that parallels another large detention basin. Note the new pedestrian bridges.They have been widened to accommodate the wider bayou.
Rotating 180 degrees from shot above, we can see downstream to rest of park and where the Bayou threads its way under Loop 610N. Also note large detention basin in distance.
Looking back SW from over Kelley Street. Note concrete lining that now protects narrow section under 610 bridge.
Looking SW toward Homestead Road (with the bridge) across the new 75 acre stormwater detention basin.

The Curtis M. Graves Detention Basin shown above provides approximately 1,000 acre-feet of stormwater storage capacity. That’s almost 10 inches of rain falling over a square mile. Construction of the basin began in 2020.

Looking west along 610 N at the section of Hunting that briefly dips outside of the Loop.
Looking NW. Note again the new concrete lining where the channel narrows to go under the Loop 610 N bridge. Water flows toward the camera.

Compare Bayou Downstream From Project

Where the bayou narrows to go under a bridge, the increased water pressure during a flood can cause a “jetting” phenomenon that rapidly erodes banks and undermines bridge supports. Hence, the need for concrete reinforcement.

Looking S along East Loop 610 beyond the eastern end of the project. The Bayou loops around storage tanks (lower right) and heads south toward Wallisville Road, before heading east again. This shows what the bayou looked like before widening. Compare width to previous shots.

The tank farm is the approximate eastern limit of Project Hunting.

Project History

This project began on December 16, 2014, long before Harris County’s Flood Bond in 2018. It was a key project of County Commissioner El Franco Lee (who lived in the area) and Congressman Gene Green. Despite a low benefit/cost ratio, they called in favors and got the project started.

The agreement between the Army Corps and HCFCD lets HCFCD qualify for reimbursement from the Federal government for work completed.

Between the channel widening and detention basin, HCFCD has removed almost a million cubic yards of soil to create more room for floodwaters. Width of the Bayou now varies from about 30 to more than 500 feet between the project limits.

According to data obtained via a FOIA Request, HCFCD and its partners spent $96 million on Hunting Bayou between 2000 and the end of last year. Some of that money has been spent on other projects. To see a complete list of HCFCD projects in Hunting Bayou, visit the District’s Hunting page.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/21/2022

1787 Days since Hurricane Harvey