Yesterday, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) Board accepted three grants from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to conduct studies for various projects. This was expected. The SJRA had applied for each of the grants about a year ago. The vote, however, now obligates the SJRA. It’s somewhat like applying for a loan and then signing the contract after it is approved.
Three Studies Now Teed Up
The SJRA and its partners can now officially start three studies:
- An upper San Jacinto Watershed regional sedimentation study
- A conceptual engineering feasibility study for flood-control dams in the Spring Creek Watershed
- A joint reservoir operations study between Lake Conroe and Lake Houston
Why Flood Mitigation Takes So Long
We are all learning together how long flood mitigation takes. It’s somewhat frustrating to see a conceptual engineering feasibility study being kicked off one month from the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Harvey.
I’m not pointing fingers at the SJRA, its partners, the TWDB, or the State. If you took the time to read all of the approximately 1500 posts on ReduceFlooding.com, you would see that:
- Harvey happened right after the 2017 legislature finished its work.
- Eighteen months elapsed before the legislature met again.
- It took another nine months for the legislature and governor to approve flood mitigation funding.
- Then, the TWDB needed to define rules for the distribution of funds, solicit public comment, refine the rules, solicit grant applications, and evaluate them in a competitive context.
- Finally, add time for related preliminary studies such as the Lake Houston Spillway Improvement Project, the San Jacinto River Basin Master Drainage Study, a sand trap study, and a siting study for the flood-control dams.
- And don’t forget the time to find partners and develop political consensus around solutions.
Still Years from Construction
The truly scary thing is that even when these studies are completed, we still could be years from construction and more years from completion of any of these projects.
For instance, we just started final engineering on the Lake Houston Spillway Improvement Project. Best-case projections show completion of the project in mid 2024 – 7 years after Harvey.
The system seems set up to protect money more than people. We certainly don’t want people rushing off, building half-baked projects that endanger people downstream, the environment, or the safety of a dam…especially if they produce no demonstrable benefit.
But we also don’t want people to flood multiple times waiting for flood-mitigation improvements. And some have. Remember Imelda? Just a thought as we head into the heart of hurricane season.
Studies Could Take 18 Months to 4 Years
The Spring Creek Flood-control Dam study will take 18 months. The Joint Reservoir Operations Study will take 3 years. And the Sediment Study is scheduled to take 4 years, though Matt Barrett, SJRA’s flood-mitigation director, is trying to compress that to 18 months.
If you missed the original post about these three studies, you can find more details here. SJRA partners in these projects include Harris County Flood Control, City of Houston, City of Humble, Montgomery County and five utility districts.
Posted by Bob Rehak on July 23, 2021
1424 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 673 since Imelda