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