Back in November 2023, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) terminated its excavation and removal contract with Sprint Sand and Clay. The 2021 contract called for Sprint to remove up to 500,000 cubic yards of material from Woodridge Village. Had the full amount been excavated, it would have more than doubled the stormwater detention basin capacity on the site.
Only About A Third of Max Volume Excavated
But at the time HCFCD terminated the contract, Sprint had excavated only 160,748 cubic yards, an amount equal to 100 acre feet, and only about a third of the maximum allowed under the contract.
When HCFCD purchased the Woodridge Village property from Perry Homes, the site had only 70% of Atlas 14 requirements (the new standard for a 100-year storm). The lack of detention capacity contributed to the flooding of hundreds of homes in Kingwood along Taylor Gully twice in 2019.
In the end, the 160,748 cubic yards meant that the site had 96% of Atlas 14 requirements. But significantly, the additional capacity is still just a hole in the ground. It has not yet been tied into other Woodridge detention basins or drainage channels.
Termination Caused by HUD Rule
The rationale for termination of the contract had nothing to do with Sprint’s performance. Rather, it had to do with an unintended consequence of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule.
HCFCD hoped to pay for both Taylor Gully and Woodridge Village with HUD funds. But a HUD rule states that HUD funds cannot pay for work already completed on a project when a grant application is submitted.
As a result, when HCFCD applies for a HUD grant, it must:
- Zero out work completed to date and stop work.
- Estimate the cost of remaining work.
- Wait for an award determination.
The rule also affected several other E&R projects in Harris County, such as one on TC Jester next to Cypress Creek.
It’s especially painful in this case because HCFCD listed the Woodridge Village stormwater detention basin as an alternate project for HUD funding. That means, it would only be considered if a fatal flaw knocked one of HCFCD’s primary recommendations out of the running.
HCFCD Exploring Alternative
Amy Crouser, an HCFCD spokesperson said, “Woodridge must be treated as if it were funded by HUD and GLO, which means that we cannot perform any choice-limiting actions on the site, such as the E&R contract. It will be some time before we know if any alternate projects will move to the ‘funded list.’”
Crouser then added, “However, we are investigating whether we can split the Woodridge Village Stormwater Detention Basin into two projects. That may offer some flexibility in getting the E&R contract reinstated. We should have an answer in the next few weeks.”
HCFCD has not yet publicly released the final engineering studies on Woodridge or Taylor Gully.
With interest rates falling, housing starts may pick up and increase demand for fill dirt. That could eliminate the only real drawback of an E&R contract; they can be time consuming if demand for dirt is low. Otherwise, they represent exceptional value for taxpayers. Sprint made only $1,000 from the contract but made its money back by selling the dirt at market rates.
Status of Excavation At Year End
Here’s where things stood at the end of 2023:
|Acre Feet of Stormwater Detention
|% of Atlas-14 Requirement
|% of Ultimate
|Site Had When Purchased from Perry Homes
|Had as of 12/31/23
|Atlas 14 Requires
|Had Sprint Excavated All 500,000 CY
Stay tuned for more news as it develops.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/3/2023
2318 Days since Hurricane Harvey