Exploration Green: Old Golf Course Turned into Innovative Flooding Solution
One of the more innovative flooding solutions in the Houston area can be found in Clear Lake. It’s called Exploration Green. Exploration Green is an old 178-acre golf course converted into a series of five large stormwater retention basins that also act as wetlands, wildlife habitat, and recreational amenities. Reforestation forms an extensive part of the plan as does water-quality enhancement.
Exploration Green demonstrates how “innovative green” approaches to flood prevention can amplify the value of traditional engineering. Islands in the ponds have attracted more than 150 species of birds.
Stormwater Retention at Core of Plan
The master plan shows 38 acres of permanent water (wet bottom ponds) and 39 acres of wetlands. The slopes around the ponds create 1,680 acre feet of floodwater storage capacity. That’s enough to hold a foot of rain falling over 2.6 square miles. While the permanent water depth is six feet, the slopes around the ponds can safely hold water up to 13 feet.
Stormwater runoff from the surrounding area (2,000 acres) flows directly to the site.
The project has proven so successful that FEMA prepared a case study on it. Exploration Green protects an estimated 16,000 homes in the immediate area.
Alternative to Commercial Development
Local developers had expressed interest in turning the area into a massive commercial development. So, residents in the community – who didn’t like that idea – approached the Clear Lake City Water Authority (CLCWA) Board of Directors.
Public input from town hall meetings helped guide a masterplan created by SWA Architects. The ideas included ADA accessible trails, native trees and grasses, benches, athletic fields and other amenities. Then engineers and hydrologists reviewed feasibility. Finally, voters approved bond funding to purchase the property.
The primary intent: floodwater detention. Secondary: to create a multi-purpose space that the entire community could enjoy. See the original masterplan document here.
CLCWA began purchasing the land in 2005. They divided construction into Phases 1A, 1B, 1C, 2, 3A, 3B, 4, and 5. Work could finish this year.
When complete, the facility will have 6 miles of 10-foot wide concrete trails connecting amenities with the local community.
CLCWA water rates fund maintenance of the park.
For More Information
Visit the Clear Lake City Water Authority website or the Exploration Green website. They also offer a brochure you can download.
The project has garnered an impressive list of awards.
It’s easy to access – between I-45 and the Johnson Space Center. See the map here.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/12/22
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