Flood Mitigation Digest: Updates on Nine Lake Houston Area Efforts
Here’s a digest of several efforts relating to flood mitigation in the Lake Houston Area and recent developments.
Groundwater Management Area 14 has another Discussion of Desired Future Conditions (DFCs) on the agenda for its upcoming October 5 meeting. Notice Item #7: “Discussion and possible action regarding the DFCs/Proposed DFCs and the path forward for GMA 14 to accomplish statutory mandates for Round 3 Joint Planning.”
To date, Montgomery County has resisted any mention of a subsidence metric in DFCs for the groundwater management area which includes 14 counties. All must abide by whatever metric the group adopts. The group has been arguing about this metric for years and they’re rapidly approaching a mandatory deadline set by the state.
The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) Board which regulates groundwater withdrawals in Montgomery County has favored unlimited groundwater pumping and denied that subsidence affects Montgomery County. Both the southern and northern parts have already seen measurable declines.
Here’s a paper that SJRA presented to the LSGCD board that corrects several LSGCD misstatements and misperceptions. It shows charts and graphs dramatizing the amount of measured subsidence.
Sources close to the controversy do not expect GMA-14 members to reach agreement next week. However, John Martin, head of the management area says, “After we convene and discuss the summary reports submitted by each GCD (a summary of the comments received during the public comment period) the Group will have completed all of the necessary requirements that must be completed prior to the adoption of the DFCs. So, a “final” decision (for this round of planning) could be made at this meeting.”
Projected future subsidence could tilt Lake Houston toward its headwaters because it would affect areas near the county line more than the Lake Houston Dam.
Follow this link to register to attend the meeting on the 5th. That’s next Tuesday from 9:30 AM to 12 PM. GMA 14 uses the GoToWebinar app.
Additional Gates for Lake Houston Dam
The Army Corp’s public comment period for adding 1,000 feet of crest gates to the Lake Houston Dam ended on August 23rd. However, I have not yet found any recommendation from the Corps on their site.
The Coastal Water Authority discusses the project at its monthly board meetings.
Minutes from the September meeting have not yet been posted. However, directors did receive an update in their August 11 meeting. The minutes state that engineers presented their modifications of the spillway to support the gates. Next steps (at the time) were to focus on the cofferdam design and structural analysis of the spillway during demolition, interim construction, and post construction.
CWA has not yet responded to an inquiry about how the September meeting went.
Joint Lake-Operation Plan Development
The SJRA received a grant to develop a joint operation plan for the dams at Lake Conroe and Lake Houston. This will involve the SJRA working with the Coastal Water Authority.
Matt Barrett, SJRA’s flood-management director said, “We have not yet selected consultants for the Joint Ops project. My goal would be to start … joint ops by sometime next summer. We are coordinating with CWA/City of Houston on the joint ops schedule to ensure that the project merges as seamlessly and effectively as possible with their ongoing efforts related to the additional Lake Houston gates.”
Makes sense. While FEMA has approved construction of the gates in principle, FEMA has not yet approved the plans. Stephen Costello told a community meeting at the Kingwood Community Center on July 9 that he expects all plans and the environmental study to be completed by the summer of 2022.
Flood Early Warning System
The SJRA also applied for and received a grant to develop a Flood Early Warning System for San Jacinto County.
The idea is to help people better understand how much water is moving down Winters Bayou, the East Fork, and Peach Creek by adding three gages, one on each at strategic locations.
Barrett says SJRA staff is handling most of this work in-house and has already started.
Spring Creek Flood-Control Reservoir
The purpose of this project is to perform a conceptual engineering feasibility study of two potential dams/reservoirs within the Spring Creek watershed. This is a the next phase of the Spring Creek Siting Study which came out of the San Jacinto River Basin Master Drainage Study.
Locations at both Walnut Creek and Birch Creek have potential to provide flood-mitigation benefits to the watershed. But which to pursue? Here’s the scope of work.
This is another SJRA project. Barrett says, “We recently completed consultant selection and contract negotiation for the Spring Creek project and took the consultant contract to our Board last week (where it was approved). We are aiming for a mid-October start date.”
Upper San Jacinto River Basin Sedimentation Study
This SJRA study is also an extension of work started in the San Jacinto River Basin Master Drainage Study. The application for this grant from the state’s Flood Infrastructure Fund states, “Any sedimentation reduction activity in the Upper San Jacinto River Basin (Lake Houston watershed) is anticipated to achieve some level of reduction of sediment load entering Lake Houston, which would in turn reduce storage reduction in the lake, which is the major water supply reservoir for the City of Houston and surrounding communities.”
It could also reduce Lake Houston Area dredging costs which Costello estimates will total $222 million. After taking years to dredge the West Fork, the City is now dredging its way to the East Fork.
Barrett has not yet selected a consultant for the sedimentation project. He hopes to get that started by Spring 2022. The Spring Creek and Joint Operations studies have much shorter timetables, so the SJRA started those first.
The grant application states that this study could take up to four years, though the SJRA hopes to complete it faster.
Long-Term Dredging Plan Development
Potential vendors interested in developing a long-term dredging plan for Lake Houston had to submit their qualifications by September 23rd last week.
It’s not clear how many vendors responded or who they were. According to Stephen Costello, “It is my understanding that this information is not available due to the quiet period provisions of the city’s procurement process. The information will not be available until the consultant is selected/contract terms negotiated and the contract is on the city agenda for council action.”
That should happen sometime in November. Stay tuned.
SJRA CDBG-MIT Caney Creek Grant
The SJRA also applied for a HUD Community Development Block Grant for Mitigation from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The purpose was to develop a Caney Creek Reservoir Upstream of FM 1097.
Said Barrett, “The Caney Creek project is on hold due to limitations of the CDBG-MIT funding program. Grants for a single project were limited to $100 million in the first round of applications (and the reservoir project as recommended in the San Jacinto Regional Watershed Master Drainage Plan was anticipated to be over $100 million by a decent amount).”
The Texas General Land Office (GLO), which coordinates HUD grants in Texas is committing most of the 2nd round funding to HCFCD after the uproar that followed Harris County’s snub in the first round. Barrett says he is coordinating with appropriate entities to determine how that funding will ultimately be distributed and whether SJRA would be eligible to receive any.
Forest Cove Golf Course Redevelopment
This doesn’t exactly fall into the category of flood mitigation efforts, but Ron Holley today reportedly withdraw his application to the CoH Planning Commission to replat the Kingwood Cove Golf for single family homes. The City of Houston Public Works department requested more details on the drainage analysis which raised many questions.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/30/2021
1493 Days since Hurricane Harvey
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