CWA Exploring Alternate Plan for Adding Lake Houston Dam Gates
Coastal Water Authority (CWA) recently posted minutes from its May 11th board meeting that reveal a possible new direction for adding more flood gates to the Lake Houston Dam. After months of discussing various crest gate alternatives to increase the release capacity of the dam, engineers will now focus on examining two tainter gate alternatives. One would add six tainter gates, the other twelve.
Neither alternative would modify the concrete portion of the spillway, as crest gates would. Black & Veatch, the engineering firm in charge of the project, will explore adding the tainter gates in the earthen embankment to the east of the existing spillway. See below, upper right.
The eastern embankment is a solid earthen area 2800 feet long east of the spillway and existing gates (see upper right of photo above). Water cannot get over it in a storm because it is so much higher than the spillway. By adding various structures in this area, engineers could widen the current spillway capacity, allowing release of more stormwater.
Tainter gates rotate up from a central pivot point. Crest gates rotate down from a bottom hinge, like a piano lid.
Minutes from May CWA Board Meeting
Item IV(B) on Page 3 of the May 11, 2022, minutes states, “…CWA, City of Houston (COH), and Black and Veatch (B&V) met on April 14, 2022. During that meeting the COH requested that an alternate gate location to the east of the existing gate structure be further [emphasis added] evaluated.”
Following the meeting, B&V developed a scope of work to update the gate concepts and construction costs for this area. The COH provided comments and B&V modified its proposal. B&V reportedly began work on the new direction by June 1.
Additional Funding Needed
Each of the new alternatives would require additional funding; neither fit within the existing budget, according to the CWA staff. COH Public Works will pay for the new evaluation.
Wayne Klotz, P.E. and President of the CWA Board, reminded everyone present that COH owns the dam and is the FEMA grantee for this project, while CWA works for and takes direction from COH.
Minutes from the June CWA meeting have not yet been posted. The last post about gates on the COH District E website was almost a year ago on July 8, 2021.
However, City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin did take questions on the project at an April 2022 community meeting. At the time, Martin expected to have a final answer on gates in a “September-ish” time frame.
Based on costs of the Addicks and Barker dam modifications by the Army Corps, some remain skeptical of any alternative for adding gates to the dam. The reason: budget and the Benefit/Cost Ratio.
Currently, the release capacity of tainter gates on the Lake Conroe Dam is 15X greater than those on the Lake Houston Dam (150,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) vs. 10,000 CFS.)
Concept Studied and Rejected Once Already
Adding gates to the eastern embankment was one of the original concepts evaluated. (See Column 5, Offsite Alternative #2, Column 5, Page 4.) But engineers focused on adding crest gates instead, largely because the total estimated costs for adding tainter gates at that time exceeded $90 million for a $50 million budget. However, the Army Corps also had environmental concerns about adding gates to the eastern embankment.
FEMA initially gave the City three years to complete the project (18 months for engineering and 18 for construction). Engineering began in April 2020.
No other details about May’s change in direction have been released to my knowledge.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/4/2022 based on minutes from the May CWA Board meeting
1770 Days since Hurricane Harvey