Sprint Sand & Clay has begun excavating a new Woodridge Village detention pond on the former site of Perry Homes’ aborted development. Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) signed an excavation and removal (E&R) contract with Sprint last November to remove up to 500,000 cubic yards for just $1000. In exchange for the dirt-cheap fee, Sprint gets to sell the material it removes at market rates to make its profit.
Photos of Progress
Taxpayers like such contracts. But they have one potential drawback. If the market softens, it could take years to remove all the material. Progress to date has been slow, but steady.
Harris County Flood Control executives emphasized that E&R contracts provide flexibility to both sides. They let Sprint move the material when it’s needed. And they let the Flood Control District get a head start on construction of detention ponds that they know they will need.
Perry left the Woodridge Village site 40% short of Atlas-14 requirements for detention-pond capacity. Five-hundred-thousand cubic yards will virtually double the detention-pond capacity, leaving a significant margin to help accommodate future upstream development.
An engineering study on Taylor Gully is currently underway. When completed, we will learn more about future needs. But that could still be months away.
HCFCD currently has no plans to tie this detention pond into the network of five others on the Woodridge site. It will just form a barrier against sheet flow from the north for the moment. Tie-ins with the existing drainage network could come after completion of the Taylor Gully engineering study.
After completion of the study, when HCFCD has a better handle on how much land it actually needs on the site, the District will hold public meetings to discuss secondary uses of the land, such as wetland restoration, reforestation, jogging trails, parkland and such.
HCFCD met with members of KSA and community associations that border Woodridge property last week to discuss the timetable. The ability to create secondary uses for the land will depend on finding local partners to maintain them. Flood control would only be responsible for maintaining its own flood control infrastructure (ponds, ditches, etc.).
Where Dirt Can, Can’t Go
Sprint has broad latitude with where it can sell the dirt from Woodridge Village. But HCFCD does impose limitations. It cannot be placed in the current 100- or 500-year flood plains.
According to Alan Black, Interim Executive Director of HCFCD, “We place some pretty stringent criteria in our E&R contract agreements requiring that fill from our project sites can only be placed in areas where a permit has been obtained. But we actually go a step further.
“It is possible for developers to obtain a permit that includes fill in the 100/500 year floodplain provided that it is property mitigated,” continued Black. “However, HCFCD contractors are prohibited from placing fill in the 100/500 year floodplain even if there is a development permit to do so. This has resulted in an increase in our construction costs, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Black is referring to the City of Houston rules for placing fill in floodplains. See sec 19-34 of the City code of ordinances. Remember that the “Houston special flood hazard area” means the 500-yr. Section 19-34(a) says nobody can diminish the storage volume within a Houston special flood hazard area. However, this is followed by an exception. Paragragh A4 says fill may be placed… “In the 0.2 percent chance floodplain, [if] the amount of fill proposed does not impact or impede the 100 year overland sheet flow in the watershed.”
Regardless of the City regulations, HCFCD refuses to let its dirt be used in this situation.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/21/22
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