Tag Archive for: Region 6 Flood Planning Group

HCFCD Incorporates $3 Billion of Studies, Projects into State Flood Plan

On Tuesday, 4/25/23, Harris County Commissioners gave Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) approval to incorporate almost $3 billion worth of studies and projects into the first State Flood Plan. The approval will make the studies and projects eligible for future funding from the State Flood Infrastructure Fund.

The San Jacinto Region 6 Flood Planning Group will first incorporate the requests into its regional flood plan. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will then compile a master list of projects throughout the state and rank order them.

TWDB is working toward a September 1, 2024, deadline

Being in the new state flood plan will now be a prerequisite for applying for Texas Flood Infrastructure Fund grants and loans. If you’re not in the plan, you will not even be eligible to submit an application until the next revision of the flood plan. That could take another five years. So this is a good and timely move by HCFCD.

Agenda Item 136 Contained 136 Requests

Harris County Commissioners Court Agenda Item #136 read, “Request for approval of the Flood Control District’s Flood Management Evaluations and Flood Mitigation Projects to be included in the Amended San Jacinto Regional Flood Plan, for incorporation into the Texas State Flood Plan.”

The backup states: “All identified FMEs and FMPs in the Regional Flood Plan will be incorporated into the State Flood Plan, which once adopted by the State of Texas, will enable the Flood Management Evaluations and Flood Mitigation Projects to become eligible for future TWDB Flood Infrastructure Funding.”

Here is the list of the 136 evaluations and projects added to the state flood plan. The categories include:

  • 102 “evaluations” totaling $43,150,000. Flood Management Evaluations (FMEs) include such things as surveys, studies, preliminary engineering reports, etc.
  • 34 projects totaling $2,928,966,000. Flood Management Projects (FMPs) include construction, which explains the much larger number.

All projects are technically in the San Jacinto watershed (see map below). However, Harris County breaks projects down even further by sub-watersheds. It calls one the San Jacinto, which creates some confusion. For clarity, HCFCD’s San Jacinto sub-watershed includes the East and West Forks, Lake Houston, and the main stem of the river down to Galveston Bay. HCFCD also recognizes 22 other sub-watersheds. All were included to some degree in the list of projects.

Of the 34 construction projects, HCFCD included two in the San Jacinto sub-watershed totaling $128.8 million out of the $2,928,966,000, or 4.4% of the total. They are the Kingwood Diversion Ditch ($82.3 million) and Taylor Gully ($46.5 million).

Deadlines Looming

The deadline for incorporating FMEs and FMPs into region flood plans is May 14, 2023. The 15 Regional Flood Planning Groups (RFPG) will submit their amended regional flood plans to TWDB by July 10, 2023. The TWDB must combine the approved regional flood plans into a single state flood plan and deliver it to the Legislature by September 1, 2024.

To keep with the bottom-up approach of the regional flood planning program, TWDB has elected to utilize only RFPG-reported data for ranking.

How TWDB Will Rank Items

TWDB has proposed a scoring matrix to rank FMEs and FMPs throughout the state. The criteria differ for the two categories. Proposed criteria in the:

  • FME category include flood-reduction benefits such as the number of structures, people, critical infrastructure, acres, miles of roadway removed from the floodplain, and cost projections.
  • FMP category also weighs factors such as social vulnerability; environmental benefits; flood severity; life and safety; and operations and maintenance costs.

Note, however, that the legislature may change the criteria. One flood expert said legislators are evaluating the fairness of the benefit/cost ratio, for instance.

The TWDB website contains this note. “While inclusion in the state flood plan is a requirement for eligibility for future FIF project funding, the associated rankings are not intended for allocating state funding. Future funding decisions will occur through a separate TWDB process if and when funds are appropriated by the Texas Legislature. How the state flood plan project ranking may be considered in future flood project funding prioritization and allocation processes remains to be determined although it is anticipated that the state flood plan ranking will be at least one of the considerations.”

Harris County’s prioritization framework includes many of the same factors proposed by TWDB. But the County’s weights vary radically. For instance, TWDB gives 2.5% weight to social vulnerability and Harris County gives social vulnerability 20% – eight times more. However, only TWDB criteria will affect the final statewide rankings.

Initial Funds No Longer Available

Texas initially funded the Flood Infrastructure Fund with $770 million after voters passed Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment, in 2019. All of that money has either been distributed or committed.

Future projects will require a new infusion of cash from the state legislature. TWDB declined to say what that might be. However, an interested “legislature watcher” said appropriations ranging from $300 to $700 million have been discussed to cover projects throughout the state. He suspects the final total will be a compromise somewhere in the middle of that range.

Alternative Sources of Funding

Obviously, $300 million statewide won’t cover a $3 billion ask from Harris County, not to mention projects elsewhere.

So I asked HCFCD if it was pursuing alternative sources of funding for some of these projects. HCFCD answered “yes.”

A spokesperson said, “The Flood Control District is actively working to identify funding opportunities through grants, loans and other funding mechanisms, including for some projects included on the Region 6 Regional Flood Planning Group list. Including these projects on the State Flood Plan list serves to demonstrate the need for flood mitigation projects in the region, as well as to allow for future funding opportunities.” 

Harris County Vs. Regional Projects

TWDB established 15 regional flood planning groups. Each represents a major river basin in Texas. Region 6 represents all or parts of 11 counties drained by the San Jacinto. See below.

The list of projects submitted by Harris County focused overwhelmingly on projects inside Harris county, though a few do have components that spill over county lines.

HCFCD and the San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group have both tried to reach out to municipalities, neighboring counties and MUDs throughout the entire watershed. But many reportedly don’t have experts skilled in filling out the lengthy TWDB applications. Many also don’t have the seed money to attract matching funds for flood projects. Whether that disadvantages people at the edges of the county and beyond remains to be seen. It could take years to tell.

However, HCFCD says that at this time, “We are not aware of any major projects outside of Harris County that were not included on the State Flood Plan list. ”  

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/28/23

2068 Days since Hurricane Harvey

San Jacinto Flood Planning Group Releases Draft Recommendations

The Texas Water Development Board’s Region 6 San Jacinto Flood Planning Group has released the first draft of its recommendations. You can download the full 295-page Volume One document here (executive summary and all chapters). But the vast majority of the document focuses on methodology and research design. For convenience, I’ve extracted Chapter 5, the 35-pages that discuss recommendations, and summarized them below.

The draft recommendations include:

  • Almost $200 million of additional studies, analysis, models and mapping
  • $27.9 billion in projects.

The projects spread throughout the entire watershed. But here, I’ll focus on those in the northern portion of Harris and the southern portion of Montgomery Counties for brevity.

Halls Bayou

The Flood Planning Group recommends five projects in Halls Bayou totaling $99.65 million, all in collaboration with Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD). They include:

  • Channel conveyance Improvements on several tributaries
  • Stormwater detention improvements near Hardy West
  • Stormwater detention and channel conveyance improvements along the main stem.

These projects had a positive 1.46 Benefit/Cost Ratio PLUS additional community benefits hard to quantify. They would remove the floodplain from more than 3,000 structures and benefit more than 9,300 people. See pages 5-14 through 5-16.

White Oak Bayou

The Flood Planning Group recommends five channel improvement and detention basin projects for $120 million along White Oak Bayou. The flood planning group determined a benefit/cost ratio of .80 for these projects, meaning costs exceeded benefits. Regardless, they feel there are many community benefits that cannot be quantified. They include removing flood risk from seven miles of roads. See pages 5-15 through 5/18.

Greens Bayou

Greens Bayou would receive $120 million of improvements (construction costs only). They include projects in Fountainview Sections 1 & 2, Castlewood Sections 3 & 4, North Forest, Mid-Reach Greens, Parkland Estates, and Humble Road Place.

A bypass channel under the railroad that parallels US 59 could reduce upstream water surface elevations during extreme events. And a mitigation basin downstream would absorb any adverse impacts in Parkland Estates and Humble Road Place from the bypass channel.

The BCR for all Greens Bayou improvements equals 2.13, meaning benefits double costs. More than 20,000 individuals and 2,000 structures would benefit. See pages 5-18 through 5-20.

San Jacinto River

The Flood Planning Group recommends numerous projects associated with the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto River and their tributaries. It based these recommendations on the San Jacinto River Regional Watershed Master Drainage Plan and a 2018 LiDAR study. See pages 5-21 through 5-31.

Caney Creek

Recommendations include channelizing part of Caney Creek and offsetting that with two dry-dam detention basins: one at FM1097 and the other at SH105. Together, they would store more than 40,000 acre feet of stormwater. That’s enough to hold a foot of stormwater falling across 62.5 square miles! Channelization would occur near the confluence of Caney Creek with the East Fork. That’s near Lake Houston and East End Parks. The projects would remove 42 miles of roadway and 2,422 structures from the 1% annual chance floodplain.

East Fork

A 48-ft tall concrete dam would create a 1.60-mile-long earthen impoundment that captures runoff from Winters Bayou. The dry dam would have five reinforced 10×10 concrete culverts and twin 300′ backup spillways. It would cover almost 2,500 acres and hold 45,000 acre feet of floodwater. That’s enough to hold a foot of stormwater falling over 28.8 square miles.

Lake Creek

Lake Creek would receive some channelization and two dry-dam detention basins holding 37,250 acre feet of storage, enough to hold a foot of stormwater falling over 58 square miles.

Peach Creek

Recommendations also call for partial channelization and two dry-dam detention basins along Peach Creek.

  • The Walker Detention basin would occupy 1,200 acres, hold 36,000 acre feet of stormwater, and cost $200 million.
  • The SH105 Detention basin would occupy 3,000 acres, hold 36,000 acre feet, and cost $400 million.
  • The total 72,000 acre feet of capacity would hold a foot of stormwater falling over 112.5 square miles.
Spring Creek

This project would channelize 15.7 miles of stream at I-45 and through the Woodlands. It would also create two detention basins on Birch and Walnut Creek tributaries to help reduce flood risk downstream. Together, the projects would create more than 35,000 acre feet of floodwater storage capacity, enough to hold a foot of rain falling over 54.8 square miles. The report did not break out the costs.

West Fork

The Flood Planning Group recommends widening and channelizing 5.7 miles of the West Fork near Highway 242. They would create 12,400 acre feet of mitigation storage by widening the river to 750 feet and creating a 2-foot bench above the stream bed. That would involve shaving down the floodplain to 2 feet above the waterline.

Farther downstream, in the Kingwood Area, they would also increase conveyance by widening a 5-mile-long stretch of the West Fork with 3,500-foot wide of benching. This project would require 923 acre-feet of mitigation storage

That would increase total floodwater storage in both locations by 13,423 feet – enough to hold a foot of rain falling across 20.9 square miles.

Is It Enough?

If all these detention basins get built, they could hold a foot of stormwater falling over 337.5 square miles upstream from Kingwood. That’s a lot. In conjunction with other strategies such as dredging and adding more floodgates to the Lake Houston dam, they should help reduce flood risk in the Lake Houston Area … if they aren’t negated elsewhere.

Other portions of the recommendations stress the need for additional strategies. They include but are not limited to:

  • A regional approach to flood mitigation
  • Floodplain preservation
  • Natural solutions
  • Minimum building setbacks
  • More stringent building codes
  • Better drainage regulations
  • Uniform regulations across the watershed
  • Adoption of standards for determining “no adverse impact”

Also note, that these recommendations would take decades to implement and that many would need to be implemented in a specific order. For instance, the State would need to build detention upstream before widening channels downstream. One helps mitigate the other. Without that, you could help people upstream, but hurt people downstream. That flies in the face of HCFCD principles.

To see the locations of all these streams and how much water they conveyed during Harvey, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/8/22

1805 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Regional Flood-Planning Group Seeks Small-Business Member

The San Jacinto Regional Flood-Planning Group is soliciting nominations for a voting member position in the Small Business Category. The primary responsibility: to assist in the development of a regional flood plan for the San Jacinto Watershed.

The San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group meets monthly and is one of 15 such groups in Texas.

Nominees who have a strong affiliation or interest with small businesses are encouraged to apply. As the Small Business voting-member, this individual will represent all small businesses within the San Jacinto Flood Planning Group region, and act in their best interests.

Fifteen regional flood-planning groups representing each of the major watersheds in Texas were formed after Hurricane Harvey to develop flood plans by January 2023. Jenna Armstrong, former president of the Lake Houston Area Chamber was the first small business representative to the Region 6 Flood-Planning group. She resigned her position with the Chamber last month to take a position with Waste Management.

How to Submit an Application/Nomination

Nominations may be made to the Region 6 – San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group Sponsor, Harris County Engineering Department, until Jan. 3, 2022 by 5:00 p.m.

Find the solicitation and application form on the SJRFPG website or at the link below:

Small Business Voting Member Solicitation and Application Form

Please complete the nomination form and email it to SanJacFldPG@eng.hctx.net or mail to the Harris County Engineering Department to:

ATTN: SJRFPG – Fatima Berrios

10555 Northwest Fwy, Suite 120

Houston, TX 77092.

For further information, please email SanJacFldPG@eng.hctx.net or call Fatima Berrios at (713)-274-3914.

Posted By Bob Rehak on December 22, 2021

1576 Days since Hurricane Harvey