(Note: Within an hour of posting this, I received additional information from a source familiar with Federal grants and have updated the section on Funding below.) Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and Sprint Sand & Clay have ended their Woodridge Village excavation and removal (E&R) contract. As of Friday afternoon, 11/24/23, Sprint had removed all of its equipment from the worksite, including the construction trailer at the entrance. See photos below.
This will pause construction of additional stormwater detention capacity on Woodridge Village property.
Why did the contract end?
Funding Played Role in E&R Contract Termination
The new stormwater detention basin on HCFCD’s Woodridge Village property was part of a much larger project involving improvements to Taylor Gully. The combined Taylor Gully/Woodridge Village project involved funding from multiple sources:
- U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw secured federal funding for Taylor Gully improvements in March 2022.
- The Texas Water Development Board approved additional state funding in May.
- Last summer, HCFCD also recommended the Taylor Gully/Woodridge project(s) for GLO/U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) CDBG-MIT funding.
The last comes with a firm, tight deadline for spending the money – Jan. 12, 2027 – three years away. It also comes with other “process” restrictions dictated by the CDBG-MIT funding.
Harris County requested a deadline extension. But because of the holiday, it is not clear whether HUD granted it.
Also, since originally posting this, an expert in Federal grants wrote to say, “The excavation and removal at Woodridge had to stop because Federal funds require a process to be followed. The excavation project that will be funded by CDBG mitigation funds has to follow NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act). It does not allow any activity until NEPA has been cleared. Once the site was officially approved for CDBG mitigation funds, everything had to stop. The agreement with GLO was executed a week or two ago.”
“A similar thing happened to the Sprint excavation and removal at the Dinner Creek Basin,” he added. “It’s one of those sad facts about federal grants. You have to follow their process and everything is done in a linear fashion.”
Flexible E&R Contracts Allow Early Termination
HCFCD’s excavation and removal contracts are very flexible. They let HCFCD get a head start on construction as it worked out financing, design and other project details.
The terms of Sprint’s E&R contract let Sprint excavate up to 500,000 cubic yards of material and sell the dirt on the private market to make a profit. Sprint was meeting its 5,000 cubic-yard/month minimum. They averaged 6,000 to 7,000 cubic yards per month during the last two years.
By the end of October, the company excavated 156,478 cubic yards – about a third of the maximum. However, the additional two-thirds at the current rate would have missed the HUD deadline by at least two years.
If there’s good news here, it’s that:
- The amount excavated to date already puts the site very close to meeting Atlas-14 requirements. The “head start” worked.
- Once construction resumes, it could sharply accelerate.
Final HCFCD Recommendations Not Yet Revealed
In December 2022, engineers presented their preliminary plans to the Kingwood community and sought public input on four alternatives. Their recommended alternative included:
- Expanding a portion of Taylor Gully and lining it with concrete.
- Building yet another 412 acre-foot stormwater detention basin on Woodridge Village.
- Replacing the culverts at Rustling Elms with a clear-span bridge.
HCFCD has not yet revealed final construction plans to the community. But it appears that the pot is starting to boil. Stay tuned. More news will follow soon.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/26/23
2280 Days since Hurricane Harvey