It’s time for a reality check, folks. I meet regularly with Harris County residents from almost every watershed. Virtually all of them have one thing in common. Rich and poor alike see NO Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) projects in their watersheds. Yet as of the end of the first quarter, out of 181 total 2018 Bond Projects, 19 were completed, 141 were active, and only 21 had not been initiated.
Gap Between Perception, Reality
So what accounts for the gap between perception and reality?
- Most projects are practically invisible from streets. They’re “hidden” behind fence lines, tree lines, gates, or often, under forest canopies.
- They’re scattered over dozens to hundreds of square miles. Often, they happen outside of residents’ normal traffic patterns in unfamiliar neighborhoods.
- Most people have only a sketchy idea of which watershed they live in.
- People could drive by projects and not realize they were flood-control construction as opposed to some other kind.
- The projects are often disguised as parks, wetlands or natural areas when finished.
I lunched last week with three people from Cypress Creek who swore that nothing was happening in their 205-square-mile watershed. But actually, within the watershed, HCFCD has spent:
- $260 million since 2000, the fourth most of any watershed in Harris County.
- $169 million since Harvey – more than any other watershed – period – since Harvey.
Simple, Three-Step Reality Check
So where did all the money go? Here’s an easy, three-step way to learn…that applies to any watershed in Harris County:
- Go to www.HCFCD.org
- If you know your watershed, select it from the list. If not, type your address in the search bar just above the list.
- You’ll be taken to a page that lists recent, current and planned projects in your watershed. Click through them and start digging down several levels to learn more about the status of each.
Want to verify the information? Make a list and get in your car. I did that this morning and checked out four Cypress Creek projects between the Katy Prairie and I-45.
It took an hour of planning, three hours of driving, and another 3 hours for drone photography. The hardest part was finding favorable drone launch sites near the projects. But sure enough, all the projects existed. Here’s what I found.
Katy-Hockley Wetlands Mitigation Bank
The property will remain protected under a conservation easement with the Katy Prairie Conservancy. The wetlands may be used in the future to offset unavoidable wetland impacts caused by other federally permitted projects.
T.C. Jester Stormwater Detention Basin
South of Cypresswood Drive, HCFCD has 171.5 acres of land split by T.C. Jester. Eventually, this whole area could become one large detention pond. The east side of TC Jester is still undergoing a preliminary engineering review, but excavation has already started on the west side.
The purpose of these projects: to construct stormwater detention on the main stem of Cypress Creek, which will work to reduce flood risks and damages during heavy rains.
A regional drainage study for the watershed found that flooding along tributaries of Cypress Creek is predominately caused by stormwater from a rising Cypress Creek backing up into tributaries. Stormwater detention basins could reduce that backwater.
The study recommends nearly 25,000 acre-feet of additional stormwater detention in the watershed. This one area could go a long way toward meeting that goal.
Cypress Creek Tributary K-163 Conveyance Improvements
At Timberlake Drive and Cypress North Houston Road, HCFCD is replacing a shallow, silted-in ditch with 8’x6′ reinforced concrete box culverts. Depending on the location along Timberlake, there are either two or three such box culverts side by side.
This ditch was down to a two-year level of service and had flooded neighborhoods on both sides on multiple occasions.
Ridge Top Channel Improvements
Another ditch (K129-00-00) farther east parallels Ridge Top Drive in the Ponderosa Forest area of northwest Harris County.
Here, HCFCD replaced the concrete lining in the entire channel. That included about 3,800 linear feet from Saddlecreek Drive to Cypress Creek. The project also repaired multiple sinkholes or voids that had developed in some areas as a result of stormwater undermining the original channel lining.
More than Cypress Creek Projects in the Works
Altogether, I counted more than 20 projects in Cypress Creek at various stages of development. They included:
- Swales for extreme rainfall events
- Right-of-way acquisitions and floodplain preservation
- Neighborhood projects
- Stormwater detention basins in various stages of planning and construction
- Channel conveyance restorations
- Major maintenance projects
Knowing that improvements are happening sure beats living in fear that they aren’t. So do a reality check of the watershed around you.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/24/2021
1425 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.