MUD 386 reveals images from high-tech flooding study
Officials with Harris-Montgomery Counties Municipal Utility District 386, the MUD that serves the Village of Creekside Park area, where hundreds of homes were flooded when Spring Creek topped its banks during Hurricane Harvey, are providing the first glimpses into a high-tech surveying method that uses lasers to get a better understanding of what led to the widespread flooding of the neighborhood when Harvey hit.
During a meeting of the MUD board held at Lone Star College in Tomball on Thursday, Jan. 25, board members unveiled details developed and mapped out by a remote sensing method called Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR for short. The technology uses lasers beamed from a helicopter to map and track how the floodwaters rose during Harvey’s torrential downpours late last summer. About 300 homes in Creekside Park, Timarron and the Timarron Lakes areas were flooded during the storm. Officials hoped the data gathered and the high-tech mapping of the area will provide answers to prevent flooding in the future.
MUD BOARD PRESIDENT: DATA GATHERED ‘BIG FIRST STEP’
Rich Jakovac, president of the MUD 386 board, described the MUD as “leading the effort in modeling” of the floodwaters as he addressed the dozen or so people in attendance at the meeting. The price tag to gather the LiDAR data and produce the maps and graphics has run about $80,000, while there will also be additional costs as the study moves forward. In a follow-up phone interview after the meeting, Jakovac said he could not provide an estimate of those additional costs, describing the study as a “work in progress” and that the data gathered so far was a “big first step.”
As part of the mapping process, Board Member Zachary Toups told the gathering the LiDAR technology simulates the “flood events,” including identifying the high water marks, maps the boundaries of the flooding and gathers additional data.
Toups and Craig Maske, an engineer and certified floodplain manager with IDS Engineering Group, demonstrated the detailed and colorful maps produced by the LiDAR technology.
Maske, who described himself as a “modeler” in charge of hydraulics department of the Houston-based firm, said the detailed images provided by LiDAR provide “millions of data” points, including details about the ground immediately surrounding homes, roads and major features, such as drainage ditches, swales and the local lakes and ponds. The area mapped covered a swath of about 3,000 acres.
PREVIOUS DETAILS CAME FROM TOPOGRAPHIC MAPS
Previously, the most precise details available for engineers and floodplain managers came from topographic maps that were compiled in 2001 and then updated in 2008.
“Now that we have that data we’ve got an excellent foundation to model overflows across that LiDAR data to see which way the water went, or at least to give you a good approximation of the way that the water went during Harvey, when Spring Creek overflowed the banks,” Maske said.
As Maske spoke, he pointed out on a brightly-colored graphic where the floodwaters rose and the direction of their currents as they approached and flooded homes across Timarron, Timarron Lakes and along nearby Kuykendahl Road.
“When we look at this area during the maximum inundation, during the peak, and compared it to the flooded structures, we had a good correlation between the two.” Maske said. “So therefore we think the model itself is good enough shape to take the next step, which is to look at some big picture solutions.”
As Maske ended his presentation, Jakovac noted the results of the LiDAR study are the earliest stages of trying to find a way to stop future flooding in the neighborhood.
“We’re going through a process,” Jakovac said. “The initial charter this board gave to IDS is to start with a clean sheet, think big. We want to try to find out what a solution is. So, I think right now, in the near term, we need to let IDS start putting some things on paper.”
After hearing the presentation the three board members in attendance, Jakovac, Toups and Emil Jacobs voted to accept the report and move forward with what Jakovac described as developing a concept to mitigate future flooding.
The two other members of the board, Chris Boyer and Anthony Compofelice, were absent. Jakovac said Compofelice’s home was flooded during Harvey and he had to miss the meeting so he could meet with a home contractor.
BOARD ALSO APPROVES SEPARATE DRAINAGE STUDY CONTRACT
Besides the detailed demonstration of the LiDAR images, Thursday’s meeting also covered other matters, including the three board members voting to approve a separate contract with Moffat & Nichol to go forward with the first of two elements of a drainage study. The total cost of the study will be about $210,000, although it was not clear how much the first element would cost.
The Katy-based engineering firm also recently landed a contract with The Woodlands Township to conduct a study on drainage and flooding issues along Spring Creek. MUD and township officials have said there would be no conflict of interest in the firm performing the work for both MUD 386 and The Woodlands.
Of the people initially gathered to listen to the presentation during the MUD meeting, the room had mostly cleared out as the discussion approached the three-hour mark as the board reviewed a number of housekeeping matters, including where to establish a voting location for the upcoming MUD election. There are two positions up for election on the MUD 386 board. The election is set to be held on May 5, with early voting beginning April 23 and running through May 1.
Thursday’s meeting, where board members fielded a smattering of polite questions and occasional compliments, was in stark contrast to an October meeting when nearly 100 Creekside Park homeowners, part of a grass roots group calling themselves Stop the Flooding in MUD 386, crowded into the meeting and confronted board members over flooding and drainage issues in the neighborhoods.
A spokesman for the group said in an email Friday the group is taking an informal poll of is members to see if they’d be in favor of the MUD board holding its meetings in the evening, instead of the afternoon.
Spokesman Stanley Okazaki said in that email that Jakovac has been “very gracious and receptive” to the idea of moving the meetings to around 6 p.m. so more area residents could attend.