Flood prevention planning is underway in northwest Harris County
As Harris County continues its recovery in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, planning for projects to alleviate flooding in the northwest region continues, says Pct. 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle.
While a proposed third reservoir has been discussed by county officials to relieve the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, no one can seem to agree on how to begin the construction.
“The third reservoir - it’s been talked about, thought about, planned about,” Cagle said.
In November, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett proposed a 15-point plan to lessen flooding, which also included additional building code regulations, deepening reservoirs and canals.
The county commissioners have also been supportive of a $1 billion flood control bond referendum.
After past flooding events, projects designed to improve drainage have mostly been funded by local or federal funds.
“The state has really not had a significant role in flood issues. It’s been local or federal, but the state’s been largely out of the picture,” said James Robertson, chairman of the Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition.
Obtaining funds from either the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the state’s Rainy Day Fund could help kickstart home buyouts in areas where homes flooded, Cagle said.
Approximately, 136,000 homes and buildings in the Houston area suffered from flooding and officials have been working towards buying about 200 damaged homes located in areas where homes have flooded.
“Right now, it’s about $850 million only that we need to buy out all of the properties all associated with Barker and Addicks in the county,” Cagle said.
In the original plans from the 1940s, a proposed third reservoir on the White Oak Bayou could have been constructed in northwest Harris County.
A proposed plan would have made the new reservoir independent of the other two and focus on low-impact development to drain water.
“There is a plan that’s in place, but it’s a little dated. Plan 5 is a low-impact plan. If there’s another Harvey, it would be underwater and would not help us very much,” Cagle said.
Instead, tying the third structure would help relieve Barker and Addicks.
Securing funds from the state’s rainy day fund for buyouts could be necessary before obtaining a reimbursement from FEMA, which could take up to 18 months.
While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can be an option to work on a third reservoir, it could take two or three decades before it is completed.
Instead, the county could initiate construction and then seek to be reimbursed by FEMA.
Constructing additional detention ponds and drainage ditches are another strategy the county may use to absorb runoff water and replenish aquifers and ground water during droughts.
Redirecting water in hard hit areas such as Kingwood, which lies along the San Jacinto River would also benefit from additional drainage.
As the population is expected to double by the next 15 years in Precinct 4, construction drainage to prevent flooding will be necessary.
“There is a need to make sure we work together,” Cagle said.