Cochran’s Crossing residents get update on flood mitigation proposal
Nearly 50 residents of The Village of Cochran’s Crossing showed up on Tuesday night for a presentation on a proposal to make channel improvements to Bear Branch Creek as a way to prevent future flooding of certain neighborhoods and also Research Forest Drive during heavy rainfall events.
Jim Stinson, general manager of The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency, addressed the assembled residents during the monthly Cochran’s Crossing Village Association board meeting. The event was hosted inside the township offices and was standing room only as dozens of local residents showed up to hear about the planning and background of the proposal, which has been ongoing for nearly three years.
The issues with flooding, street ponding and closures of Research Forest Drive due to high water first became a major issue, Stinson told the crowd, after the Tax Day floods of April 2016 and the Memorial Day floods of May 2016. During those events, residents in the Capstone subdivision as well as the area around Twinberry Place.
Stinson said after the two 100-year flood events in spring of 2016, officials with Montgomery County MUD 67 approved an engineering study done by LJA Engineering to examine the high water and flooding from several angles. The analysis examined 140 resident complaints about water entering a structure, street drainage and water ponding, cross-lot property drainage issues and large ditch drainage issues.
“LJA also studied projects thatr would improve drainage in areas of home flooding,” Stinson added. “These storms of April and May (2016) were of the 100-year, or 1 percent category. The ‘1 percent’ means there is a 1 percent chance each year that an event of that magnitude would occur.”
Stinson made it clear to attendees that the plan is preliminary and still being analyzed, and he said, nothing will happen with funding or design work until ongoing studies can prove the proposal will help.
“This is the project that will help the area. It will be between $7 and $9 million,” he said.
Issue became critical in 2016 floods
It was in December, 2016, when officials first announced the Bear Branch Improvement conceptual idea, Stinson said. After even more analysis and information gathering, engineers came up with the plan to prevent future flooding in the area from Gosling Road to the Capstone subdivision along Research Forest Drive in August 2017, which had a preliminary price tag of $7 to $9 million, he added.
The proposal to help cope with the high water and flooding during heavy rain events is termed “channel improvements,” which an engineer from LJA Engineering described as, “Deepening the (Bear Branch Creek) channel 1 foot, creating a 6-foot bottom width with a 40-foot wide top. This will provide a channel with improved conveyance capacity.”
Stinson then described the difficulties local officials had in their attempts to seeking funding for the project, explaining how he and others sought grants from FEMA, the USDA, the Texas Water Board and others — all of which were rejected. Planners also met with officials form the Army Corps of Engineers due to the entity’s jurisdiction over flood plans and the Spring Creek watershed. The project’s price tag is too expensive for MUD 67 to fund without a bond election, he noted.
“(We thought) If we can come up with a project that lowers the water elevation on the flood plain, that sounds like a project that other entities could support and possibly help with funding of,” Stinson explained. “In my opinion, we think (this plan) is worth pursuing. The goal is to make Research Forest (Drive) passable (during a big rain event). (Now) In the soccer fields area, Research Forest is not passable (in high rain events).”
Another idea, Stinson noted, was to build a berm along Twinberry Place on the north side of Research Forest Drive in an attempt to prevent water from getting onto streets. However, he said, the WJPA and MUD 67 cannot do any projects that would “adversely affect other areas” of the township.
Following Stinson’s update, many in the crowd had questions and concerns about the flooding issues. One resident said he did not understand why the storm water drains in the Capstone neighborhood always seemed to overflow, even in minor rain events. Stinson told him that was because of an old design of the drains which actually was intended to have them overflow.
“What we discovered in Capstone is those drains are designed to pond during those events,” Stinson said. “This area is most impacted by that design. Ponding is what happens.”
Resident Zack Lowe questioned Stinson about why The Woodlands Township has not done more to deal with storm drainage and flooding issues, saying if so much attention has been put into the studies and analysis, why aren’t local governmental bodies doing more. Stinson told Lowe that the township has no authority in drainage issues.
“These people whose homes are flooding are waiting for a solution,” Lowe said after the meeting. “Our (local) leadership has been slow to react to this. We’re in several years of this kind of slow movement (for improvements).”
Stinson said the plan feasibility analysis should be done within three to four months, and if the idea is viable, then funding acquisiton would begin. If the $7-$9 million in funding that is needed is secured, then it would take about 12 months to complete the project, he said.
“Doing something in these neighborhoods to get (improved mobility in rain events) is very important,” he said. “Until we can confirm this (plan) is viable, we cannot move forward with funding partnerships.”