Three days after Harris County voters approved a $2.5 billion bond referendum for flood control projects throughout the county, commissioners have moved forward with the first wave of flood-risk reduction projects.
The projects were approved at an Aug. 28 Commissioners Court meeting. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said public meetings will be held within the affected watersheds before new bond projects are advanced in the future, but the projects approved at the Aug. 28 meeting were already at the point where they were ready to go.
“It’s just a matter of starting with the so-called low-hanging fruit,” Emmett said, citing an element of Project Brays, an ongoing effort to reduce flooding along Brays Bayou in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers. “There are 32 bridges over Brays Bayou, and quite a number of those need to be modified or replaced completely. There’s no real controversy about that. They’re just ready to go.”
Other projects that moved forward include desilting efforts on streams leading into the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. Construction is already underway on portions of Bear, Horsepen and Langham creeks, but the bond included $30 million to desilt 17 channels that lead into each reservoir.
Commissioners also approved the creation of 26 new positions within the Harris County Flood Control District to help oversee the implementation of bond projects. The cost of the new positions, which will be effective Sept. 1, will be covered by federal grants, officials said.
Another item approved on the Aug. 28 agenda authorized the county to negotiate with 15 engineering firms to develop preliminary engineering reports and conduct community outreach meetings for subdivision drainage projects throughout the county. Improving drainage in subdivisions represents a significant piece of the plan to reduce flooding, and a list of subdivisions targeted for improvement was included in the county’s bond project plan released before the election.
Although no bonds have been sold yet, Emmett said the county’s financial health allows it to advance projects using commercial paper, a short-term, low-interest type of debt that will be repaid later on by the bond funds.
The following projects were approved at the Aug. 28 meeting:
- $6.6 million for a project to replace the Buffalo Speedway bridge over Brays Bayou
- $790,000 for design, bidding and construction for replacement of bridges at South Rice Avenue and Chimney Rock Road over Brays Bayou
- An amount not to exceed $200,000 for watershed-wide surveying services for the Little Cypress Creek sub-regional frontier program
The county will also enter negotiations on the following projects with agreements to be approved at future Commissioners Court meetings:
- A countywide study to evaluate the hydraulic performance of bridge crossings and high-flow bypasses on Buffalo Bayou
- An investigation into potential detention basins along Lower Clear Creek near FM 528 and Dixie Farm Road
- Engineering and testing services for the Lower Greens Bayou regional detention embankment and control structure improvements
- Engineering services for identifying and evaluating alternatives to reduce flood risks in the Halls Bayou watershed
- Engineering services for the Dagg Road stormwater detention basin in the Clear Creek watershed
- Engineering services for channel improvements along Horsepen Bayou and several tributaries
- Engineering services for the construction of the Baywood stormwater detention basin in the Armand Bayou watershed
- Watershed-wide design, bidding and construction phase engineering services for the Barker Reservoir desilting project
- Watershed-wide design, bidding and construction phase engineering services for the Addicks Reservoir desilting project
- Engineering services for flood reduction on several Buffalo Bayou tributaries
- Updates to the 2003 regional drainage plan and environmental investigations for major tributaries in the Cypress Creek watershed
- Engineering services for the Cutten Road stormwater detention basin in the Greens Bayou watershed
- Engineering services for the Cypress Rosehill stormwater detention basin in the Willow Creek watershed
- Engineering services for conveyance improvements from a Willow Creek tributary to Hwy. 249 in the Willow Creek watershed
A total of 237 flood control projects could ultimately be funded with the $2.5 billion in bond funds, county officials said. A list of each project and a map indicating their locations can be found on the flood control district’s website.