Fort Bend County, local entities benefit from Oyster Creek drainage project

A water gap helps deter wildlife from crossing Oyster Creek onto the airport's runways.

A water gap helps deter wildlife from crossing Oyster Creek onto the airport's runways.

The recent completion of an Oyster Creek drainage project through Fort Bend County has opened up new access points for paddlers visiting Cullinan Park and has deterred wildlife from wandering onto the runways at the neighboring Sugar Land Regional Airport, officials said.

In partnership with the Gulf Coast Water Authority, the project resulted in dredging—or clearing—along Oyster Creek creating eased flow rates by removing obtrusive items like downed trees and other buildup.

“We partnered with Gulf Coast Water Authority to clear both sides [of Oyster Creek] so they could dredge,” said James Patterson, Fort Bend County Precinct 4 commissioner. “They have dredged all through the prison property and the Cullinan Park property and all the way down to Hwy. 6. In the process of us clearing, our contractor was able to take out old prison bridges that were still there even though the top was gone and the pilings were still under water and therefore would catch debris.”

With the dredging work, more access points have been created for Cullinan Park attendees wishing to canoe, kayak or paddleboard, said Angie Wierzbicki, Cullinan Park Conservancy executive director.

“Either side of Cullinan Park is pretty accessible to paddlers, and it would make a very long, nice paddling trail throughout the county if it were to be accessible,” Wierzbicki said. “But it hasn’t been because it hasn’t been dredged as long as anyone has been keeping record.”

The partnership between the GCWA, Fort Bend County, the Cullinan Park Conservancy and SLRA dates back to 2016, Patterson said. However, clearing at the site did not begin until October 2017 after Hurricane Harvey hit the state in August.

“It got kind of a slow start,” SLRA Airfield and Facilities Manager Ken Durbin said. “We didn’t actually see anything start until after Hurricane Harvey.”

Prior to completion of the project, SLRA employees would see many deer and feral hogs wander onto the runway—counting as many as 55 deer in one night, Durbin said. The feral hogs would cause damage to the runway safety areas, he said.

“If an aircraft goes off the runway, you want smooth ground so it doesn’t flip over,” Durbin said. “The ruts they were putting in would damage nose gear, landing gear and really cause a lot of damage.”

To deter wildlife, the airport paid to install fencing and a water gap, which is like a table that runs across the creek with poles hanging down to the water surface, Durbin said. Although feral hogs can swim, they do not put their heads underwater, so the poles discourage intrusion, he said.

“Our property line crosses the creek is the issue, so how do you fence across the creek? You really can’t,” Durbin said. “You’ve got to let the flow go through; you’ve got to let people have access. So, this water gap will actually move with the flow of water and let debris and water pass through.”

To complete the work all along the border shared between the airport and the park, SLRA closed the runways for three nights straight and contributed about $84,000 to the project for fencing and the water gap, Durbin said.

“We made a significant contribution as far as manpower as far as clearing the area before we put the game fence in,” Durbin said.

The Fort Bend County Drainage District also made additional improvements by removing an 8-foot chain-link fence and replacing it with piping to improve flow and reduce debris, Patterson said.

The county contributed about $175,000 to the project, and the GCWA contributed about $175,000 as well, Patterson said. The partnerships will be ongoing to maintain work that has been done along Oyster Creek.
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


Baylor College of Medicine is seeking volunteers for a COVID-19 study looking to determine the prevalence of the viral disease in the Houston area. (Courtesy Baylor College of Medicine)
Baylor College of Medicine recruiting participants for COVID-19 prevalence study

The study will collect samples from 70,000 individuals nationwide.

Upon successful completion of the program, FBISD would be able to open a science, technology, engineering and mathematics magnet school in the district. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Fort Bend ISD selected for Microsoft program with focus on STEM education

Upon successful completion of the program, FBISD would be able to open a science, technology, engineering and mathematics magnet school in the district.

METRO's Curb2Curb app allows Missouri City riders to book rides on the Community Connector shuttle. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
METRO launches app to book rides on Community Connector buses in Missouri City

The app allows riders to book a ride anywhere from 15 minutes to seven days in advance and track the progress of the vehicle while waiting for it to arrive, according to METRO’s website.

(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Greater Houston region faces glut of industrial, commercial space and multifamily housing

While the Greater Houston area has seen a glut of office space for the last six years, Patrick Jankowski said the industrial buildup has happened more in the past year and a half.

Early voters wait in a line out the door at the Fort Bend County Libraries Sugar Land Branch the morning of Oct. 20. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Fort Bend County averages more than 21,000 in-person voters daily during first week of early voting

Fort Bend County saw 128,619 voters cast ballots in person during the first week of early voting for the Nov. 3 general election.

Fort Bend ISD officials presented their efforts to address gaps in student learning during the Oct. 19 board of trustees meeting. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Fort Bend ISD administrators describe efforts to close learning gaps

Officials said the learning gaps, which were caused by interruptions to instruction in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, could have lasting effects for two or three years.

Voters wait in line at a Cy-Fair polling location Oct. 16. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact Newspaper)
More than 800,000 Harris County residents cast ballots in first 8 days of early voting

This total includes nearly 697,000 in-person votes and 105,000 mail-in votes.

Amazon's new sorting center is now open at 22525 Clay Road, Katy. The 800,000-square-foot building opened Oct. 9. (Courtesy Inc.)
Amazon center in Katy to bring 3K jobs and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

A rendering of the renovations planned for Sugar Land Town Square. (Courtesy Sugar Land Town Square)
Sugar Land Town Square redesign to bring more outdoor space, updated storefronts

Phase 1 of the renovations are set to be completed by mid-2021 with additional phases over the next two years.

Early voting in Fort Bend County for the Nov. 3 election runs Oct. 13-30. (Community Impact staff)
Nearly 56,000 Fort Bend County voters cast in-person ballots in first three days of early voting

Three days into early voting for the Nov. 3 general election, 55,999 Fort Bend County voters have cast ballots in person at the polls, and another 9,160 mail ballots have been received.

Fort Bend County saw 326 new cases of the coronavirus Oct. 9-15, a nearly 50% increase from the week prior. (Community Impact staff)
DATA: Fort Bend County averages 46.57 new daily coronavirus cases Oct. 9-15

Fort Bend County saw 326 new cases of the coronavirus Oct. 9-15, a nearly 50% increase from the week prior.