Exploration Green is a former golf course that is now a detention pond located between El Camino Real, Bay Area Boulevard and Space Center Boulevard. Once fully built, the pond will hold 500 million gallons of stormwater, protecting an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 homes from flooding. The project includes tree and wetland nurseries that will be used to fill Exploration Green with plants and wildlife as it is constructed.
Phase 1 is complete, and residents are using its trails regularly. Phase 2, which was originally estimated to be finished this spring, is about 70% complete, CLCWA General Manager Jennifer Morrow said.
“The second phase excavation should be finished in late summer, and finishing touches [will be] completed by late fall,” CLCWA President John Branch wrote in an email to Community Impact Newspaper.
Phase 2 fell behind schedule when the Houston Airport System ordered work to halt in September because it was discovered the project violated city ordinance by being too close to Ellington Airport. The Airport Board of Adjustment granted the project a variance for work to resume, and the contractors had mostly caught up until recent rain again slowed construction down, Morrow said.
Contractors are in the process of tying the first two phases together so stormwater drains from Phase 2 to Phase 1. Trails will be constructed after, she said.
Phase 3A, which is the southern part of Phase 3, starts in a few weeks. Phase 3B cannot start at the same time because it includes a Harris County Flood Control District channel. The CLCWA had to consider extra engineering details to ensure Exploration Green would not interfere with the district’s channel or affect those who live downstream of it, Morrow said.
Phase 4 is in final design and review. Contractors will likely begin on that phase in the fall, and Phase 3B will likely be completed after that, Morrow said.
“[We] have to wait until August to let the contract for Phase 4 so that we qualify for a $500,000 Texas Parks & Wildlife [Department] grant,” Branch wrote.
The project will likely end in late 2021 with Phase 5, which is now being used to house the tree and wetland nurseries. Trees for Houston donated 1,000 trees to the nursery, which the authority is using to fill completed phases with greenery. Phase 1 has 800 trees from the nursery, Morrow said.
The wetland nursery is growing plants that the authority will place in the detention pond to help clean and improve the quality of stormwater that passes through it, she said.