Bay Area drainage projects advancing

It has been almost one year since Harris County voters approved a $2.5 billion bond to address drainage issues and two months since League City voters approved spending $73 million on local flooding problems. Projects are under design in both Clear Lake and League City, but it could be years before residents see relief.

In the Clear Lake area, workers are completing the second of three phases of a 174-acre stormwater detention basin along Mud Gully just west of the intersection of Beamer and Dixie Farm roads, said Alan Black, the director of operations for the Harris County Flood Control District. The project, budgeted at $16 million, is designed to hold 505 million gallons of water to mitigate area flooding.

The area’s biggest project, which was first proposed in the 1980s and has yet to start, is $295 million worth of channel improvements to Clear Creek. The HCFCD and its federal partner, the Army Corps of Engineers, will oversee about 15 miles of improvements to the channel from Dixie Farm Road to Hwy. 288 and 5 miles of improvements to Clear Creek’s tributaries, Black said. When complete, an estimated 2,100 properties will see flooding relief.

The HCFCD in April began selectively clearing trees and invasive species along Clear Creek, in part to prepare for the Corps’ massive channel improvements project, Black said.

Many projects have not begun because they are still in design or require right of way. The average life cycle for HCFCD projects is three to five years, Black said.

“The big number is that we ... have 146 projects currently underway in some form or fashion,” he said.

Those projects will cost an estimated $2.19 billion. While voters passed a $2.5 billion bond, HCFCD officials hope they can stretch their dollars and find partnership funding to complete up to $5 billion worth of projects, Black said.

“We’re well on our way,” he said. “We still have a long way to go.”

Meanwhile, smaller-scale League City projects are starting up.

League City City Council on May 28 unanimously approved three separate agenda items to begin design work on drainage projects in different subdivisions.

Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam will design flood mitigation projects in the Oaks of Clear Creek neighborhood for no more than $250,000; Dannenbaum Engineering Corp. will design projects to improve drainage in the Bay Colony and Dove Meadows neighborhoods for no more than $255,500; and LJA Engineering will design drainage projects in the Bay Ridge neighborhood for $260,500 or less, according to city documents.

The projects are three of the 21 the $73 million worth of bonds will fund. The city started with these three because they are the least likely of all the projects to receive grant funding, League City Engineering Director Chris Sims said.

“We’re hopeful we can get $20 million worth of grants,” City Manager John Baumgartner said.

The Oaks of Clear Creek project will include improving the in-ground stormwater system and widening a nearby ditch to eliminate street ponding during heavy rains.

“You can’t get down the street in a conventional car,” Baumgartner said.

The Bay Colony and Dove Meadows project will include creating a 115-acre detention basin. The Bay Ridge project will be a combination of solutions, city officials said.

The Oaks of Clear Creek project is expected to be done in 30 months because it requires land acquisition. The Bay Colony and Dove Meadows project will be done in three years because it requires acquiring land and Corps permits.

“It’s a significant time crunch there,” Sims said. “It adds up.”

The Bay Ridge work is expected to be complete in 16 months because it requires neither, officials said.

“We try to provide an appropriate expectation to the community,” Baumgartner said.

Bay Ridge resident Marika Fuller said during public comment she would like to see projects done quicker.

“Let’s give them a little bit of a time crunch,” she said. “If we’re gonna give them $250,000, they better deliver, and they better deliver fast.”

Some council members said they agreed the lengths for design and construction for some projects were too long.

“The timetables have got to be condensed down to as quick as you can get them done,” Mayor Pat Hallisey said.

Staff plans within weeks to put together a master timeline for all 21 drainage projects included in the bonds.
By Jake Magee

Editor, Bay Area & Pearland/Friendswood

Jake has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper. Today, he covers everything from aerospace to transportation to flood mitigation.