Jersey Village officials relieved after Harris County approves next step of White Oak Bayou improvement project

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At a March 27 meeting, Harris County commissioners advanced several area flood projects, one of which has been a long time coming for Jersey Village residents.

Based on a recommendation from the Harris County Flood Control District, commissioners authorized the county to begin negotiations with Cobb, Fendley & Associates on engineering services for channel improvements along White Oak Bayou between Tidwell Road and FM 1960, including the part that runs through Jersey Village.

The news brought relief to city officials in Jersey Village, which was spared during Hurricane Harvey but experienced flooding at 238 properties during the Tax Day Flood in 2016.

“We are very excited that the commissioners court approved this request from HCFCD,” Jersey Village City Manager Austin Bleess said. “We are hopeful that the negotiations move forward quickly and that they can move into the design and construction phase soon.”

Bleess was among the speakers to express support for the project during the public comment portion of the meeting. He said the channel improvements were identified in a longterm flood recovery plan the city adopted in 2017, but the city itself had little power to move things forward without the county’s help.

Of the 163 homes that would flood in a 100-year event in Jersey Village, about 62 would be removed from the 100-year floodplain by completing the White Oak Bayou improvements and a second project to expand storage capacity at the Jersey Meadow Golf Course, according to the study.

Jersey Village Councilman Andrew Mitcham, who also spoke at the meeting, said city residents find themselves in a sort of bottleneck, where the portion of the bayou is narrower in Jersey Village than it is upstream and downstream. He said the key to preventing floods is bayou capacity.

“At some point the bayou stops being our friend and it starts being our enemy,” he said. “[This project] improves the efficiency and capacity of the bayou, allowing the bayou to stay our friend for longer.”

Work on the project—officially called the White Oak Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project—started in 1998 as a collaboration between Harris County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but has been stalled for the last few years due to a lack of funding. Jersey Village benefited from previous parts of this project—including a bypass channel completed in 2010 and a detention basin completed in 2014.

The improvements that were set in motion at the March 27 meeting represent the last major piece of the puzzle. Because the USACE has already partnered on the project, HCFCD officials are hopeful it will benefit from a boost in funding for the USACE intended to help areas affected by hurricanes in 2017.

County officials told Bleess the design process would take about one year to complete, and the construction process could take an additional year.

Michael Stembridge, who also spoke at the meeting, said his house flooded during Tropical Storm Frances in 1998, Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 and the Tax Day Flood in 2016, and that water came within feet from the door during Hurricane Harvey.

“We think that this will be our saving grace,” he said. “We really are begging for it.”

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COMMENT
  1. There are over 960 homes in the 100 year floodplain within JV, not 163. Over 600 homes flooded in TS Allison. I’m “blessed” to be one of the lucky homeowners that flooded in all the storms you mentioned plus in the unnamed storm of October 2002. As if that wasn’t enough, I also had infiltration during Harvey when water was literally at slab level of my home. Interestingly enough, my home was not selected to be included in the City’s elevation grant request to FEMA. I’m not alone in the list of homes at greatest risk that were not included. I asked Mr. Bleese why that was, but he didn’t want to talk about it.

    • Hey Michael, thanks for the comment. The 163 number for homes in the 100-year floodplain was taken from the Jersey Village Long Term Flood Recovery Study by Dannenbaum Engineering Corp. Part of the study required Dannenbaum to revise existing models to determine how many homes would flood in storms of various severity. Dannenbaum said the existing models did not take into account several newer factors, including two regional detention ponds (E500-12-00 and E535-01-00) and the Elwood weir. They also revised the models with newer systems they said provide a more accurate hydraulic analysis.

      More info can be found in sections 5 and 6 of the study, where they specifically talk about why more homes flooded during Allison despite JV getting less rain: “The Tax Day
      Flood had higher rainfall amounts than Tropical Storm Allison and the Memorial Day 2015
      Flood at Jones Road and Lakeview Drive, and higher rainfall for the critical 12-hour period
      than the statistical 100-year flood. HCFCD had not constructed any of White Oak Bayou
      Federal plan components (channel improvements, regional detention, the WOB Bypass)
      when Tropical Storms Frances and Allison occurred; therefore, more homes flooded
      during those storms than did on Tax Day 2016.” (http://jvfloodrecovery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/JV-Long-term-Flood-Recovery-Plan-Public-.pdf).

      However, there is a huge difference between 960+ and 163, so I’ll see if I can come up with a better explanation for why that number changed so much.

  2. Rosalinda Egge

    Hello Shawn. I would like to say that I listened to the radio station NPR the other day. There was a professor of engineering from Rice University and another professor of engineering from California. I cannot remember where he worked but I believe it was Standford. Anyway, I do not know why there should be a study done on this tube project as they said that this project had been done elsewhere. I think that San Antonio is one of the places. It costs up to $100,000,000 per foot to do this. The professor from California stated that that amount is just too much and that there were better and cheaper ways to do this. I informed Mayor Turner of this at a meeting and also a later e-mail regarding this matter. Why not get in touch with this professor and see what recommendations he has for this problem? Also, I hope any projects that are done west of us do not compromise the problems we already have. Thanks for the information you have already given. Rose

Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.
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