As hurricane season nears, Harris County reworks flood bond plans

The district is creating locally fund, watershed-spanning implementation plans in Halls Bayou after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not approve federal funding. (Community Impact staff)
The district is creating locally fund, watershed-spanning implementation plans in Halls Bayou after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not approve federal funding. (Community Impact staff)

The district is creating locally fund, watershed-spanning implementation plans in Halls Bayou after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not approve federal funding. (Community Impact staff)

The Harris County Flood Control District announced an update May 20 to plans for $2.5 billion in bond funding for flood mitigation projects across the county.

In addition to merging several projects and reworking cost estimates, district officials announced four new projects, including the creation of watershed-spanning implementation plans in Cedar and Halls bayous.

"With hurricane season around the corner, we know the public is interested in tracking the progress on the 2018 bond program," HCFCD Executive Director Russ Poppe said in a statement. "Our intent in updating the bond project list is to be transparent about our work and include more detailed information as it is available. We intend to build every project originally included on the bond project list. Going forward, we will update this list semiannually."

Plans for Halls Bayou, which runs through the northeastern part of the county, were added as a locally funded project after another project on the district's original list did not get approved for funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to the May 20 release. The project will be managed by a "bond implementation manager," who will use the local share of funding set aside for the original project, about $48 million, for local efforts to acquire right of way and carry out design and construction efforts.

The efforts are intended to remove as many as 2,800 homes from a portion of the 100-year flood plain in Halls Bayou and "[reflects] a new Flood Control District approach to completing all projects in the watershed as quickly and efficiently as possible in less than 10 years," according to the release.

In Cedar Bayou, located in the east central part of Harris County, the implementation plan will include efforts to coordinate multiple different flood projects, including stormwater conveyance along Adlong Ditch; the construction of a stormwater detention basin near
the Coastal Water Authority canals and I-10; and wetland restoration. A total of $9.2 million has been set aside for the effort, redirected from other projects in the watershed where costs were reduced.

In addition to the projects in Halls and Cedar bayous, officials added $10 million to fund community engagement meetings countywide and $500,000 to investigate drainage improvements along Carpenter Bayou.

The district also opted to merge separate projects together in some instances. Twenty watershed storm repair projects were merged into one project, as were 17 projects to buy and clear flood prone properties and 16 projects involving subdivision drainage. The merges are intended to help make the project management process more efficient, according to the May 20 release.

After projects were merged and new projects were added, the total number of projects to be funded by the bond referendum fell from 237 to 181, officials said. As of late March, a total of 136 of those projects were active, and eight were completed.

Of the 37 remaining projects, 19 are slated to launch between November 2020 and July 2021, and 18 will be launched between July 2021 and March 2022.

The district has spent about $257 million in local money so far while securing about $678 million in partner funding, mainly from the federal government.
By 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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