North Canal flood mitigation project heads toward design phase

A proposed rerouting of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou aims to reduce flood risk downtown and upstream in the Heights area. (Courtesy city of Houston)
A proposed rerouting of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou aims to reduce flood risk downtown and upstream in the Heights area. (Courtesy city of Houston)

A proposed rerouting of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou aims to reduce flood risk downtown and upstream in the Heights area. (Courtesy city of Houston)

The $131 million North Canal Project, a downtown flood-mitigation effort decades in the making, is moving toward its design phase.

“We’re all excited about this project that has forever been on the books; for 40 years people have been talking about this,” At-Large Council Member Sallie Alcorn said.

Houston officials are seeking a design consultant who will build out a more detailed view of the plan, which aims to reduce flood risk from White Oak and Buffalo bayous. A firm will likely be chosen by the end of 2020, said Laura Patino, the chief of staff for the Mayor’s Office of Recovery, told Houston City Council members in an Aug. 6 briefing.

The project would reroute White Oak Bayou along downtown, add an overflow channel east of downtown, and improve bridges and channels along Yale Street and Heights Boulevard to provide additional water conveyance capacity.

Other funding sources include $25 million from the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority and $20 million from the city, the Harris County Flood Control District and the Texas Department of Transportation.

Once the consultants are chosen, voted on by council and move forward with design, officials and residents will have a clearer picture of how the project changes the bayou’s flow through downtown, Patino said.

Preliminary designs indicate that Buffalo and White Oak bayous upstream from downtown will see a 2- to 5-foot reduction in depth during 100- and 500-year storms, she said.

Already a complex project requiring coordination from the federal government though Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers in addition to state and local officials, the effort is also happening alongside the planned overhaul of I-45.

District H Council Member Karla Cisneros told Patino she wants more information through the design process about whether the I-45 project’s plan to relieve bottleneck flooding caused by the highway in Independence Heights will then release water more quickly into Buffalo Bayou and also potentially affect the East End downstream.

“I don’t want the solution to be to keep water in Independence Heights so it doesn’t drain further south; people there need to have dry land, too,” Cisneros said.

Patino said the design consultants will work with TxDOT to keep them aligned with each other.

The designs will also determine how much property acquisition will be necessary, which plays a significant role in determining how quickly the project can be completed.

An original press release associated with the project stated it could be completed as soon as 2022.

Matt Dulin contributed to this report.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


frozen tree
One in 4 Houstonians experienced water leaks during winter freeze, new data finds

Houston Public Works fielded 11,000 calls related to water issues during and after the weather event.

Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state's mask mandate, but Houston ISD will continue to require masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Houston ISD will continue requiring masks despite end of statewide mandate

"This requirement is consistent with the advice of health professionals and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," a district statement said.

The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market is returning in person for its spring iteration. (Courtesy Jennifer Greene/HoustonBallet)
Houston Nutcracker Market to make in-person return this spring

Of the 150 merchants on the roster, nearly 50 will be making their spring debut in 2021.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas. (Courtesy Office of the Texas Governor)
Gov. Greg Abbott lifts statewide mask mandate, business restrictions in Texas

With vaccine distribution increasing, Gov. Greg Abbott said "people and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate." Some local officials are pushing back, saying the relaxed restrictions are coming too early.

Most of the electric grid in Texas is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which is not linked to other interconnected national electrical systems. (Courtesy Electric Reliability Council of Texas)
Leaving the Texas power grid 'not likely to be an option' for Harris County, official says

Just two weeks after severe winter weather dropped Harris County temperatures below freezing for three consecutive days, which led to widespread power outages, loss of water and the deaths of at least 50 county residents, Harris County Commissioners Court called for major reform at the state level regarding the Texas power grid and related energy policies.

Mayor sylvester turner
Houston expanding vaccine supply as 6,000 Johnson & Johnson doses arrive March 2

The first shipment will be sent to the mass-vaccination site run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at NRG Stadium. The site vaccinates individuals who sign up for doses though the Houston Health Department’s vaccine waitlist.

Hamilton Middle School
Some Houston ISD campuses remain closed for winter storm repairs

Almost 20 Houston ISD schools could not reopen March 1 due to ongoing repairs.

Hank's Crab Shack gets and sells several hundred pounds of crawfish daily, especially during the peak of crawfish season. (Morgan Theophil/Community Impact Newspaper)
Hank's Crab Shack serving Katy; 16 Spring-Klein business updates and more Houston-area news

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

The 32 annual Walk to End HIV will have a virtual format this year encouraging donations. (Courtesy Morris Malakoff/AIDS Foundation Houston)
Registration opens for virtual Walk to End HIV in Houston

Participants can choose any kind of activity, from walking and running to dancing and singing, to raise money toward fighting HIV in Houston.

key in door lock
Evictions continue in Houston as new measures aim to stem tide

Over 32,000 eviction cases were filed in Harris County courts in 2020.

Houston City Hall in rainbow lighting
Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce celebrates five years of service

The organization is open to all and serves members throughout the Greater Houston area.