The announcement came just over a year after the Corps released its interim report to the public, garnering a wave of feedback. The schedule extension will allow for the "further study of alternatives, particularly development of a tunnel alternative for consideration in the study," Corps officials said in a statement.
“We are very committed to this important, monumental project and we have heard the public’s feedback,” Col. Tim Vail, Galveston District Commander, said in a statement.
The study looks into ways to improve the safety of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs while also identifying measures to address flooding along Buffalo Bayou and its tributaries.
The interim report, released in October 2020, considered nine approaches, but its cost-benefit analysis favored three—constructing a reservoir in Cypress Creek, deepening and widening Buffalo Bayou, and acquiring more properties around the Barker and Addicks reservoirs.
The interim report pushed away from an underground tunnel as a possible measure. However, the report garnered criticism from groups like the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Save Buffalo Bayou, which expressed concerns over how widening the bayou would be damaging to wildlife and its natural features.
As president of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Anne Olson has been following the work closely. She said she is glad to hear the tunnel appears to be getting a closer evaluation, through she acknowledged it would come with a higher price tag.
"We're rather optimistic because it seems like they really listened and have gone back out and come back with this idea of the tunnels," Olson said. "It is appears they are taking rather seriously."
Before endorsing the tunnel completely, Olson said there are questions that need to be answered, such as where the outfall would be.
The study extension was funded by an additional $1.8 million in federal funds from the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, bringing the total federal cost to $7.8 million, according to the Army Corps statement. Another $3.4 million in local funds will come from Harris County precincts 3 and 4.
A draft report is now scheduled to be released in the fall of 2022. The study will be finished in December 2023.