Barker Reservoir recovery moving forward, local flood experts say

Wendy Duncan is a director of the Willow Fork Drainage District and co-founder of Barker Flood Prevention. She confirmed March 4 she is running for the Fort Bend County Precinct 3 seat.

Wendy Duncan is a director of the Willow Fork Drainage District and co-founder of Barker Flood Prevention. She confirmed March 4 she is running for the Fort Bend County Precinct 3 seat.

CORRECTION: The Fort Bend County Drainage District has desilted Buffalo Bayou outside of Barker Reservoir while the Willow Fork Drainage District has desilted the diversion channel.

At an open meeting held at Kingsland Baptist Church, local flood-control experts informed residents of completed, ongoing and future infrastructure projects at the Barker Reservoir.

Representatives from the Harris County Flood Control District, Fort Bend County Drainage District and the Willow Fork Drainage District, all of which oversee parts of the reservoir, spoke of flood-mitigation projects at an Oct. 23 event hosted by Barker Flood Prevention—an advocacy group for drainage improvements near Barker Reservoir—at Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy.

The Army Corps of Engineers is replacing the water control structure, which is used to control the release of flows, with gates to better control water output from the reservoir, said Matt Zeve, deputy executive director of HCFCD who works with the Corps regularly as a community partner.

Harris County has also granted the Corps $10 million from the $2.5 billion bond package that was approved by Harris County voters in August for clearing undergrowth within the reservoir.

HCFCD is working to create more linear detention basins along Buffalo Bayou, Zeve said. These basins are unpopulated areas adjacent to the stream that are designed to flood during rain events.

Meanwhile the FBCDD completed has completed desilting Buffalo Bayou from Peek Road to the reservoir, said Mark Vogler, chief engineer and general manager of the FBCDD. WFDD was able to repair any damages on its area of Buffalo Bayou just outside of the reservoir as well as the diversion channel on the south side of the reservoir, said Wendy Duncan, director of the WFDD and the co-founder of Barker Flood Prevention, which hosted the event.

However, additional work is on hold, pending the results of a lawsuit filed by Fort Bend County against the Corps. The county hopes to clarify laws related to the reservoir’s drainage channel maintenance that the Corps claims requires special permitting.

Vogler said FBCDD is planning flood-mitigation projects on the Buffalo Bayou channel with the National Resource Conservation Service, which is considering awarding $52 million in grant funding to FBCDD to straighten the stream to increase water flow away from residential neighborhoods and into the reservoir.

The districts and other entities are working to improve the Barker Reservoir, but “in the end [Barker and Addicks reservoirs] are federal facilities, and anything associated with them has to go through the Corps,” Zeve said.

At the event, Barker Flood Prevention also discussed projects it is proposing to improve Barker’s ability to protect residents from flooding. The organization wants to excavate earth from the reservoir to increase water-storage capacity as well as decrease the maximum fill level of the reservoir from its 104-foot limit to 95 feet.

Other flood-mitigation projects Barker Flood Prevention supports include adding retention ponds, using a regional flood-control approach, constructing a third reservoir north of the city of Katy and building a $2.6 billion flood tunnel from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs along I-10 to the bay.

“We will cycle into a drought—there is no doubt about that,” Duncan said. “But we cannot lose the political will to input all of these infrastructures [so] that when we cycle back into the wet season again, it will be absolutely necessary for future generations.”

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