Houston city officials provide updates on Lake Houston dam spillway improvement project

The Lake Houston dam consists of four small gates and a spillway structure. Officials hope to add new gates to the dam to increase release capacity during rain events. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Lake Houston dam consists of four small gates and a spillway structure. Officials hope to add new gates to the dam to increase release capacity during rain events. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Lake Houston dam consists of four small gates and a spillway structure. Officials hope to add new gates to the dam to increase release capacity during rain events. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Progress on the $47 million Lake Houston dam spillway improvement project is moving forward with construction expected to begin toward the end of 2022, Houston city officials said during a July 8 community forum at the Kingwood Community Center.

The city of Houston has been working to add gates to the Lake Houston dam since Hurricane Harvey hit in August 2017. The shortcomings of the Lake Houston dam were highlighted during Harvey as it was overwhelmed with water being discharged at a rate of 425,000 cubic feet per second, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, who represents District E in Kingwood, provided updates on the project at the meeting.

“Presently, we can release 1 foot of water in 24 hours,” Martin said. “With the ability of the new gates, we’ll be able to release 4 feet of water in 24 hours, so that gives us the ability to react to a storm like Harvey.”

Black and Veatch engineer Chris Mueller, whose company is tasked with designing the improvements, said the firm has completed the planning stages of the project and has now moved into the preliminary design phase.


Currently, the dam is mostly a spillway structure with four small gates, which are made to release water at a rate of 10,000 cubic feet per second. Mueller highlighted a number of designs that would install new crest gates within the dam structure, though he said alterations are still being made to ensure they operate efficiently.

“Gates have different widths, different heights, so there can be some changes there, really, to optimize the benefit that we can achieve upstream with the gate operations,” Mueller said, noting the design phase would take about 12 months to complete.

After the design of the improvements is complete, Mueller said officials would need to gain environment clearance and permits for the project, which he said would likely take two to three months.

Mueller estimated that the construction of the dam improvements would take 18 months to two years when they occur.

Officials noted the design phase of the project was partially funded through a $4.3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Houston city officials are currently working to secure future FEMA grants to help fund the cost of construction.



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