Friendswood applies for $78 million grant for local drainage project

Friendswood applied for a $78 million grant to fund a local draiange project that could benefit residents living along Clear Creek. (Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)
Friendswood applied for a $78 million grant to fund a local draiange project that could benefit residents living along Clear Creek. (Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)

Friendswood applied for a $78 million grant to fund a local draiange project that could benefit residents living along Clear Creek. (Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)

With experts working on drainage projects upstream, consultants studying potential projects downstream and others considering a coastal barrier system in Galveston Bay, Friendswood is concentrating on local flood mitigation.

The city in October applied for a $78 million Community Development Block Grant Mitigation Program grant to fund a local project that could benefit thousands of residents living along Clear Creek. If awarded, the city would have to pay for only 1% of the project, or about $789,000, which would be funded with November 2019 flood bond money, Deputy Engineering Director Samantha Haritos said.

The project would take place along the east side of Clear Creek, just west of Bay Area Boulevard and just south of FM 528. The project includes several parts, Haritos said.

One component along the east side of the creek would be terracing, which involves engineers noting the high-water mark and sloping the land up from that point. When the creek floods during heavy rain, water spills into the terraced area instead of surrounding streets and neighborhoods, Haritos said.

Terracing is similar to channel widening, which is when engineers dig up part of a creek or bayou to make it wider and hold more water. Terracing has the same concept, but because it starts at the high-water mark, it often does not affect nearby wetlands, Haritos said.

“It’s often a more environmentally friendly option than just flat-out channel widening,” she said.

Farther south, three existing detention basins drain into one another before flowing into Savel Gully, which drains into Clear Creek. When the creek rises during storms, the gully does, too, meaning the detention basins cannot drain, Haritos said.

Additionally, there is a detention pond to the southwest of the three basins that tends to stay wet and fills up when the gully overflows. The project would “greatly expand” the pond and reroute drainage so the basins flow into the pond and the pond properly drains into the gully, Haritos said.

The pond would be outfitted with native vegetation instead of concrete or grass. Native vegetation absorbs water better and would need to be cut only about twice a year, Haritos said.

“It would help to cut down on maintenance costs,” she said.

The project would most benefit neighborhoods directly north of the project: Forest Bend and Heritage Park. Both subdivisions experienced the worst flooding in the city during Hurricane Harvey, Haritos said.

Additionally, the project would reduce the risk of the nearby Blackhawk Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant flooding, which would have severe consequences for all of Friendswood and beyond, Haritos said.

“If the wastewater treatment plant were to flood, it would be devastating to the ecosystem and communities downstream as well,” she said. “It could take weeks, possibly even months with a storm as big as Harvey to get the plant up and running again for those users.”

Friendswood will not hear back about its grant application until 2021 and possibly not until late in the year. If the city is not awarded a grant, staff will apply for a second round of funding, Haritos said.

“I do feel the we have a chance,” she said. “The city really hopes to mitigate for large storms going forward.”

Local projects

Friendswood has secured grants and funding for other smaller drainage projects.

Imperial Estates is a former development that has flooded several times over the years, prompting the city to begin buying out many of its lots.

The city is working with the Galveston County Consolidated Drainage District to terrace the area. Work is over halfway complete, and over 93,000 truckloads of dirt have been moved so far, Haritos said.

The work will be done in mid-2021. So far, the GCCDD has paid about $8.3 million for the work, and the city has paid $5.5 million, according to city officials.

Additionally, the city is creating a detention basin in the Forest Bend subdivision. The project will include a three-quarter-mile hiking trail and solar lighting. Engineering for the project is underway through May, Haritos said.

“They flooded badly during Harvey, and we’re very open to having a flood control project there,” she said.

Frenchman’s Creek is an area of the city with five townhomes close to Clear Creek. The city is acquiring the two properties closest to the creek, and Galveston County is acquiring the remaining three. After, the city will turn the area into a park and possibly a flood-mitigation project in the future, Haritos said.

Deepwood is another area in the city close to the creek. The city is acquiring about 18 properties there and plans to terrace the area, Haritos said.

Finally, the city is relocating utility lines that bridge Clear Creek. The lines will be moved underground because the bridge has eroded heavily due to creek flooding, Haritos said.

“Every time a storm comes through, the water comes up and swirls around the supporting pieces on the ground, and it’s just really eroded,” she said.

For the Forest Bend detention, Frenchman’s Creek acquisition, Deepwood acquisition and detention, and utility bridge relocation, the city has acquired nearly $9 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program grant funds. The city is locked into paying only $25,000 so far, along with the cost any projects that go over budget, which is not expected, Haritos said.
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.


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