As presented by HCFCD officials during a virtual information session Sept. 22, the stormwater detention basins included in the application are located southeast of the intersection of TC Jester Boulevard and Cypresswood Drive as well as in the Westador neighborhood southeast of the intersection of Ella Boulevard and Cypress Creek. The two projects aim to reduce flooding risks in these areas by storing excess stormwater and slowly releasing it back into Cypress Creek when the flooding has passed.
According to HCFCD Director of Operations Alan Black, the available grant funding was first approved by Congress as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which allocated more than $4 billion to Texas to be distributed by the General Land Office. Applications for this funding are due Oct. 28, and HCFCD is seeking $10 million for the construction of each project. HCFCD officials said any additional costs will be covered by the district's $2.5 billion bond referendum approved by voters in 2018, its capital improvement projects fund or through other partnerships.
According to Black, the average life cycle of a flood mitigation project is three to five years. If both projects are selected for the grant funding, construction could begin in 2022 at the earliest, HCFCD officials said.
"The projects included in these grant applications are in different stages and are moving forward on their own timelines, which may be impacted by funding availability," Black said. "If we do not receive grant funding for either or both of these projects, then the timing of the project becomes a little more uncertain, and that life cycle may be impacted. We'll be working hard to move both [projects] forward one way or another; it just illustrates the importance and urgency of this grant opportunity."
In an effort to speed up the process, Black said HCFCD is prioritizing projects on land the district already owns. While HCFCD already owns tracts of land east and west of TC Jester, the district is nearing completion on an interlocal agreement with the Westador Municipal Utility District, which would allow the Westador Stormwater Detention Basin to encompass land owned by both entities. The district already has a consultant preparing a preliminary engineering report for the TC Jester Stormwater Detention Basin and plans to do the same for the Westador project upon finalization of the interlocal agreement.
According to the HCFCD website, upon completion the Westador Stormwater Detention Basin will store approximately 1,100 acre-feet—or more than 358 million gallons—of stormwater, while the TC Jester Stormwater Detention Basin will be constructed on roughly 171.5 acres of land. According to HCFCD officials, these two projects combined are just the first of several projects needed to reach the 25,000 acre-feet of additional stormwater detention recommended for the Cypress Creek Watershed, per the recently updated Texas Water Development Board's "Regional Drainage Plan and Environmental Investigation for Major Tributaries in the Cypress Creek Watershed."
"To put that in perspective for you, since the flood control district's creation in 1937, we've constructed approximately 50,000 acre-feet of detention countywide. So half that much, again is needed in [the] Cypress Creek [Watershed]," Black said during the virtual session. "We do not know of any single project that can meet this need, so the flood control district is taking a watershed-wide approach to executing flood risk reduction projects in the Cypress Creek Watershed."
While there are no guarantees, Black said he was optimistic about the two projects' chances of being selected for the federal grant funding.
"The programs we're submitting these applications [for] are limited actually to those impacted by the disasters of 2015 and 2016, which we think increases our chances of success, so we're really optimistic about our approach for these two projects and are excited about the potential funding," Black said.
Additionally, Black said HCFCD would continue to engage with the community throughout the entire process and will likely schedule a bond community engagement meeting in early 2021 to present recommendations and receive feedback before going to the Harris County Commissioners Court for authorization to proceed with the final design and construction of both projects.