More frequent flooding magnifies Brazos River erosion concerns

Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Hurricane Harvey dropped over 30 inches of rain in the Fort Bend County area over a span of about three days. Between the 2015 Memorial Day flood, the 2016 Tax Day flood, heavy rains on May 7 of this year and Tropical Depression Imelda in September, erosion along the Brazos River continues to be a concern.

Erosion is the geological process in which natural materials, such as rocks and soil are worn away and shifted by forces, such as wind or water.

As erosion along the Brazos River continues to be a concern in Fort Bend County, Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken DeMerchant, along with Precinct 1 Commissioner Vincent Morales and Chief Drainage Engineer Mark Vogler, is taking steps to unite with local leaders on solutions.

“We continue to have problems with the Brazos River. We’re lucky at this time [during Tropical Depression Imelda] the river was at a low level,” DeMerchant said during a Sept. 24 Commissioners Court meeting.

RECENT RAINS


From Imelda resulting in a 4-foot rise in water level in the Brazos River, to the 2015 Memorial Day flood dumping 11 inches of rain in the area within eight hours and Hurricane Harvey devastating Greater Houston in 2017, erosion has remained top of mind.

Bordering the Brazos River, there are nine levee districts in Sugar Land, protecting about $15 billion in property, according to Fort Bend County Appraisal District market values.


“I think we can see that we continue to have problems with this erosion throughout the county, and I think we need to take more of a regional approach to it,” DeMerchant said.

DeMerchant is moving forward with an agreement for engineering services to improve Oyster Creek in Precinct 4, which feeds into the Brazos River. Results from the Nov. 5 election will tell whether several bond initiatives, both from Sugar Land and Fort Bend County, will be approved by voters to mitigate flooding.

However, specific projects relating directly to the Brazos River are lacking in both bond programs.

Much of the funding necessary for erosion mitigation would fall on state and federal government requests, Sugar Land assistant city manager Chris Steubing said.

“Through all of this work, the city and Fort Bend County have been working together, and we will continue to support the creation of a committee that will help bring attention and funding to address this issue,” Steubing said.

The city of Sugar Land commissioned a study along the portion of the river running through city limits, and eight critical areas in need of attention have been identified. The city also implemented its own system of rain gauges over the summer to better measure river levels within city limits.

UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM


In 2019, heavy rains on May 7 and Sept. 19 caused isolated flooding and numerous road closures as storm drains were inundated with water. Harvey caused a spike in the rate of erosion along the Brazos River.

Although isolated events, such as the May 7 storms and rainfall from Imelda, have had little effect on erosion along the river, rainfall events occurring upstream from Fort Bend County can create major flood stages and high flow rates, Steubing said.

A spike in the migration rate of the Brazos River rose to nearly 46 feet in 2017, second only to a 50-foot migration rate peak in 1957, as measured since 1953, according to Sugar Land’s erosion study.

The migration rate refers to the interpretation of the river’s movement based on flow data and aerial images, Steubing said. Data shows as the flow of the river is faster, the migration rate is increased accordingly.

“Higher flow rates equals increased chances of erosion, and [in] the middle years we saw fewer major river events, [and] therefore less chance of erosion,” Steubing said. “This has all changed with the recent events back in 2015 to current day.”

Taxing entities, such as levee improvement districts—political subdivisions that cover specific areas of land and provide flood protection, create drainage improvements and reclaim land from flood plains—also have projects of their own in the works.

LID 19 in Riverstone has several post-Harvey projects that have been completed and are ongoing as well as projects that are on hold or will begin in the future. Projects include items such as the $7.67 million Steep Bank Creek Pump Station expansion.

Many Greatwood residents were concerned about whether there was enough pump capacity during the May 7 flooding event that inundated storm sewers. LID 11 officials said the pumps were fully operational during the duration of the storm, but the heavy rain did result in street ponding.

Although LID 11 does not require additional pumping capacity, the board of directors elected to increase the capacity of each of its two pump stations and construct a third pump station.

“LID 11 is located along a segment of the Brazos River that does not have significant bank erosion problems at this time,” the board of directors said in an emailed statement. “We are hopeful the county and city can find an equitable solution to the problem areas without increasing erosion in the areas adjacent to LID 11.”
SHARE THIS STORY
By Beth Marshall

Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


MOST RECENT

Scholars and Scoundrels Bar & Grill now open in Sugar Land

After some delays, the restaurant opened Jan. 22.

FBISD trustees approved the 2020-21 calendar at the Jan. 21 meeting. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Key dates to know: Fort Bend ISD approves 2020-21 school calendar

The calendar was created with input from students, staff, teachers, principals, parents, the school board and community members.

Sahana Gade, a sixth-grade Fort Bend ISD student, appeared on season 8 of "Kids Baking Championship." (Courtesy Sudhaa Gade/Food Network Channel)
Fort Bend ISD student Sahana Gade competes on season 8 of 'Kids Baking Championship'

“My time on the show was a very wonderful time,” Gade said during the Jan. 21 Sugar Land City Council meeting.

From left: Harvest Green General Manager Jerry Ulke; Messina Hof founders Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo; current owners Paul M. and Karen Bonarrigo; Doug Goff with Johnson Development, the developer of Harvest Green; Harvest Green Development Manager David Hogue; and Harvest Green Marketing Director Haley Peck were in attendance at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Messina Hof Harvest Green Winery and Kitchen. (Courtesy Messina Hof)
Messina Hof breaks ground on Harvest Green location

Messina Hof Harvest Green Winery and Kitchen held its groundbreaking ceremony Jan. 20.

Fort Bend ISD's Malala Elementary School is located at 11770 W. Aliana Trace Drive in Richmond. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Fort Bend ISD's 51st elementary school welcomes students after winter break

The building is named after Malala Yousafzai, a Noble Peace Prize recipient and Pakistani advocate for women’s education.

CVS said its new HealthHub concept will open at the Lexington location in Sugar Land this month. (Courtesy CVS Health)
CVS Health debuts new HealthHub concept at Sugar Land location

CVS HealthHubs will offer a wider range of health care services than traditional CVS pharmacies.

Sugar Land's Pier 1 Imports to remain open amid companywide closures

Pier 1 Imports announced eariler this month that it will be closing up to 450 stores.

Several Fort Bend ISD schools are performing their spring musicals in January. (Courtesy Pexels)
9 Fort Bend high school musicals to see in January and February

Local high schools have performances Jan. 16-Feb. 1.

Edward Jones financial advisor Gabriel Trevino moving to the Crossing at Telfair

Trevino's current office is located on Sweetwater Boulevard.

A Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County study on eliminating ride fares left both METRO board members and officials seemingly unconvinced of the likelihood of implementing it in Harris County. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
METRO board of directors say free fare 'not feasible' for transit authority

A METRO study on eliminating ride fares left board members and officials unconvinced of the likelihood of implementing it in Harris County.

(Jen Para/Community Impact Newspaper)
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo concert tickets go on sale Jan. 16

Lower-level seating options are already very limited.

Back to top