After multiple flood incidents—including Hurricane Harvey—a project to aid in drainage for the Austin Park, Chimneystone and Settlers Grove subdivisions received funding in May. Sugar Land City Council approved a nearly $1.5 million engineering design contract for the project, which is set to begin next year.

According to Senior Engineering Manager Jorge Alba, the improvements are a response to a 2018 study that looked for solutions to issues of street ponding and structure flooding experienced by the subdivisions during Hurricane Harvey and other major storms. Most of the construction will occur along Commonwealth Boulevard and Acacia Drive between Austin Parkway and Steep Bank Creek.

Sugar Land City Engineer Jessie Li said these neighborhoods are more susceptible because they are older and have homes built on relatively lower slab elevations. When city pump stations cannot keep up with excessive rainfall, like during Harvey, these houses are often affected first, Li said.

Construction on the Settlers Grove Drainage Improvements Project is underway now, while Austin Park and Chimneystone were approved by voters to be serviced by the 2019 General Obligations Bond program.

“This also goes a long way to fulfilling the commitment that we had to Chimneystone and Austin Park after the Harvey flooding,” Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman said at the council meeting.

Fifty-three percent of the GO Bond is allocated to improving drainage, and this $47 million distribution is being used to fund nine other projects throughout the city.

“It's definitely our top one priority, along with mobility and public safety,” Li said.

According to a city of Sugar Land news release, drainage improvement is residents’ highest concern, based on the 2020 Citizen Satisfaction Survey.

With a notice to proceed issued by the city in June, the Austin Park and Chimneystone project design is expected to finish by September 2022. Construction is anticipated to begin November 2022. When finished, it will include a new storm drainage outfall into Ditch A south of Austin Park, storm drainage improvements along Acacia Drive, a nine-by-eight-foot reinforced concrete storm drain in Austin Park and a 4,900-foot concrete-lined channel east of Chimneystone.

Li said construction will affect traffic with lane closures for roads in the area.

“It's going to be difficult for people living there, going through the construction especially for this type of construction. It's very intrusive,” Li said.

Based on experience from previous projects, Li said the city is prepared to keep the public updated through means like door hangers, website postings and presentations at homeowner association meetings. Residents may be affected in ways such as loss of driveway access, changes to trash pick-up locations or mail delivery rates, according to Li.

Because these subdivisions are older, Li said they may find water lines in need of replacement during drainage construction. If this occurs, the city will give affected residents notice 48 hours ahead of their water being turned off for a few hours during the day.

The project’s $16.5 million budget for design and construction was approved for a Flood Infrastructure Fund loan through the Texas Water Development Board in May. With 0% interest on the 30-year loan, the city is estimated to save over $7.6 million.

To move forward with the contract for the Austin Park and Chimneystone drainage improvements project, the council also approved the reallocation of $258,104 from fiscal year 2022. This increased design contract cost was to account for additional services, such as an Environmental Determination and Feasibility Report, required to qualify for the state loan.