Spring Creek reservoir study moves ahead with funding agreement

After several previous efforts to obtain funding for a reservoir siting study along Spring Creek failed, the project kicked off Oct. 10 following an interlocal agreement between several The Woodlands-area utility districts.

The $100,000 study will be funded by The Woodlands Municipal Utility District No. 1; Montgomery County MUDs Nos. 7, 46, and 60; and Harris-Montgomery Counties MUD No. 386. It will investigate possible detention sites within the Spring Creek watershed to reduce flooding in The Woodlands area, according to officials working on the project. The project was approved by Harris County Commissioners Court on Sept. 24.

Harris County approval was needed because the MUDs are working with Harris County Flood Control District to conduct the study, said Jim Stinson, the general manager of The Woodlands Water, the entity overseeing The Woodlands-area MUDs.

Stinson said the main goals of the study are to look for one or more areas suitable for storm water storage, to determine the site’s storage potential and to determine the potential for lowering Spring Creek’s elevation during peak storm events.

“The effort is primarily to determine if there are one or more sites where stormwater storage will be constructed that would provide a meaningful impact to the Spring Creek watershed, particularly in The Woodlands area,” Stinson said.

Stinson said the concept for the project was identified in a larger study done by the governor’s office after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Sites along Spring Creek during Hurricane Harvey recorded high-water levels within an inch of 500-year flood levels and also reached high levels during April and May 2016, according to HCFCD records.

However, funds for the reservoir study were not included in the HCFCD plan after a $2 billion bond referendum was passed by Harris County voters in 2018.

Furthermore, a $1.1 million grant application for projects, including the reservoir study submitted to the Texas Water Development Board in July 2018, was denied in December.

The search for suitable sites north and west of The Woodlands will use a combination of aerial imagery and field reconnaissance, Stinson said. The various MUD boards will report on their findings as the study progresses, he said.

Future action could come as a result of these studies, and additional funding or collaboration with other entities such as Montgomery County could be pursued, Stinson said.

“If there are no stormwater storage sites that can provide the meaningful reduction in Spring Creek, then where else do we go?” Stinson said.

Bruce Rieser, a member of The Woodlands Township board of directors and its drainage task force, said the study is the first step, but it could take years to complete the project if one is found.

“If [a site is found,] the next step is funding the full study ... and once that study is complete, then the heavy lifting begins where we have to find the funding necessary to do whatever we come up with. That could be anywhere from [$300 million] to $500 million. If one or more reservoirs is constructed, it will almost certainly take longer than a decade,” Rieser said.

Rieser said he believes there is no short-term solution for Spring Creek.

“In my view, it’s really imperative that we start to toughen up design standards and increase detention north and west of us. It’s just common sense—we’ve got to stop dumping water into Spring Creek,” he said.

Areas such as Creekside Park, High Oaks and Timber Lakes Timber Ridge—which flooded during Harvey—could be at risk for flooding until a solution is found if a similar event were to happen, Rieser said. •Chuck Gilman, the director of water resources and flood management for San Jacinto River Authority, said while the SJRA is not involved in funding the study, it has been involved with regional planning efforts since Spring Creek empties into the San Jacinto River, and it will offer support to the effort.

“We’re more or less assisting [HCFCD] and the large regional study and providing any assistance needed.”

Editor's note: The story was updated to correct a list of neighborhoods which flooded during Hurricane Harvey.


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