Montgomery County, SJRA continue with flood study, announce proposed timeline on Spring Creek reservoir study

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In the midst of hurricane season, county and area water officials are working to push forward mitigation projects in hopes of preventing future flooding.

The San Jacinto River Authority held the second of three public meetings July 11 to discuss Phases I and II of the SJRA Flood Protection Project, which aims to study the floodplains in and around the Lake Conroe watershed and the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.

David Parkhill, director of Raw Water Enterprise for the SJRA, presented an update on the study during the public meeting and said since Hurricane Harvey, the authority has been working with area engineers, municipal utility districts and the county to develop and analyze water and flood models, investigate environmental constraints and assess flood damage in the area.

Phase I of the study includes the development of new hydrology and hydraulic models to better understand area floodplains and elevations as well as how flooding occurs. According to the SJRA, the updated models will also improve how the SJRA provides early warnings for flood risks and the timing for releases from the Lake Conroe Dam.

Since beginning the study, Parkhill said the SJRA has already made some upgrades to their flood early warning system, including the installation of five new water gauges and upgrading antennae and satellite technology to provide more data during storm events.

“We’re improving the models for rainfall and runoff… but there’s still a lot of manual interpretation and the technology today allows us to automate much of that so that we can have data coming from these weather stations going straight into the models and giving us a result to pass on to the emergency management officials,” Parkhill said. “We can also use weather predictions to add into the information based on predicted rainfall or storm event tracking if there’s additional water that we may have to deal with and emergency officials may have to be prepared for.”

This portion of the study is funded through the Texas Water Development Board, the SJRA, Montgomery County and the city of Conroe, and has an estimated cost of $920,000, according to the SJRA.

The SJRA also discussed Phase II of the project, a recently announced a proposal to study the feasibility of a reservoir along Spring Creek and a real-time operations tools to determine how releases from Lake Conroe will affect the surrounding areas.

An estimated cost for the study for Phase II is $1.1 million, according to the SJRA. To fund the project, the SJRA submitted a grant application to the TWDB July 11, and would match a portion of funds received. Other sponsors for Phase II include MUDs in The Woodlands, including MUDs Nos. 1, 7, 46, 60 and 386, many of which saw home damage from flooding in 2016 and 2017. The study area would include land around Spring Creek from the Waller County line to where the creek flows into the Lake Houston area.

Parkhill said the site feasibility study will use data from the ongoing Harris County Flood Control District study to determine the location, costs and environmental effects of a potential reservoir. Should funding be approved, the study would begin in early 2019 and take an estimated two years to complete, according to the SJRA.

“Unfortunately for those folks who are concerned about flooding again, these studies do take time and it will be a slow process—even slower to build a flood control reservoir,” Parkhill said. “The scope of work for both the Harris County study and our Phase II study are fairly broad right now, but we’ve meshed them together so there’s no duplication of effort and we’re trying to feed the results of one study into the other and vice versa. Within a year we should have some results that start benefiting the community.”

A third and final public meeting to discuss the SJRA’s draft report on the study will be held in December, and a final report for Phase I of the study is expected to be held in February 2019.

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Wendy Cawthon
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Cawthon has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and joined The Woodlands edition in 2017.
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