Sparked by the damage Hurricane Harvey brought to the area one year ago, local water officials are working to push forward flood studies in hopes of preventing future flooding. The projects' results are still years away.

Most recently, the San Jacinto River Authority held the second of three public meetings July 11 to discuss phases 1 and 2 of the regional SJRA Flood Protection Project. At the meeting, David Parkhill, director of raw water enterprise for the SJRA, said the authority had been analyzing various preparedness efforts since Harvey.

“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. “Within a year, we should have some results that start benefiting the community.”

Parkhill said the SJRA has also been working with Montgomery and Harris counties as well as the city of Houston to obtain funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for a regional flood study.

Meant to improve early warning notification systems and identify flood control projects, the $2.7 million study will be headed by the Harris County Flood Control District and matched with local funds. Montgomery County’s portion is just over $169,000 and was approved during the Commissioners Court meeting July 24.

“With this study, we will gain a better knowledge of our Montgomery County streams and watersheds, a more complete flood warning system and the ability to identify specific projects that could reduce the risk of flooding in the future,” Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal said.

Enhancing early warning systems

Phase 1 of the Flood Protection Project is underway: it will enhance early warning systems and rain gauges as well as develop new hydrology and hydraulic models to better understand area flood plains and elevations. According to the SJRA, the authority has upgraded its flood early warning system by installing five new water gauges around Lake Conroe and upgrading antennae and satellite technology to provide more data during storms, 24 hours sooner.

“We’re improving the models for rainfall and runoff … 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 [might] have to deal with and emergency officials [might] have to be prepared for.”

The first phase costs roughly $920,000 and is funded through the Texas Water Development Board, the SJRA, Montgomery County and the city of Conroe, Parkhill said.

The Phase 2 Proposal

The proposal for Phase 2 addresses flooding along the Spring Creek watershed and uses the information gathered from Phase 1 upgrades.

SJRA Flood Management Director Charles Gilman said Phase 2 is estimated to cost $1.1 million, which could be partially funded by a grant from the TWDB that the SJRA recently applied for. The second phase is anticipated to begin in early 2019 and take roughly 14-16 months to complete.

A large portion of the Phase 2 proposal involves studying the feasibility of installing a reservoir along the Spring Creek Watershed. The study area includes land around Spring Creek from the Waller County line to the Lake Houston area.

Phase 2 also includes installing a Decision Support System, a real-time operations tool to predict how Lake Conroe releases will affect nearby areas.

Gilman said the feasibility study will evaluate different environmental factors than the Harris County Flood Control District regional study.

“The output from one will likely become the input to the other ... as those projects progress,” Gilman said.
The final public meeting on the draft report will be held in December, and a final report for Phase 1 of the project will be held February 2019.