In addition to city projects planned to improve drainage in the southeast quadrant of Tomball, a number of Harris County Flood Control District projects to add stormwater detention basins, increase basin capacity and expand drainage channels are active in the Little Cypress Creek and Willow Creek watersheds.
The Harris County projects are funded by an August 2018 voter-approved $2.5 billion bond referendum for HCFCD projects, which includes matching funds to receive federal funding for flood reduction projects.
“We’re on a really aggressive 10-15 year window where we want to complete all these projects,” HCFCD Precinct 4 Coordinator Gary Bezemek said.
Little Cypress Creek projects
To help resolve drainage issues along Little Cypress Creek, projects would construct stormwater detention basins near Bauer-Hockley Road and Kleb Woods Nature Center as well as expand detention capacity at Zube Park. These projects included in the Little Cypress Creek Frontier Program, a program to improve drainage in the watershed prior to development, will move toward construction this year, HCFCD Project Manager Erwin Burden said. An additional basin near Schiel Road has been in design since July.
The watershed saw record flooding at Becker Road from April 2016 Tax Day floods and Hurricane Harvey in
August 2017, with stormwater exceeding the top of Little Cypress Creek’s bank by more than 3 feet, according to Harris County Flood Warning System data.
HCFCD data shows Harvey damaged nearly 700 structures in the watershed.
“The [frontier program] was prioritized because it is an attempt to get out in front of a quickly developing area, to ensure it has an adequate drainage and stormwater detention system, with adequate right of way for the future,” HCFCD Project Communications Manager Karen Hastings said in an email.
Tealpointe Lake Estates, a 99-acre community, broke ground in September just south of the Kleb Woods basin.
“Our property is high, and it didn’t have any flooding problems at all,” Tealpointe developer Louis Smith said. “That [basin] will help the properties to the southeast that have had the issues.”
Construction is also underway at Amira, a 370-acre community across Mueschke Road from Tealpointe, by Johnson Development. Just east, construction is ongoing at Rosehill Reserve, which is slated to feature 862 homes.
Many of the Little Cypress Creek projects were in planning stages prior to the passing of the bond referendum but were limited by funding, Hastings said.
“Now that funding is available the Flood Control District is moving ahead as quickly as possible ... so that we can stay ahead of development as much as possible,” she said.
Burden said the Bauer-Hockley and Kleb Woods basins are expected to go out for construction bids by late February. The Bauer-Hockley basin is set to be complete within a year.
Additionally, Burden said he anticipates the HCFCD receiving its permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to increase the depth of the Zube Park basin by year’s end.
In total, about $9.6 million is allocated for the Bauer-Hockley, Kleb Woods and Zube Park basins, Burden said, with $16 million in the bond for the Schiel basin, according to HCFCD information.
“[The frontier program is] to address the existing flooding problems by also addressing the future,” Burden said.
Willow Creek, county initiatives
HCFCD crews are also actively working on bond-funded projects in the Willow Creek watershed, which includes the city of Tomball and the Rosehill area.
Willow Creek at Hwy. 249 saw waters rise to nearly 3 and 4 feet above the top of the bank in the Tax Day and Harvey floods, respectively, county data shows.
A $2.2 million project to expand an existing basin on Cypress Rosehill Road is tentatively scheduled for a construction bid in July, Hastings said.
Additionally, improvements to a drainage channel—designated as M124—are in the early stages, according to HCFCD officials. The project will extend M124 north of FM 2920 to carry water from detention ponds located behind Lowe’s at Hwy. 249 and FM 2920 to a roadside ditch north of FM 2920. Then, the project will widen the existing portion of the channel to Willow Creek.
A preliminary engineering report for the M124 project began in November.
Officials have said FM 2920 routinely floods near Calvert and Park roads. This project would lessen that flooding and could become a recreational amenity for local residents by tapping into the proposed Willow and Spring Creek greenways, connections of green space and trails along the creeks, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said.
“It will help improve not only the amenities in that zone, but also there’s a lot of flooding that occurs on [FM] 2920,” he said. “We hope that we’ll be able to eliminate all of that.”
In Harris County, a remapping of the flood plains is also on the table, a task last done after Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, Bezemek said. The first phase to update the maps, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will study 11 watersheds—including Little Cypress, Willow and Spring creeks, he said. It is slated to begin in early 2019 with FEMA expected to release new preliminary maps by late 2023, according to HCFCD information.
“As folks are looking for higher ground to build and to stay on, that [remapping] will benefit many of the developers that you have in the Tomball area,” Cagle said.
However, Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack said he believes much work is ahead to truly lessen flooding.
“[The referendum’s] $2.5 billion is going to make a slight dent in flooding in Harris County, but it doesn’t even come near the amount of money that needs to be spent in order to make a real serious attack on flooding throughout Harris County,” he said. “It’s probably closer to $60 billion.”
Within Tomball and Magnolia, flood reduction projects are also planned.
Magnolia City Administrator Paul Mendes said a project to repair the dam at Unity Park was 90 percent complete after substantial weather delays. Although the dam was damaged previously, the damage was exacerbated by storms in 2016. Construction began in August for the $180,000 project that is partially funded by FEMA, Mendes said.
“Since that dam has been in place, we see that there’s a great deal less water flowing down in the vicinity of Nichols Sawmill [Road] and [FM] 1488,” Mendes said. “It’s been able to kind of regulate the flows for some of the heavy rain events and has cut down on our flooding around the sewer plant and around that portion of [FM] 1488 already.”
In the city of Tomball, an extension of a drainage channel just west of Cherry Street—M121 west—from the Pine Meadows subdivision south to Holderrieth Road is in the engineering phase, Public Works Director Beth Jones said.
This project will help reduce flooding in areas of the city south of Main Street and west of the railroad tracks, Assistant City Manager David Esquivel said.
Tomball is also awaiting $1.6 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant for drainage improvements near Lizzie Lane and Persimmon Street, he said. The project will add ditches to carry water to drainage channels created as part of the Medical Complex Drive extension to Hufsmith-Kohrville Road, a project set for construction later this year.
“The biggest problem that we have out there is that it’s so flat that the water really has nowhere to go,” Esquivel said.
This will allow water from the heart of the city to flow to Willow Creek, Esquivel said. He said he anticipates grant funding to be approved by early spring, with the estimated $2 million project moving toward construction then.
“This is definitely one of the first places that starts having drainage issues,” he said. “That whole area is one of our No. 1 areas that we’re always checking whenever it rains.”