City of Houston proposes high priority Harvey recovery and flood prevention projects

March 23, 2018

On March 21st the city of Houston presented a list of 13 Hurricane Harvey recovery and flood mitigation projects for consideration by the City Council.  These projects are proposed to compete for the first $500 million of an expected $1 billion in FEMA aid released after Harvey.

 The proposal details are described in a March 22, 2018 Houston Chronicle article by Mike Morris entitled “City lines up Harvey projects – Council receives list of ideas for recovery funds.”

Most of the proposed projects have already advanced through the concept and design phases and some were already under consideration before Harvey. According to Houston “flood czar” Steve Costello, the high priority projects were selected based on potential impact, the opportunity for the city to partner with other governments to complete them, and the extent to which the projects are ready to be built quickly.

The details of the proposed projects will be of interest to affected residents and potential home buyers, especially if the work results in significant reduction in flood risk.  For example, homes could potentially be removed from Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) if the depth of the 100-year (1.0% Annual Chance Flood Hazard) flood is reduced far enough.  Other properties may not experience changes in the flood plains, however the overall chance of flooding will be reduced by the improvements. The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) website is a particularly useful reference for the public to obtain more information about these and other projects.
 The top four projects are:
 1.  Completion of detention basins at the former Inwood Golf Course

This project would add an estimated 350 million gallons of storm water storage in the area upstream of the intersection of Vogel Creek and White Oak Bayou, in the central portion of the White Oak watershed. Neighborhoods that would see reduced flooding risk include Inwood Club Estates, Woodland Oaks, and Inwood Northwest.

Details on this project are saved on the HFCFD website at the link:

https://www.hcfcd.org/projects-studies/white-oak-bayou/inwood-forest-stormwater-detention-project/

2.  The North Canal project near downtown Houston

This project is designed to improve drainage around the intersection of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous on the northeast side of the downtown business district.  The tight bends in the bayous near the intersection cause a buildup of flood waters that is slow to drain.  The addition of two bypass channels plus the raising of six bridges over White Oak Bayou would dramatically reduce the risk of flooding for hundreds of homes, the downtown theater district, and a stretch of I-10 between Westcott and Patterson.

This project was featured in an article by Mike Morris in the March 23, 2018 print edition of the Houston Chronicle entitled “Proposed Canal May Cut Flood Risk.”

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/article/Houston-s-sprawling-drainage-project-would-help-12759536.php

The figure below is from the online version of that article.

With completion of the bypass canals and raising of the bridges approximately 440 structures along White Oak and adjacent tributary Turkey Gully would be removed from the 100-year flood plain.  Neighborhoods that would benefit significantly include Timbergrove and Shady Acres.

Information about the North Canal bypass project from HCFCD is available at:

3.  Addition of flood gates to the Lake Houston dam

This estimated $50 million project would add 10 flood gates to the dam at Lake Houston, making it easier to release water more quickly in advance of major storms to free up additional storage capacity.

4.  Individual home buyouts

This proposal includes $185 million for home buyouts, elevations, and reconstructions.  As shown on the figure below HCFCD has historically conducted this type of program (along with the City of Houston and FEMA) including voluntary buyouts.  The newly proposed program would expand this effort significantly.

Details on the HCFCD home buyout program can be viewed at:

Readers, will your area potentially benefit from one of these projects?  Are you aware of these proposals?  Have you considered volunteering for buyout of a flooded property?