Government Pitches in to Pay for Flood Control

The Harris County Flood Control District has been busy widening several miles of brays bayou and shoring up its banks to reduce flooding. The district had been footing the bill until last week, but now an agreement has been signed that allows the federal government to reimburse Harris County. Pat Hernandez has more.

Judge Ed Emmett signing Harris County Judge Ed Emmett joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in signing the agreement near the banks of Brays Bayou that overlook the Texas Medical Center. It was heavily damaged by flood waters that came from the bayou.

"Everybody remembers Tropical Storm Allison, and it's been eight years. Eight years is a pretty short period of time for the federal government and the county government to get together and actually make something happen."

Project Brays involves widening 21 miles of the bayou from the Houston Ship Channel to Fondren, and from Old Westheimer Road the State Highway 6.  Four huge detention basins are being excavated and 32 bridges are being replaced or modified.

"There's really only two things that you can do with storm water. You can move it or you can store it."

Mike Talbot is the director of the Harris County Flood Control District.

"When you can't move it all the way to Galveston Bay, you need to provide some places that you can store it. And so, we're using storm water basins, detention basins on the upstream end to help hold the water back until the downstream area can receive it, and we're also doing some channel improvements downsteam to move some of the water out. So it's a combination of moving it and storing it."

Colonel David Weston with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says the project is supposed to remove some 30-thousand homes and businesses in the Brays Bayou watershed from the 100 year floodplain.

"When you get that same event, the water will not rise as high up into those neighborhoods, it'll actually stay in the channel. And so, it really has a tremendous benefit in cost savings in cost savings to local communities and individuals that don't have to suffer that continuous threat of flooding."

Weston says the Corps' method of flood relief has changed.

"You see some of these older channels around Houston that have the concrete lined banks and they're cut straight, that was the old way of doing things. Now we try to stay within the run of the river. Try to keep as much vegetation as possible, while still making sure that enough water can flow down that channel to provide the relief."

Joe Turner is director of Houston Parks and Recreation. He likes the relationship he has with Harris County Flood Control.

"It's just one long linear park that just never stops. And to think that we looked at it before where we didn't see the value of that — it's hard to believe — especially Brays. And then if you go back and look at the original plans that were done for the city, part of that concept was building parks along our bayou system."

The government is reimbursing Flood Control about 50-million dollars already spent on the project, and opens the door for reimbursements for future work on the bayou. 



 

Above images courtesy of Harris County Flood Control District.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...