The 2019 Flood Control Technical Forum was held on August 6th at the Embassy Suites – Energy Corridor. Andrew Weber, of United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) and Matt Zeve, of Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) joined our membership to give presentations on the latest updates in flood risk management and the progress of the county bond program.
Weber addressed the audience first and introduced the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Galveston District. The USACE spans along the entire Texas coast, 3 counties wide and even includes some parishes in Louisiana. The organization is in fact a department of the Army, within the Department of Defense, but the organization is made of mostly civilians. The Corp mission is to “support military construction for the army as well as civil works missions, including navigation, flood risk management, ecosystem restoration, emergency response and in some parts even water supply. Galveston District received over $4.5 billion in additional funding through the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) which provided emergency supplemental funds for flood risk management projects in areas impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and, Maria. Just one of the many projects the Corp is working on in the area is the Addicks & Barker Dams Construction Mega Project which is the implementation of new seepage measures to alleviate the seepage issue of the dams built in the 1940s. The Corp also plans to introduce new resilient and redundancy features to continue modernizing the damns. Four Harris County channels have been funded fully due to the BBA supplemental money. They include Brays, Hunting, White Oak & Clear Creek and are all scheduled to complete soon. Each of those increase capacity and detention subsequently reducing the flood risk throughout the county.
“The reason why those construction projects got funded is because they were completed studies with shovel ready projects. Studies lead to construction projects,” emphasizes Weber. Weber shares that many people feel STUDY is just a five letter word but their integral to getting projects completed. The Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Resiliency Study, started last October, is fully federally funded. The study is scheduled to last three years and will explore options like a 3rd reservoir, flood tunnels, and excavating the existing reservoirs all to help mitigate flooding. Next April, the Corp will tentatively select a plan after examining the costs and benefits of each option and recommend one of those as the preferred option for federal funding for flood risk management.
Zeve took the stage and began his presentation sharing that currently, the Flood Control District has projects in each of its 22 watersheds. Within the West Houston Association territory one of the largest projects in total is the $40 million work effort to desilt all the channels that drain to Addicks & Barker upstream of the reservoirs. Zeve shared that this is a regular maintenance activity of the Counties stating, “In the past, we allocated $60 million of our $120 million annual budget to operations and maintenance activities. That’s $60 million to pay salaries, maintaining our fleet of vehicles and equipment, maintaining our 3 buildings that we have staff in, mowing, fixing outfall pipes, and of course fixing channels doing desilts.” With the passage of the bond election the County is using that funding to repair the channels back to how they were created to be 30-40 years ago.
The County’s plan to complete Addicks & Barker includes bidding out a series of $10-$12 design packages. The hope is to get those bid out by the end of the year so the construction can begin next Spring. 146 total projects have begun which is about 61% of the total proposed. 237 projects are in the total bond program and the County is working with the Commissioners on the possibility of accelerating the time frame to 5-10 years or less.
Thank you to all who could join us at the Flood Control Forum! We couldn’t host such wonderful events without of sponsors. A special thanks to Andrew Weber and Matt Zeve for speaking with our membership. We hope you all can join us again at the 40th Anniversary Reception September 5th, at the Westin Memorial City.