Many flood protection projects will progress across the Bay Area this year, including a multi-billion dollar regional coastal project as well as several projects in League City.
The Gulf Coast Protection District, an entity aimed at raising funds for flood control projects, was created by the Texas legislature last summer. Now officials are considering how the district can help fund flood mitigation projects along the Texas coast.
Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers is awaiting congressional approval for funding on a $29 billion proposal to reduce flood damage along the coast. The plan proposes things such as flood walls, levees, enclosures and dune feeders, said Michael Braden, head of mega projects divisions for the Army Corps.
“All of these projects were really born out of the need for the frequency of these storms to increase and we need to better protect our coastline,” Braden said.
Meanwhile, seven drainage and detention projects at League City will begin in 2022. The projects are part of League City’s 2019 bond program, which included 21 flood protection and drainage improvement projects, which have were submitted as part of the $73 million Proposal A.
“Drainage projects are neighborhood specific; they are construction-intensive,” City Manager John Baumgartner said. “Since they are so widespread, they benefit neighborhoods one by one.”
City staff are also focused on advancing watershed studies related to Hurricane Harvey in 2022, staff said.
Regional mitigation projects
In September, the Army Corps released a $29 billion proposal outlining plans to reduce damage if a storm like Hurricane Ike were to hit the Texas coast again.
The Army Corps then sent the proposal to Congress with the goal that Congress approve the project and cover 65% of the cost of the project. If approved, the design process could begin as early as fall with funding available in 2023. If the Army Corps receives federal funds, it would still require a 35% local match from a sponsor non-federal, in this case the GCPD.
The GCPD was created to function as a nonfederal sponsor to help fund the Texas Coastal Study, according to Francisco Hamm, deputy chief of public affairs for the Army Corps. The GCPD approved a letter of intent in mid-2021 in conjunction with the Texas Coastal Survey Corps.
To help fund its 35% match, the district plans to use state funding or resilience bonds, in which companies reimburse the cost, instead of offering a tax rate to residents of the district. The GCPD can pay as the project progresses or pay it back over 30 years after the project ends, said GCPD executive director Nicole Sunstrum.
The Coastal Texas Study projects could take 15 to 20 years to complete and serve as a model for future projects across the country, according to Braden.
Meanwhile, League City partnered with multiple cities and agencies in late 2019 to fund the $1.5 million Lower Clear Creek and Dickinson Bayou Watershed Study. The study, which was released in March 2021, proposed more than $1.6 billion in regional drainage solutions, including retention ponds and an underground flood tunnel.
The city is seeking funding for Phase 2 of the study, which would determine a cost/benefit analysis of the projects, Baumgartner said. To fund the phase, League City applied in August for a Water Resources Development Act grant through the Army Corps, city staff said.
The $1.5 million WRDA grant is part of a bill requiring congressional approval, which Baumgartner said city officials hope to hear about this spring. If approved, the city could receive funding this fall to begin Phase 2, which could take up to two years, city staff said. The results would help direct stakeholders to projects to implement first, but this would not provide funding.
“We are optimistic that we will find a way forward that we can afford as a region that will bring lasting benefits to the watersheds,” Baumgartner said.
Local bond plans
In addition to flood mitigation projects targeting Clear Creek, League City will begin construction on seven drainage projects beginning with its 2019 obligation to improve neighborhood drainage.
Bay Ridge, Dove Meadows, Countryside, Rustic Oaks, Oaks of Clear Creek, Brittany Bay and Bay Colony neighborhoods will see a lot of construction this year, city officials said. Projects range from adding retention ponds and improving storm sewers to adding outflow areas to internal drainage channels.
Baumgartner said those neighborhoods were a priority for the bond because they were flooded during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.
Bay Ridge resident Marika Fuller said neighborhood streets often flood during heavy rains, but the detention pond collapsed during Harvey, flooding about 90% of the community’s more than 400 homes.
While work on Phase 3 – the first part – of the Bay Ridge project began in March 2021, construction is expected to begin in late summer and June on Phases 1 and 2, respectively, the director said. of Chris Sims Engineering.
Phase 1 includes raising Bay Ridge Drive to serve as a community levee and push water into nearby ditches; Phase 2 will increase the capacity of the retention pond and build a pump station, Sims said.
Fuller said Bay Ridge’s drainage has improved as Phase 3 progressed. Phase 3, which will be completed at the end of the summer, includes increasing the capacity of the neighborhood’s drainage channels and storm sewers.
“The water flows faster from the streets. … It takes more rain to flood the streets,” she said. “We can see that it’s a difference, that things are changing for the better.”
Designs for Phase 4, which will include the expansion of Gum Bayou, are underway. Resident Dave Bowman, who has lived in Bay Ridge for more than 40 years, said he believes the Gum Bayou project will work with the other phases to bring significant relief to the neighborhood.
“[The work has] actually been extremely helpful, so far, but it’s only part of the picture,” he said.