White Oak Bayou Watershed
Updated July 2013
The White Oak Bayou watershed stretches from central to northwest
Harris County and includes the City of Jersey Village and portions of the City of
Houston. Rainfall within the 111 square miles of the White Oak Bayou watershed drains
to the primary waterway, White Oak Bayou (HCFCD Unit E100-00-00). The bayou flows
southeast from its headwaters northwest of FM 1960 to its confluence with Buffalo
Bayou (HCFCD Unit W100-00-00) downtown Houston. There are 146 miles of open waterways
in the watershed, including White Oak Bayou and its major tributaries, such as Little
White Oak Bayou (HCFCD Unit E101-00-00), Brickhouse Gully (HCFCD Unit E115-00-00),
Cole Creek (HCFCD Unit E117-00-00) and Vogel Creek (HCFCD Unit E121-00-00). Based
on the 2010 U.S. Census, the estimated population of the White Oak Bayou watershed
is 433,250. Development in the White Oak Bayou watershed has progressed rapidly
and is expected to continue.
ACTIVE CAPITAL PROJECTS
In the past 20 years, the Harris County Flood Control District
has spent more than $117 million on active and completed capital projects in the
White Oak Bayou watershed.
Charting Buffalo: A Study of Buffalo and Lower White Oak Bayous
– Charting Buffalo is a regional strategic approach that will identify options for
flood damage reduction improvements and demonstrate how these options could be integrated
with other community and environmental interests. The study area includes 32 miles
of Buffalo Bayou eastward from the Barker Reservoir through downtown Houston to
the Houston Ship Channel. Also included in the study area is seven miles of lower
White Oak Bayou from North Loop 610 West to the point at which it joins Buffalo
Bayou near downtown Houston. The study proposes a partnership approach to implementing
larger stormwater detention basins that could be used for both riverine flood reduction
and drainage mitigation. While the Charting Buffalo study is funded by the Flood
Control District, many organizations that are already investing resources in the
area are participating in the study. Preliminary flood damage reduction options
have been identified by the study, and the Flood Control District is currently determining
how to move forward with additional study efforts. As of mid-2013, the Flood Control
District has not allocated funding for the implementation of the preliminary flood
damage reduction options. For more information, visit www.chartingbuffalo.org.
Jersey Meadows Stormwater Detention Basin – The final phase of
excavation of the Jersey Meadows Stormwater Detention Basin (HCFCD Unit E535-01-00)
began in June 2012. The stormwater detention basin is located on a 42-acre site,
formerly a part of the Jersey Meadows Golf Course, adjacent to a White Oak Bayou
tributary in northwest Harris County. The Flood Control District has previously
excavated approximately 146,100 cubic yards of soil from the basin, and this phase
will remove an additional 432,000 cubic yards. The City of Jersey Village funded
construction of a 1.6-mile trail around the basin through an interlocal agreement
with the Flood Control District. This phase is estimated to cost $3.6 million and
expected to be complete in 2014.
White Oak Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project – The White
Oak Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project is a multi-year, $166 million project
that will substantially reduce flooding risks along White Oak Bayou. Started in
1998, the project is a cooperative effort between the Flood Control District and
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). This partnership, made possible by Section
211(f) of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996, allows the Flood Control
District to work hand-in-hand with the federal government to leverage local tax
dollars. The federal financial share of the project is about $100 million. The project
includes the excavation of six stormwater detention basins that will hold approximately
1.1 billion gallons of stormwater, construction of approximately 15.4 miles of channel
conveyance improvements along White Oak Bayou from Cole Creek to F.M. 1960, and
construction of the Jersey Village Channel (HCFCD Unit E200-00-00), which carries
30 percent of White Oak Bayou flows around the City of Jersey Village during heavy
rains. Many of these projects have been completed. The remaining projects include
the construction of channel conveyance improvements along White Oak Bayou from Cole
Creek to the tributary formally identified as HCFCD Unit E122-00-00 and from the
Jersey Village Channel to F.M. 1960, and the expansion of two stormwater detention
basins. Upon project completion, the Flood Control District estimates that within
the project area, most areas along White Oak Bayou will see water surface elevation
reductions of 0.5 to 1.5 feet for the 1 percent (100-year) flooding event.
North Canal Bypass Channel Project – At the confluence of White
Oak and Buffalo bayous near downtown Houston, a narrow channel and severe channel
bends restrict the flow of stormwater during heavy rainfall events. A North Canal
Bypass Channel is being considered that would help reduce the risk of flooding to
downtown Houston and would also provide flood damage reduction benefits to areas
farther upstream of downtown Houston along both White Oak and Buffalo bayous. The
Flood Control District is in the process of investigating the concept, and property
acquisition, design and construction phases are not yet fully funded. If implementation
is feasible, there will be opportunities for the Flood Control District to work
with the community on the design of the project.
COMPLETED CAPITAL PROJECTS
Hollister Road Stormwater Detention Basin – The Hollister Road
Stormwater Detention Basin (HCFCD Unit E500-03-00), completed in June 2010, helps
to reduce flooding risks for residents and businesses along White Oak Bayou by safely
storing excess stormwater during heavy rains to reduce peak flows that can cause
flooding. Located northeast of the intersection of West Little York and Hollister
roads, the basin can hold approximately 316 million gallons of stormwater during
heavy rain events.
Jersey Village Channel Project – The Jersey Village Channel Project
included enlargements of two channels – the Jersey Village Channel (HCFCD Unit E200-00-00)
and the tributary formally identified as HCFCD Unit E141-00-00. During heavy rain
events, these channel enlargements divert about 30 percent of the flows from White
Oak Bayou to the Jersey Village Channel to minimize flooding along White Oak Bayou.
This project modified nearly 11,400 feet of channel, cost approximately $7 million
and was completed in April 2010.
Vogel Creek Channel Conveyance Improvements Project – The Vogel
Creek Channel Conveyance Improvements Project was designed to reduce flooding risks
along Vogel Creek (HCFCD Unit E121-00-00). The project spanned Vogel Creek from
its confluence with White Oak Bayou to Arncliffe Drive – nearly 8,300 feet of channel
modifications that increased the creek’s average width from 70 feet to 150-165 feet.
Completed in June 2008, the project cost approximately $23.7 million.
ROUTINE AND COMPLETED MAINTENANCE PROJECTS
The Harris County Flood Control District oversees more than 2,500
miles (about the distance from Los Angeles to New York City) of bayous and creeks
and routinely performs maintenance projects to repair channels and stormwater detention
basins that have experienced erosion, slope failure and the accumulation of sediment.
The Flood Control District also plants native grasses, wildflowers and trees to
help reduce erosion and mowing costs.
Mowing and vegetation maintenance – The Flood Control District
performs routine cyclical maintenance, including mowing rights-of-way along bayous,
creeks and stormwater detention basins in the White Oak Bayou watershed. The Flood
Control District also performs selective clearing of invasive trees and vegetation.
Tree and wildflower plantings – In the 2011-12 planting season,
the Flood Control District planted more than 2,300 trees in the White Oak Bayou
watershed. Water oak, green ash and red maple are just a few of the tree species
planted along the stormwater detention basin formally identified as HCFCD Unit E541-03-00.
During the 2010-11 planting season, more than 1,100 trees, including the bald cypress,
loblolly pine and Nuttall oak species, were planted along the Jersey Village Channel.
More than 3,000 trees were planted at the Fallbrook Stormwater Detention Basin (HCFCD
Unit E500-12-00) in the 2010-11 season, including the American and cedar elm species.
In 2008, the Flood Control District seeded several species of wildflowers along
the banks of White Oak Bayou, including Mexican hat, prairie verbena, and plains
Brickhouse Gully Concrete Channel Lining Replacement Project –
The Brickhouse Gully Concrete Channel Lining Replacement Project is replacing the
old, failing concrete channel lining along Brickhouse Gully (HCFCD Unit E115-00-00).
The first phase spanned Brickhouse Gully from its confluence with White Oak Bayou
to 250 feet upstream of Watonga Boulevard. This first phase was completed in 2006
and cost approximately $891,000. Completed in May 2011, the second phase replaced
the concrete channel lining from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks
to 300 feet upstream of Mangum Road and cost approximately $673,000. The third phase
began in October 2011 and spanned Brickhouse Gully from 300 feet upstream of Mangum
to Costa Rica Road. This phase cost approximately $1.5 million and was completed
in late 2012. The Flood Control District is reviewing the existing conditions along
the remaining sections of Brickhouse Gully to determine if additional maintenance
projects are needed.
ACTIVE MAINTENANCE PROJECTS
Cole Creek Erosion Repair Project – The Cole Creek Erosion Repair
Project will repair and rebuild eroded side slopes of Cole Creek from its confluence
with White Oak Bayou upstream to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad bridge
east of Antoine Drive. Erosion has resulted in damage to the slopes and various
storm sewer and outfall pipes in the project area. The maintenance project will
include the removal and replacement of damaged outfall pipes and installation of
buried riprap on the creek’s slopes and toe line, which is the lowest point of a
channel’s banks. Riprap in Harris County is typically recycled concrete that is
processed to fit together like natural rock. Riprap is usually buried to allow grass
to grow over it and helps armor a channel’s banks to prevent future erosion. Construction
on the project began in early October 2012 and is expected to be complete in summer
2013. The project is estimated to cost $576,000.
E127-00-00 Maintenance Project – The channel formally identified
as HCFCD Unit E127-00-00 has experienced severe erosion that has created unstable
banks and damaged outfall pipes. The E127-00-00 Maintenance Project will repair
erosion and replace damaged outfall pipes along E127-00-00 and install a drop structure
at the confluence of White Oak Bayou and E127-00-00. When water passes through a
drop structure, it falls to a lower elevation. This structure helps slow the water’s
energy and velocity, thereby helping to prevent erosion. The overall goal of the
project is to restore the channel’s stability and improve its ability to convey
stormwater. The project will also replace damaged concrete slope paving along White
Oak Bayou. Project construction is expected to begin in April 2013 and be complete
in late 2013.