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Cypress Creek


Cypress Creek watershed, showing program and study areas.
Cypress Creek watershed, showing program and study areas.


District Responds to Concerns Voiced by the Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition
In February 2004, the District responded to several "Major Concerns" raised by interested stakeholders in the Cypress Creek Watershed.


View the concerns and response (PDF, 525KB, 02/11/2004)

The Cypress Creek Stormwater Management Program
Flood damage reduction in the Cypress Creek watershed, and along Cypress Creek in particular, has been the subject of numerous studies over the past several decades. In 2001, the District began the Cypress Creek Watershed Stormwater Management Program.

The program consists of six parts including:
Part 1 - Cypress Creek and Tributaries Conceptual Stormwater Drainage Plans
Part 2 - Tributaries Sub-regional Stormwater Management Plans
Part 3 - Upper Cypress Creek Stormwater Management Plan
Part 4 - Cypress Creek and Tributaries Flood Insurance Study and Floodplain Mapping
Part 5 - Cypress Creek Stormwater Management Plan
Part 6 - Stormwater Funding Mechanisms and Implementation Strategy

Under Part 1 , the District has completed conceptual plans and guidance information for eight of the major tributary watersheds draining to Cypress Creek, applying the concepts of multi-use waterway corridors and detention basin areas. This information was generated ahead of more detailed management plans to provide immediate guidance for urban growth and appropriate drainage measures in the tributary watersheds with the most activity. Elsewhere in the watershed, conceptual stormwater drainage plans are being identified for additional tributary watersheds to help focus on the appropriate stormwater management plan for each.

Sub-watershed study areas for the Cypress Creek Watershed

Parts 2 and 3 build on the work completed in Part 1 by refining the information for the eight tributary watersheds and adds a ninth watershed area, upper Cypress Creek. A portion of the work on Part 2 is being accomplished through a partnership with the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). The District was awarded a $600,000 Flood Protection Planning Grant in 2001 and is applying the grant funding toward completing the detailed stormwater management plans for the nine major tributary watersheds. The completion date for this joint District/TWDB study is nearing.

Part 4 will result in the publication of new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Study (FIS) and Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). The FIS and FIRMs are being produced in partnership with FEMA through the Tropical Storm Allison Recovery Project (TSARP). TSARP resulted from the devastating flooding of Tropical Storm Allison in early June 2001. TSARP is a $25 million project using state-of-the-art technology that will result in new FIS documents and FIRMs for the major flooding sources in Harris County, including those in the Cypress Creek watershed.

Part 5 of the program will use the results of the four preceding parts to establish planning guidance, multi-use waterway corridor information and continued flood damage reduction strategies for Cypress Creek.

Part 6 will evaluate various funding mechanisms and long-term implementation strategies for consideration and adoption of one or more funding mechanisms and implementation strategies by the District.

History Behind the Program
In the early 1980's, the District began publishing a series of Master Drainage Plans for some of the major watersheds in the county. The Cypress Creek Master Drainage Plan, prepared in 1984, was conceptual in nature and was intended to provide an outline of what projects might be needed to address existing flooding problems, as well as those that might be needed as the Cypress Creek watershed continues to develop. These types of conceptual plans are used to devise actual projects. In the case of the District, projects to reduce the risk of flooding for existing development can be defined, while land developers use the conceptual plan to define projects to serve new development (while not increasing the risk of flooding). Portions of the plan have been implemented, and there are also on-going projects and land acquisition.

In 1991, a study was performed for the District that had two goals: 1) develop an initial phase project for implementing the Cypress Creek Watershed Master Plan upstream of U.S. Highway 290; 2) investigate the drainage improvements necessary to reduce overflows from Cypress Creek into the Addicks Reservoir watershed. The final product of the study evaluated existing development conditions in the watershed and recommended a 7,500 acre impoundment area upstream of Katy-Hockley Road to reduce flows in Cypress Creek and temporarily store floodwaters that currently overflow to the Addicks Reservoir watershed.

The District has also worked with two Federal agencies to define the flooding problem on Cypress Creek and to define plans to reduce future flood damages. At the same time the District was preparing Master Drainage Plans for the County, the Federal Emergency Management Agency published the first detailed Flood Insurance Rate Maps identifying the floodplain along Cypress Creek and its major tributaries. These maps are used as the basis for flood insurance rates and for regulation of new construction. In addition, the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) formulated several alternate flood damage reduction plans for Cypress Creek. In order for a federal project to be implemented, it must prove to be economically justified (meaning the economic benefits exceed the costs) and environmentally acceptable. The only economically justified project identified by the Corps was completed in 2001, with the acquisition and demolition of 34 of the most flood prone homes along the main channel of Cypress Creek.


Current Program Costs
Within the current 5-year window of the District's Capital Improvement Program (CIP), it is estimated that approximately $23 million will be spent toward ongoing activities in the Cypress Creek watershed, including completed and ongoing program efforts, construction projects and buyout of flood-prone homes.

Overview of Current Activities
The District's current annual 5-year CIP for flood damage reduction projects in the Cypress Creek watershed includes buying flood prone houses, implementing regional detention basins, acquiring flooding easements and acquiring lands for either floodplain storage or future projects. Additionally, a pending application to FEMA includes about 100 candidate houses in the Cypress Creek watershed at a cost of about $17 million.

Because the District has implemented structural projects, has continued to acquire and demolish flood prone houses and has managed the watershed with respect to new land developments, a near 10% level of protection has been achieved along Cypress Creek. A 10% level of protection (sometimes called a 10-year level of protection) means that no flood damages to houses are expected to occur along Cypress Creek until a flood having a magnitude greater (a statistically rarer event) than a 10% flood occurs.

> Flash demonstration on statistical flood occurrences


Stormwater Detention Helps Greatly
There are currently five regional stormwater detention basins in the Cypress Creek watershed, totaling 860 acres. Excavation has occurred on three of the sites, totaling approximately 100 acres of detention storage. The District currently owns three floodplain storage and preservation sites totaling 600 acres and owns the right to flood an additional 2,480 acres through acquisition of flooding easementsin the upper watershed in the area of overflow to the Addicks Reservoir system. The current annual 5-year CIP has $3 million for continuing the acquisition of the land or property rights in this area. In addition to the District's regional detention sites, there are hundreds of individual detention basins serving new land development.

Home Buyout Plays Equally Important Role in Current Efforts
Buyouts in the Cypress Creek watershed have been a major focus of the District, even before Tropical Storm Allison. Due to a significant amount of disaster mitigation money made available from FEMA, the District has advanced funding from what might have been a 10-year effort for flood plain acquisition and buyouts to a three-year program. Since 1989, the District acting alone and in various partnerships with FEMA, the Corps of Engineers and Harris County have systematically acquired and demolished about 150 of the most flood prone houses along Cypress Creek. These properties will be kept as open space.

Buyouts in the Cypress Creek watershed have been a major focus of the District, even before Tropical Storm Allison. Due to a significant amount of disaster mitigation money made available from FEMA, the District has advanced funding from what might have been a 10-year effort for flood plain acquisition and buyouts to a three-year program. Since 1989, the District acting alone and in various partnerships with FEMA, the Corps of Engineers and Harris County have systematically acquired about 150 of the most flood prone houses along Cypress Creek.


Multi-use Enhances Community and Natural Values
The District is working hard to promote multi-use waterway corridors and stormwater detention basin areas along the primary channels and major tributaries of Cypress Creek. The idea is to establish flood damage reduction and drainage features with enough right-of-way to allow willing sponsors to implement a variety of multi-uses compatible with occasional stormwater inundation.

The multi-uses can be areas designated for wildlife habitat preservation and creation, stormwater quality management areas, recreational amenities and open space. The District is also looking at this as an opportunity to plan for alternate channel cross-sections with varying geometries that allow for principles of naturally sustained erosion control. Channels having these characteristics are less susceptible to erosion due to lower stormwater flow velocities and vegetation cover, and eventually, will need less frequent mowing. Other measures include promoting the establishment of tree canopies and other desirable vegetation to lessen the long-term maintenance burden of this infrastructure on the public.


Your Input is Important to Us
Public input is vital for all of the District's flood damage reduction efforts, including those in the Cypress Creek watershed. A Cypress Creek Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) was formed so stakeholders' interests would be represented throughout the planning process, and so stakeholders would have an opportunity to share ideas and give feedback on topics discussed during the planning process. In turn, CAC members go back to their respective organizations and report on the progress of the Cypress Creek Stormwater Management Program. Public meetings are also held to advise on the progress of the Stormwater Management Program.

If you would like more information about the program or would like to comment about ongoing flood damage reduction in the Cypress Creek watershed, please contact the District.



The Cypress Creek Watershed
The Cypress Creek watershed is located in northwestern portion of Harris County and extends into Waller County. The watershed includes the City of Waller and a small portion of the City of Houston. The overall area of the Cypress Creek watershed covers about 323 square miles and includes two primary streams: Cypress Creek and Little Cypress Creek*.

*Little Cypress Creek is a major subwatershed of the larger Cypress Creek watershed and is usually considered the "22nd Watershed" within Harris County, although it is generally not categorized separately. It comprises more than 15% of the larger Cypress Creek watershed, with a drainage area of about 50 square miles.

There are about 303 miles of streams within the entire Cypress Creek watershed, including the primary streams and over 30 other tributaries, both man-made and natural. The estimated population within the watershed in 2000 (Harris County portion) was just over 216,000.



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