Clear Creek FAQs

Clear Creek FAQs

Last Modified: 08/04/2020 06:09 PM

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CLEAR CREEK FAQS

WHAT IS A MAINTENANCE PROJECT VERSUS A CAPITAL PROJECT?

A maintenance project repairs or maintains what already exists.

A capital project expands or improves the current drainage system.

WHAT IS A BOND PROJECT VERSUS A CAPITAL PROJECT?

They can be the same.

“Bond” refers to the method of financing – the voter-approved, $2.5 billion 2018 HCFCD Bond Program. Before there was a Bond Program, the Flood Control District had a dedicated Capital Improvement Program (CIP) of about $60 million per year to design and build countywide flood risk reduction projects, including the studies that led to those projects. A “capital project,” is a project that provides new or higher-capacity flood risk reduction infrastructure, rather than a project to repair or maintain what already exists.

A “bond project” is any project financed by the 2018 HCFCD Bond Program. Bond projects may include:

• Flood risk reduction projects, also sometimes referred to as “capital projects”

• Major or large-scale maintenance projects

• Land acquisition

• Regional drainage studies

So a bond project is often a capital project. A capital project can be a bond project or financed in some other way.

Now that bond funds are available, the $60 million per year previously earmarked for the CIP will go toward the increased cost of operating and maintaining an expanded drainage system.

WHY CAN’T CAPITAL PROJECTS AND MAINTENANCE PROJECTS BE CONDUCTED AT THE SAME TIME ON THE SAME CHANNEL?

As discussed above, the different requirements for environmental due diligence between a capital project (to reduce flooding risks) and maintenance project (to restore a channel to its original configuration) place them on very different timelines – sometimes years apart.

Funding levels before the 2018 Bond Program resulted in deferred maintenance on many channels in Harris County. In some cases, now that bond funding is available, the Flood Control District has chosen to move ahead with projects that can be done now, such as major maintenance projects, including bank failures and erosion, sediment removal, collapsed pipes and other damages. Meanwhile, more extensive pre-project work on capital projects that will increase the level of service and reduce flooding risks (which could take years) continues on a separate but coordinated track.

WILL THE 2018 BOND PROGRAM PREVENT ALL FLOODING IN THE CLEAR CREEK WATERSHED?

No. All watersheds in Harris County – including the Clear Creek watershed – are at risk of flooding. That is because Harris County is flat, has impermeable clay soils, and is prone to severe rainfall, including tropical storms and hurricanes. While the $2.5 billion 2018 Bond Program will reduce flooding risks across the county – including in the Clear Creek watershed – it will not eliminate those risks entirely. Any watershed in Harris County can flood, given enough rain over that watershed. Many projects from the 2018 Bond Program are already underway, and will be completed as soon as possible in the next months and years. It will take approximately 5-10 years to complete the entire program.

More information on the program is available on the 2018 Bond Program page.

WHAT IS THE “PRIORITY LIST” FOR THE 2018 BOND PROGRAM AND HOW DOES IT IMPACT CLEAR CREEK PROJECTS?

More than 200 projects are part of the 2018 Bond Program, and many of those projects have been initiated and are underway. For projects that have not already been initiated, the Flood Control District developed a prioritization framework that uses evaluation criteria and a weighting process to create a schedule for those projects throughout the remaining lifetime of the Bond Program.

In addition to the bond projects already initiated, three projects in the Clear Creek watershed were ranked in the new prioritization framework. All three have been initiated, including CI-001, which is complete.

F-01 - Right-Of-Way Acquisition, Design, and Construction of Channel Conveyance Improvements on A135-00-00

CI-003 - Rehabilitation of the A214-00-00 channel to Restore Channel Conveyance Capacity

CI-001 - Rehabilitation of the Clear Creek channel to Restore Channel Conveyance Capacity

More information on the framework is available on the 2018 Bond Program’s Prioritization Framework page.

WHAT IS MEANT BY “LEVEL OF SERVICE (LOS)” AND WHAT IS THE CLEAR CREEK WATERSHED LOS?

For the Flood Control District, Level of Service (LOS) refers to the level of storm event that can be carried within the banks of a particular drainage channel, before it overflows and begins to affect nearby structures. One channel might be able to handle a larger 1 percent (100-year) storm within its banks, while another can only handle a smaller 10 percent (10-year storm) without overflowing. In Clear Creek, a 100-year storm in produces 18 inches of rain in a 24-hour period and a 10-year storm produces 9.3 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.

There is no single LOS for the Clear Creek watershed. The LOS for each channel in a watershed is potentially different. Natural channels were generally created by nature, and can change or be modified over time. Engineered drainage channels in Harris County were built at various times and by various entities over time. LOS is not the same across the county, within a watershed, or even along the entire length of the same channel.

In late 2019, the Flood Control District initiated a project, Z-03 Countywide Level of Service Analysis, to determine the LOS of all channels in the Harris County drainage network. Initial results are expected in early 2021.

WILL STORMWATER DETENTION BASINS BE “MULTI-USE” FOR RECREATION IN A WAY THAT IS AN ASSET TO THE COMMUNITY?

The Flood Control District’s stated mission is to “provide flood damage reduction projects that work, with appropriate regard for community and natural values.” The Flood Control District supports the multi-use of its facilities for recreation and open space, as long as there is a funding partner to build and maintain those amenities, and those activities do not interfere with the property’s primary flood risk reduction purpose.

The Flood Control District’s Policy, Criteria, and Procedure Manual states “HCFCD recognizes the opportunities presented by HCFCD facilities to enhance both community and natural values. Consequently, HCFCD supports and encourages such multi-use functions as trails, green space, parks, greenway or corridors, stormwater quality facilities, practice fields, and other recreational and natural features provided they are compatible with the primary function of the HCFCD facility. (See related Policy XIII, Natural Environments and Habitats.)”

It is not part of the Flood Control District mission or enabling legislation to fund recreational amenities. We partner with agencies all over the county who want to fund and maintain trails, ball fields etc. along our bayous or at stormwater detention basin sites. This is a significant benefit to those agencies, because they do not have to spend their money to acquire new park and open space land.

Partner agencies who seek to build/maintain recreational amenities on our flood control property sign a written agreement acknowledging the property’s primary flood control purpose. Meanwhile, the Flood Control District strives to make their job easier by close coordination during the engineering design and construction phases of our projects.

Sometimes, during the project design stage, it is determined that an available site is too small, and the need for flood risk reduction is too great, to allow some of the land to be used for parking lots, ball fields, etc. This is a case-by-case determination.

For those reasons, we can’t make a blanket statement that ALL facilities will have recreational amenities. However, we do support the multi-use of our property, and are willing to work with appropriate sponsors to achieve that goal.

DOES THE FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT REPLANT TREES LOST DURING PROJECT CONSTRUCTION?

The Flood Control District began planting trees on project sites in 2001 and plants an average of 20,000 trees a year along banks and stormwater detention basins. The Flood Control District has a robust Tree Planting Program, and plants native wildflowers on Flood Control District property. We do this because it provides maintenance benefits, and we conduct the plantings in a way that does not interfere with the property’s primary flood risk reduction purpose. Site beautification is an added benefit, but it is not the primary goal.

In 2003, the Flood Control District established a tree nursery at its South Service Center to supplement the local tree seedling supply and to ensure the availability of hard-to-find tree species that flourish in wet conditions. The nursey contains trees in varying levels of maturity and has the capacity to hold up to 20,000 trees.

IS DEVELOPMENT CAUSING THE CLEAR CREEK WATERSHED TO FLOOD?

All new development within Harris County must comply with strict requirements for detention. Development criteria have been in place for the last 30 years, and it is always required for any development in the county. These development criteria require that all new development mitigate for flooding/drainage impacts that may be caused as a result of the development.

CAN THE FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT STOP NEW DEVELOPMENT?

No. Development regulations are enacted by the governing jurisdiction for each area. That is the underlying municipality, such as the City of Houston, or the Harris County Engineering Department for unincorporated Harris County. Floodplain administrators, employed by municipalities or counties, are responsible for implementing the local community’s floodplain ordinances on land use and flood mitigation requirements. In all, there are 34 floodplain administrators in the county. The Flood Control District is not one of them.

The Flood Control District does provide technical reviews for all development projects that outfall into or otherwise impact its drainage infrastructure, but this review does not involve deciding how land may be used, enacting development requirements, or permitting new development. This review makes sure the permitted development meets our minimum standards, and that there is no impact upstream or downstream in stormwater levels because of the new development that touches our infrastructure.

Each new development (of greater than one acre) must perform a drainage study, signed and sealed by the development’s design engineer, who is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of all calculations and the determination of no adverse impact. If a development follows the requirements in place at the time that the project is permitted, the Flood Control District cannot “stop the development.”

One qualification: The Flood Control District has a floodplain preservation program that seeks to purchase and remove floodplain land from possible future development, or to purchase and clear the land if necessary and cost-beneficial. A determination of need and necessity by its governing body is required before the Flood Control District can use the “eminent domain” legal process to force a property owner to sell.

WHEN DEVELOPERS BUILD NEW HOME SITES SEVERAL FEET HIGHER THAN THE ORIGINAL GROUND LEVEL, DOES THIS CREATE MORE FLOODING DOWNSTREAM?

Developers are required to follow rules put in place to ensure that new development will not increase the risk of flooding for anyone else. In the case of a residential development involving the importing of fill dirt, some requirements are that:

• The volume of fill to be placed in a mapped floodplain is required to be offset by an equal amount of new storage. That is, a development that brings 1,000 cubic feet of fill into the mapped floodplain must build a stormwater detention basin to hold at least 1,000 cubic feet of water to replace the lost floodplain volume.

• If a development has the potential to change the way water flows down a channel/bayou, they must do an analysis to demonstrate that the change would not increase the flood risk for anyone else.

Texas Water Code Section 11.086 also requires that the development ensure that it does not adversely affect the natural flow of surface waters around or through the development, so that neighboring properties are not affected.

WILL CURRENT AND PROPOSED FUTURE PROJECTS FOR CLEAR CREEK BE REVIEWED IN TERMS OF THE MOST RECENT 2018 LIDAR (LIGHT DETECTION AND RANGING) DATA?

Yes, this is already underway as part of the Harris County floodplain mapping effort known as MAAPnext. Please visit www.maapnext.org.

MY HOUSE HAS NEVER FLOODED. DO I NEED FLOOD INSURANCE?

Yes! Everyone needs flood insurance, even if their home is not located on a 1 percent (100-year) floodplain or a coastal floodplain on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Map. The FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map shows areas prone to flooding due to their proximity to a primary flooding source, such as a bayou or its tributary. Flooding from other sources outside of the floodplain is possible, such as from a storm drainage system that is not able to drain excess stormwater quick enough before it reaches a structure. In fact, according to FEMA, more than 20 percent of flood insurance claims come from outside of high-risk flood zones.

To learn more about flood insurance or to locate a flood insurance provider, visit www.floodsmart.gov or https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.

IS TUNNELING A GOOD OPTION TO PREVENT FLOODING BY MOVING WATER UNDERGROUND TO THE HOUSTON SHIP CHANNEL DURING MAJOR STORMS?

The Harris County Flood Control District is studying the feasibility of using large diameter tunnels for stormwater conveyance. So far, studies have not looked at specific tunnel alignments/locations.

Please read the latest about tunneling here: Z-08 Preliminary Engineering Study for Large Diameter Tunnels for Stormwater Conveyance

ARE PUMPING STATIONS AN EFFICIENT WAY TO INCREASE STORAGE VOLUME IN STORMWATER DETENTION BASINS?

The Flood Control District typically does not utilize pumps in our stormwater detention basins because of the vastly increased operations and maintenance costs associated with pump stations, as well as the risk of failure.

The Flood Control District will not rule out using pump stations in unique circumstances where the benefits provided by pumping a stormwater detention basin dry via pumps will greatly exceed the additional maintenance costs associated with the pump stations.

Municipal Utility Districts can design, construct and maintain pump stations on the basins that they own and maintain.

WHAT ABOUT PUMPING STORMWATER INTO UNDERLYING AQUIFERS?

We are aware of the managed aquifer recharge technology, which includes the use of stormwater injection wells and infiltration ponds. While an ongoing feasibility study will look at multiple potential benefits of MAR technology, the Flood Control District is especially interested is determining whether this technology could be a safe and cost-effective tool for managing stormwater and reducing flooding risks in the Harris County region.