A recently completed 2017 study led by the Harris County Flood Control District and funded by the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority presents future options for the natural restoration of Lower White Oak Bayou, as alternatives to replacing the aging concrete channel lining north of downtown Houston.
All options resulting from the study include removal of the partial concrete lining in this reach of White Oak Bayou between Taylor Street and Hogan Street. The study evaluated alternatives based on their potential for reducing flood risks, as well as their benefits for the environment, recreation and economic uplift. The cost and potential timeline for each alternative also were evaluated. (Alternatives that would increase flood risks were not considered.)
The analysis demonstrates viable, but limited, restoration potential within existing Flood Control District right-of-way downstream of Taylor Street. However, public lands adjacent to the study reach present opportunities to expand the restoration footprint and provide richer benefits across all categories. These more elaborate concepts could provide up to 500 acre-feet of regional stormwater detention, dozens of acres of enhanced habitat and stormwater quality features, and additional green space that could be improved and accessed by expansion of the existing trail system. These features would not substantially reduce flood levels on White Oak Bayou, but could provide mitigation for drainage infrastructure improvements by the City of Houston or others.
Construction cost estimates for restoring this one-mile reach range between $30 million and $60 million, and could take at least 5-10 years from the preliminary engineering phase to final design and construction. Next steps for any longer-term project stemming from the Lower White Oak Bayou Channel Restoration Study would include identifying stakeholders to participate in and fund development of a future restoration project, identifying a realistic project footprint, and – if funding from a project sponsor becomes available – moving on to planning and preliminary engineering.