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October 16, 2017 10:24:30 AM CST

Study Compares Options for Lower White Oak Bayou Channel Restoration

Sponsor and Funding Source Would Be Necessary for Any Future Restoration Project

A recently completed study 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.

The Harris County Flood Control District led the Lower White Oak Bayou Channel Restoration Study with funding from the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority, which was created in part to enhance economic development in the Memorial-Heights area, and its bayou corridors. All options resulting from the study include removal of the partial concrete lining in this reach of White Oak Bayou. 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.

About Lower White Oak Bayou

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers straightened, widened and deepened approximately 10.7 miles of White Oak Bayou from the bayou's confluence with Buffalo Bayou between Main and Fannin streets in north downtown Houston upstream to Cole Creek (HCFCD Unit E117-00-00) near West Tidwell Road between 1964 and 1971. The bayou is partially lined with concrete between Cole Creek and Hogan Street north of downtown.

The Flood Control District assumed maintenance of the Corps project after its completion. Concrete lining maintenance expenses have increased in recent years, and the District has observed a number of other locations where the lining is approaching the end of its useful life.

ABOUT THE HARRIS COUNTY FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT

The Harris County Flood Control District provides flood damage reduction projects that work, with appropriate regard for community and natural values. With more than 1,500 bayous and creeks totaling approximately 2,500 miles in length, the Flood Control District accomplishes its mission by devising flood damage reduction plans, implementing the plans and maintaining the infrastructure.