Projects & Studies
Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project
The recently-completed Sims Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project is a partnership project between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) and the Harris County Flood Control District. The Corps is the lead agency for this project, which included 19.3 miles of bayou enlargements and environmental enhancements along Sims Bayou from the Houston Ship Channel to Croquet Lane, just west of South Post Oak Road and the replacement or modification of 22 bridges that cross Sims Bayou. In addition, the federal project was supplemented by the construction of three stormwater detention basins on Sims Bayou – these basins were excavated using local funds.
As the local sponsor, the Flood Control District was responsible for property acquisition, utility relocation and the modification/replacement of the bridges, which were designed to minimize obstruction to the flow of stormwater in Sims Bayou.
The total project cost for the Sims Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project is approximately $379 million, with the federal government funding $254 million and the Harris County Flood Control District funding $125 million.
Construction of the Sims Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project began in 1990 and was completed in late 2015. The project has steadily reduced the risk of flooding for property owners in the area since its start, and, once floodplain maps are officially updated, the 1 percent (100-year) floodplain will be removed from approximately 35,000 houses and 2,000 commercial structures in the Sims Bayou watershed.
Brief History of the Project
In the late 1960s, the Flood Control District straightened and widened most of Sims Bayou. While this effort was effective in reducing flooding risks, heavy rainfall events in the 1970s caused further flooding and prompted a second project on Sims Bayou. In 1979, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District received authorization to study Sims Bayou, and in 1982 published "The Interim Report on Sims Bayou," which identified a plan to further widen and deepen the bayou from the Houston Ship Channel to Croquet Street, just upstream of South Post Oak Road. Four years later, the U.S. Congress authorized the Corps to begin work on Sims Bayou with the passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986. In 1990, the District and the Corps signed a Local Cooperation Agreement solidifying the project partnership.
Citizens residing in neighborhoods adjacent to Sims Bayou now have a lower risk of flooding than in the past and are benefiting tremendously from the project. In fact, during rainfall events in which the Sims Bayou watershed received large amounts of rain in very short periods of time, the bayou remained within its banks. (Of course, it’s important to note that all bayous in Harris County have the potential to flood given enough rainfall.) Citizens also can enjoy Sims Bayou’s enhanced natural appearance as a result of the project. For example, the District and the Corps have planted 18,000-plus trees along completed sections of the bayou and additional trees at The Hill at Sims Greenway, which is the name of a stormwater detention basin adjacent to the bayou near Scott Street and West Orem Drive.
A New Way to Build a Big Bayou
The Sims Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project has been designed and constructed in an environmentally responsible manner, and an increasing number of bird species and wildlife can be seen along the bayou and at the stormwater detention basins. To armor the banks of the bayou, the project used articulated concrete blocks rather than a solid concrete lining. The blocks, which are made of concrete, have openings that allow grass and other vegetation to grow. A cross-sectional geometry that varies in width and steepness was constructed in the process of repairing eroded sections of the bayou. This resulted in aesthetically-pleasing slopes and plateaus for a more natural feel along the length of the bayou. Fish pools were constructed along some segments of the project and trees were planted to create habitat. As part of the project’s public involvement process, the project team worked with the Sims Bayou Coalition and other stakeholders. The public involvement process has had a positive influence on the project and has resulted in environmental enhancements to the project design.
New Bridge Designs Mean Fewer Obstructions
The project's 20 roadway bridges and two pedestrian bridges were designed to minimize obstruction to the flow of stormwater in the bayou. The new bridges have as small a "footprint" as possible, with most bridge supports located out of the normal flood flow area of the bayou. The result is a more efficient rate of flow for high volumes of stormwater, meaning that more stormwater can drain through the bayou reducing the potential for out-of-bank flooding.
Multi-use Results in Multiple Benefits to the Community
The Flood Control District strongly encourages multiple uses of District property in ways that are compatible with or can sustain occasional floodwater inundation. Some common multi-use examples include park and recreational facilities, hike and bike trails, and environmental habitat creation and preservation.
The Hill at Sims Greenway
A tall hill is located on the site of a large stormwater detention basin located adjacent to Sims Bayou near Scott Street and West Orem Drive. The detention basin is capable of holding nearly 325 million gallons of excess stormwater and significantly reduces the risk of flooding for area residents. The hill is nearly 60 feet tall and was constructed with 1.6 million of the 2.1 million cubic yards of soil excavated from the site to construct the basin. When standing on top of the hill, the site appears almost canyon-like and features spectacular views of the downtown Houston skyline and NRG Stadium. It is a model stormwater detention basin and a primary example of how flood damage reduction projects can be more than functional. As it has with some of its other stormwater detention basins, the District hopes to partner with other entities, such as Harris County or the city of Houston, to adopt this site and create park amenities and multi-use features for area residents. Thousands of trees have been planted here.
Regional Projects Complement the Sims Bayou Federal Project
In addition to the federal project, the District has excavated three stormwater detention basins adjacent to Sims Bayou that supplement the federal project and give the bayou greater capacity. The District is also constructing three stormwater detention basins near Berry Bayou, a tributary of Sims Bayou. The cost for land acquisition for all five sites was approximately $10 million.
A Successful Example
The Sims Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project is a shining example of the Flood Control District and the Corps embracing community and natural values, and federal and local partnerships working to achieve crucial flood damage reduction for the area.