Harris County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed to begin a $295 million flood mitigation project along Clear Creek that had been shelved for decades until Hurricane Harvey gave it new urgency.
But while the announcement implied Galveston County would be a paying partner in the project, county officials said they had no information, or immediate intentions, about joining the project.
The Army Corps and the Harris County Flood Control District announced June 13 they had signed a project partnership agreement to design the Clear Creek Federal Flood Risk Management Project. The plan has existed since the 1960s, but most of it has gone unfunded.
The project proposes $295 million in flood mitigation projects along 15 miles of Clear Creek between Dixie Farm Road and state Highway 288 in Harris County.
It also proposes improvements to three Clear Creek tributaries, including Mary’s Creek, which runs through parts of Friendswood.
“The Flood Control District is excited to move this project forward with the support of the corps and deliver much-needed relief to a watershed with a long history of flooding, and that was among the hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey,” said Russ Poppe, executive director of the flood control district.
The district planned to work with co-sponsors, including Galveston County, officials said.
Galveston County officials said they didn’t know exactly what the flood control district was talking about, however.
“We’ve not officially been contacted by the Harris County Flood Control district about putting money in,” Galveston County spokesman Zach Davidson said.
The commissioners court certainly would look into the prospect, he said.
One possible reason the county was named as a co-sponsor is because it had sponsored aspects of the plan over the years, including an outlet channel and floodgate between Clear Lake and Galveston Bay that was constructed in the late 1990s, Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Clark said.
But Clark, who has been heavily involved in county flood planning since Hurricane Harvey, said he needed more details about what the flood district was talking about before he’d agree to support putting local money toward the planned work.
“We’ve not had any detailed discussions in that regard to this point,” Clark said.
Design and construction of the project will begin later this year, according to the flood control district. The entire project is estimated to take up to five years to complete.
While most of the proposed work will be in Harris County, the flood control project has the attention, somewhat skeptical, of officials in Galveston County.
League City Councilman Larry Milican said he thought the Clear Creek project might still end up lost in the flood of other flood projects underway in Houston and Harris County.
“I have mixed thoughts about it,” Millican said. “You look at the Harris County Flood Control District, they certainly have the organization to handle a project of that size. It’s a massive project, in the hundreds of millions.
“But at the same time, from what I understand, the citizens just passed a $2.1 billion bond issue. And when you think about a $200 million project compared to that, it’s chicken feed in the bucket.”
Friendswood City Manager Morad Kabiri said the city expected to see only incremental benefit from the project, because it will increase the creek’s detention capacity.
Clark, whose precinct includes Friendswood and League City, said some people in the northern parts of Galveston County are concerned that improving Clear Creek drainage in Harris County will result in flood water reaching Galveston County more quickly and exacerbating flooding.
The flood control district has promised that won’t happen, Clark said.
The Clear Creek Flood Control project has existed as an Army Corps proposal since the 1960s, but remained unfunded by the federal government despite repeated flooding along the creek over the course of decades.
The project received renewed and more urgent attention in 2017, after Hurricane Harvey flooded thousands of homes across the Greater Houston area.
Harvey’s historic rains caused Clear Creek to run more than 10 feet over its banks on Aug. 27 and Aug. 28, 2017. More than 10,000 homes were flooded in the communities of Friendswood and League City.
Thursday’s announcement had been expected for some time. In February, Congress approved the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which included $187 million for the Clear Creek project.
Earlier this month, Harris County commissioners voted to approve the partnership agreement between the district and the corps.
The Clear Creek Watershed covers about 197 square miles over parts of Galveston, Harris, Brazoria and Fort Bend counties. About 164,000 people live in the watershed, according to the flood control district.