A $295 million Clear Creek flood control project could take five to 10 years to complete and, while much of the work is outside Galveston County, it will bring benefits to the region, according to Army Corps of Engineers officials and legislators.
But local officials have sought reassurances the project won’t increase flooding within the county.
“I’m aware that there is some concern,” state Sen. Larry Taylor said. “Officials tell me it won’t add any water to Galveston County and that it can handle 100-year flood events, but it’s something I will look into.”
Plans for a Clear Creek flood control project go all the way back to 1962. Clear Creek runs through a developed urban area with 17 cities at least partially in its watershed, including Houston, Pasadena, Pearland, Friendswood, Webster and League City, according to the corps.
Flooding in 1973, 1976, twice in 1979, 1989, 1994, 2001, 2006, 2009 and 2017 caused extensive property damage in these cities.
Clear Creek reached historic levels during Hurricane Harvey in late August and was more than 10 feet over its banks at the Interstate 45 crossing, forcing currents of water through about 11,000 homes in Friendswood and League City.
Money for the Clear Creek project funds an economic study and design of work to widen parts of Clear Creek in Harris and Brazoria counties, creates 5 miles of improvements to the creek’s tributaries, adds in-line detention and removes 2,000 homes from the 100-year floodplain, said Sheri Willey, a project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District.
The plan calls for a high-flow bypass channel and won’t widen or deepen Clear Creek itself, but its tributaries, said Karen Hastings, project communications manager with the Harris County Flood Control District.
The costs of improving drainage along the creek itself are too high at about $4 million or $5 million a mile, Hastings said.
The goal is to hold water in the upper reaches of the watershed, preventing sudden surges downstream, said Shakhar Misir, a project manager for the corps’ Galveston district.
The bulk of the project will be between state Highway 288 and west of Dixie Farm Road, in large part, because the area east of the road turns into a navigable waterway, putting it under the corps’ oversight, and potentially slowing any project because of permitting requirements, said Bob Mitchell, executive director of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.
The project will be managed locally by the Harris County Flood Control District, officials said.
“One guideline they put on a project like this is that it cannot have a net increase effect on downstream communities,” Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark said. “That said, there will probably be less water coming down Clear Creek when the project is done than came down this time.”
The governor’s office July 5 announced the federal government allocated about $5 billion to the corps for disaster recovery projects, including the Clear Creek project.
The allocation was a result of the disaster supplemental budget passed by Congress earlier this year, and is in addition to the $500 million announced by the corps in June, officials said.
Local officials initially worried that the funding seemed to skip work in Galveston County totally and feared projects in some areas might exacerbate flooding in others, but county Judge Mark Henry said many of his concerns were alleviated.
“I was concerned it would make the water faster here, but that doesn’t appear to be the case,” Henry said.
The federal funding for the projects should begin arriving in about 30 days, but there’s still plenty of work before actual construction begins, said Russ Poppe, executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District.