2006 In January, CCFCC funded the cost for an engineering consultant to participate as a member of a project team managed by HCFCD’s Planning Dept, which recalibrates the computer modeling used to determine the floodplains in the Cypress Creek watershed. This year-long effort was essentially completed by January 2007.
HCFCD completed on-site construction of the repair and redesign to correct a major erosion bank stabilization project on Cypress Creek intended to remedy dangerous conditions to the public at Meyer Park. CCFCC triggered this $1 million-plus repair project.
TxDOT’s design effort on the NW Corridor (U.S. Highway 290) expansion project reached the stage where it is appropriate to begin coordination meetings. The purpose: To address CCFCC’s 2003 request to Commissioner Steve Radack seeking his political leadership and support to form a joint partnership of appropriate state and county agencies wherein ROW for roadway expansion and ROW for regional detention basins in the Upper Watershed be simultaneously acquired and the excavated dirt be used for highway fill construction.
CCFCC initiated a conceptual work-in-progress and advocacy plan for a system of trails interlinking anchor parks and preserves along a 37-mile corridor of the main Cypress Creek channel.
The Coalition also initiated discussions with the developer of Bridgeland (a master planned community with six miles of Cypress Creek frontage) to tie their extensive trails system to the Cypress Creek Greenway.
2005 The first “Urban Stormwater Management Study” Stakeholders Committee meeting was held followed by extended delays (a second meeting originally planned to happen in six months continues to slip schedule. It has not been held as of January 2007).
CCFCC participated in organizing the Hewlett-Packard Alliance, which negotiated the donation of 100 acres of parkland along Cypress Creek near State Highway 249 (estimated value: $10 million).
The conceptual “Interim Land Use Plan” to facilitate construction of a stormwater detention facility and accommodation of future Harris County Precinct 3 park facilities was unveiled. Undertaken by HCFCD’s Environmental Department at CCFCC’s request, a noted landscape architect was hired to develop a plan in lieu of waiting several years while the excavated hole silted in from flood events. The subject tract consists of approximately 163 acres located at the confluence of Cypress Creek and Little Cypress Creek on the west side of North Eldridge Blvd. CCFCC is the main organization representing the community. The estimated 3,030 acre-feet capacity is a significant shortfall from the 15,930 acre-feet recommended in this reach of the main channel (Per the l984 TC&B watershed master plan adopted by Commissioners Court).
FEMA denied the three major appeals covering their newly plotted floodplains in the Cypress Creek watershed. This included the one filed by CCFCC. CCFCC argued the case, successfully overcoming FEMA’s position that the requested recalibration “is not warranted.” However, FEMA advised HCFCD and CCFCC that they could not wait for the remodeling process to be carried out and would therefore proceed with publication of the erroneous maps, issue a Letter of Determination accordingly, and that the desired recalibration should be accomplished locally, and then presented to them through a Letter of Map Change process.
In the FEMA/HCFCD “Home Buy-out” program to reduce flood losses within the Cypress Creek watershed, six additional homes were purchased during the year. This brought the total buy-out since inception to 216 homes with fifty-four additional pending applications in process.
In November, the CCFCC Board was advised by HCFCD management that the Part 5, overall watershed planning process was ongoing with “reconnaissance/conceptual level planning expected to be completed in 2006, and that an overall “detailed watershed plan was to be completed in 2007/2008.” (Note: In January 2007, an informal review indicated this would require another two to three years to complete).
In an end-of-the-year assessment covering preservation, CCFCC was advised that the Katy Prairie Conservancy has acquired 17,000 acres of their 50,000-acre goal in the Upper Watershed. HCFCD advised CCFCC they do not intend to acquire the 20,000 acres of land for flood mitigation detention as recommended in the l984 master plan; that it is “a guide for furthering the infrastructure whether that is done by HCFCD, developers, and/or other governmental entities that are building things like roads.” They further advised that a total of 3,204 acres had been acquired in fee or flooding easements in the Upper Watershed at location K-500-07-00.
2004 CCFCC’s efforts to identify funding sources for multi-use flood mitigation/recreation trails and parks was rewarded when Representative Bill Calamari, Sen. Jon Lindsay, and Joe B. Allen succeeded in helping pass Senate Bill 624 (a State of Texas constitutional amendment changing Chapter 49 of the Water Code), which allowed the legislature to authorize certain MUDs to develop and finance parks and recreational facilities. Harris County is one of the eleven Texas counties affected.
The Criteria Manual for the Design of Flood Control and Drainage Facilities in Harris County, adopted by Commissioners Court in l984, was replaced in October by a revised manual. During the public review and comment period which preceded adoption, CCFCC and other organizations took a strong position that the regulatory maximum allowed detention outflow release rate for large developments was excessive. It exceeded the regulatory rate applicable in Ft. Bend County (and certain other locations) by a factor of ten and was deemed to be a contributor to out-of-banks flooding. The effort to reduce the release rate was unsuccessful, thereby allowing the regulatory release rate to remain unchanged at the same level as had been allowed since 1984.
Several well-established non-profit organizations and community leaders within Harris County sought Commissioners Court approval for technical peer review/recommendations on the detention release rate by an expert independent of HCFCD, the City of Houston, and Harris County. A $100,000 proposal to do this was obtained from Rice University, but it was refuted by Harris County elected officials. Negotiations concluded with a compromise agreement wherein Commissioners Court approved an undertaking in which Harris County, the City of Houston, TxDOT and HCFCD came together to perform what is known as the “Urban Stormwater Management Study.” The published purpose of this $2 million-plus, 2-year project is to: 1) “Confirm or recommend updates to existing drainage policy, regulation, and design criteria based on technical analysis of the elements that make up the urban storm water conveyance system,” and 2) “Improve communication with the community regarding flooding and drainage issues.” CCFCC became a participating “Stakeholders Committee” member.
Planning for the Cypress Creek Greenway project began.
CCFCC funded a technical review/analysis of the hydrologic and hydraulic models used to calculate new floodplain locations and depths for the floodplains in the Cypress Creek Watershed as shown on FEMA’s new maps. This analysis identified significant inaccuracies in predicted floodwater levels in the Katy-Hockley area resulting in an appeal filed on behalf of the watershed communities. Appeals were also filed by the Sierra Club and Harris County Voters Against Flooding.
2003 In February, a final report was published, and in April, the Stakeholders committee meeting was held concerning the TWDB/HCFCD engineering analysis and recommendations covering the nine principal Cypress Creek tributaries. The plan was later deemed to be invalidated (to an unknown extent) because, contrary to a CCFCC recommendation, regulations was not developed to avoid tracts of land designated for use as key regional detention sites from being developed.
Houston Endowment awarded a $20,000 grant to CCFCC to assist in financing CCFCC’s share of the cost for the “Future Conditions Flood Hazard Boundary” computer modeling/analysis.
2002 The HCFCD Planning Department agreed with CCFCC’s request to undertake a computer modeling study to simulate where the 100-year floodplains (as designated in the TSARP project floodplain maps) will grow in size under full urban development conditions. This study, which encompasses the entire Cypress Creek watershed, will produce information not otherwise available that will be critical to long-term flood protection planning. It can also be used to measure the effectiveness of proposed regional detention basins and other flood mitigation measures prior to such measures being constructed
This computer modeling, called the Future Conditions Flood Hazard Boundary Project, will begin in February 2004 when TSARP’s basic data becomes available. The findings will be utilized in determining the recommended plan and costs under Part 5 and Part 6 respectively of the Cypress Creek Watershed Stormwater Master Plan.
The Corps of Engineers extended an offer to CCFCC to participate in a reassessment study up to $5 million subject to CCFCC locating a government sponsor. HCFCD unofficially refused to participate (for unknown reasons).
2001 The June 2001 Tropical Storm Allison disaster was the impetus for a joint FEMA/ HCFCD undertaking to update all Harris County FIRMs and related flood hazard maps. Preliminary maps were expected to be released for public review in January 2004. This $25 million project called the “Tropical Storm Allison Recovery Project” (TSARP) included the entire Cypress Creek Watershed and constituted Part 4 of the Cypress Creek Watershed Stormwater Management Plan. (visit www.tsarp.org ).
CCFCC, participating as a member of TSARP’s “Stakeholders Committee,” expressed concerns to FEMA and HCFCD about the flood maps being produced based on urban development as of 2001.
HCFCD announced they were beginning a five-year regional planning program for the watershed called the Cypress Creek Watershed Stormwater Management Plan consisting of six parts scheduled to be completed by the end of 2005. The “Primary Tributaries Study” being developed under the joint HCFCD/Texas Water Development Board (see description under 2000 below) would constitute Part 1 and Part 2.
The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1842, which created the West Harris County Regional Water Authority. WHCRWA was given the responsibility for halting land subsidence in West Harris County, which includes that portion of the Cypress Creek watershed not already encompassed by the North Harris County Regional Water Authority.
2000 In February, the CCFCC determined that the Texas Water Development Board had grant money available for “contracts to develop flood protection plans for areas in Texas.” The CCFCC encouraged “cash-strapped” HCFCD to apply, in part due to “accelerating land subsidence in Northwest Harris County during the last decade, which is increasing at an even greater rate due to the rapid formation of new MUDs created to provide well water for urban development in the area.” One of several reasons for concern: “Subsidence has not been programmed into the computer models used for predicting flood elevation levels in this watershed.”
A grant application was successfully submitted resulting in the Texas Water Development Board and HCFCD co-sponsoring a flood reduction study plan covering nine primary tributary streams in the watershed. The goal was to develop multi-purpose water corridors for stormwater detention, recreation, parks, and wildlife preservation. The study was completed in March 2003 with a recommended $350 million plan published for public review and comment . CCFCC participates in this project as a member of the “Citizens Advisory Committee.”
1999 The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2965 creating the North Harris County Regional Water Authority (subject to voter ratification which occurred in January 2000).
A grass roots movement of community residents and organizations (triggered by the October 1998 flood) resulted in the formation of the Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition (CCFCC). Its Charter reflected their conclusion that land subsidence, stormwater flooding, and greenway preservation throughout the length of the watershed’s riparian corridor were interrelated issues solvable in concert with each other
1998 A major flooding event in October (resulting in the flooding of an even greater number of homes and neighborhoods than in the October 1994 flood), triggered an undertaking by watershed residents and community organizations to determine why Harris County officials were not providing effective flood mitigation measures. They were told, “We don’t have the money to do what you want.” This led to a grass roots formation of the Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition (CCFCC) a year later.
The Corps of Engineers GRR report was completed and published in July. It stated that the purpose of this reevaluation “was to re-evaluate the viability of providing flood protection measures to attenuate flooding based on the current desires of the local sponsor,” expressed when the approved project funded in l988 was not implemented. USACE estimated that there were 1,500 structures within the 100-year floodplain (Source: Water Ways, published by HCFCD, October 1997). In 1999, at CCFCC’s request, the Harris-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) cross-checked the validity of USACE’s number. Their study revealed approximately 5,424 structures in the 100-year floodplain. The basis for this significant variance, perhaps due to “mapped” versus slab elevations, has not been studied by CCFCC.
The GRR report stated that “the full range of nonstructural measures were evaluated for possible use,” which included raising structures and buy-out for the 50%, 20%, 10%, and 2% floodplains. The number of structures that would be subjected to floods of the different frequencies resulted in the following findings.
- 50% floodplain (2-year frequency) – one damageable structure
20% floodplain ( 5-year frequency) -six damageable structures
10% floodplain (10-year frequency) – 189 damageable structures
2% floodplain ( 50-year frequency) – 337 damageable structures
Note: Watershed homes that have flooded in recent storms where CCFCC has obtained records totaled:
- May 1989 – 550 homes flooded
June 1989 – 270 homes flooded
October l994 – 410 homes flooded
October 1998 – 275 homes flooded
June 2001 – Over 1,000 homes flooded (HCFCD estimate)
(Source: Oct 1998: Fax from HCFCD to CCFCC dated 01/04/99. Previous numbers per Water Ways, published by HCFCD, October 1997)
Note: HCFCD reports that flood reduction actions resulting from the USACE participation on Cypress Creek have been the acquisition/demolition of thirty-four of the most flood prone homes along the main channel. In March 2003, HCFCD reported that under the Home Buy-out Program, about 150 of the most flood-prone houses along Cypress Creek had been acquired; that the current five-year capital funds plan had $6 million specifically programmed for continuing buy-out in the Cypress Creek Watershed over the next five- year period; that the five-year capital funds plan had $60 million for county-wide buy-out not earmarked for any specific watershed, and that a pending application to FEMA included about 100 candidate houses in the Cypress Creek Watershed at a cost of about $17 million.” (Reference: Flow, a report enclosed with a letter dated February 27, 2003, to CCFCC from Michael D. Talbott, Director, HCFCD).
1997 The Corps of Engineers announced their general re-evaluation study has been completed; that no structural plans met federal benefit-cost requirements; and that they would only participate in the Cypress Creek watershed on the basis of “buy-out” of homes that have frequent flood damage.
1995 Turner Collie & Braden completed work and issued a report to HCFCD in January titled, “The Cypress Creek Flood Control Study,” which consisted of preliminary hydraulic and hydrologic analysis of flood control alternatives formulated for specific selected “high damage” areas between the mouth of Cypress Creek and Cypress Bend. The selected areas had been identified in pre-project reconnaissance studies by USACE and HCFCD engineers (as listed below under the USACE 3rd project authorized in 1994). Structural alternatives were recommended for three sites (Site “B” with a B/C of 1.37, Site “D” with a B/C of 1.82 and alternate at B/C of 0.84. and Site “G” with a B/C of 1.96).
1994 The Harris County Commissioners Court authorized a third study project by the Corps of Engineers referred to as the “General Reevaluation” study. The goal: “To define an implementable flood damage reduction plan that meets the criteria for Federal participation” (i.e., is economically justified plus environmentally and technically feasible). This third approach was to selectively focus on specific “high damage” reaches and develop a specific plan for each of the ten reaches which had been selected. They were:
- Reach A: Between Cypresswood and Treaschwig
Reach B: Upstream of Aldine-Westfield
Reach C: Upstream of I-45
Reach D: Between I-45 and Kuykendahl
Reach E: Upstream of Kuykendahl
Reach F: Between SH-249 and Grant
Reach G: Between Grant and Huffmeister
Reach H: Near Huffmeister
Reach I: Downstream of Telge
Reach J: Between Telge and U.S. 290
Mouth to U.S. 290: (Home Buy-outs)
The study was to be in two phases. USACE’s report issued in July 1998 stated the primary purpose of the reevaluation, “was to reevaluate the viability of providing flood protection measures to attenuate flooding based on the current desires of the local sponsor”…these being as expressed when the approved project funded in l988 was not implemented.
The General Reevaluation Report and Environmental Assessment and Appendices report dated July 1998 concluded that “the most cost effective, implementable plan, which satisfies the identified planning objectives, was found to be a flood damage reduction plan that consists of mandatory permanent evacuation of the 20% floodplain. The plan has a benefit-cost ratio of 1.3 and would involve the removal of forty structures at an estimated cost of $4.9 million (1997 dollars).” The Federal/HCFCD share would be $3.7 million and $1.2 million, respectively (Note: Turner Collie & Braden also undertook a study which paralleled the USACE general reevaluation study. See 1995 above).
A major flooding event occurred in October resulting in flood waters entering the homes of residents throughout the 27-mile length of the watershed between its mouth and upstream to the US 290 bridge crossing.
1992 Jones & Carter. Inc. issued the study, Implementation Plan and Strategy for Cypress Creek Watershed, for HCFCD which presented an interim implementation plan and strategy to allow continued urbanization in the watershed. This plan recommends the use of a series of controlled floodplain storage projects on publicly owned land along Cypress Creek. The Watershed Management Strategy establishes seven management zones to oversee future development and the regional plan of improvements along Cypress Creek (The regional plan of improvements was originally identified in the Master Drainage Plan for the Cypress Creek Watershed, Turner Collie & Braden, Inc. l984 plan). The management strategy recommended that the regional plan of improvements in the original master plan be reexamined and updated as necessary for current technical social, environmental, and fiscal considerations. (Source: Flood Protection Planning Grant Application, March 30, 2000, pg. 13, submitted by HCFCD in association with CivilTech Engineering, Inc. to the Texas Water Development Board).
Corps of Engineer activities were suspended when HCFCD did not support the project being developed. “Their expressed desire was for a plan less structural in nature, less comprehensive, and more environmentally sensitive.” (Source: USACE GPR Report, Syllabus, July 1998; Click here to view).
1991 U. S. Army Corps of Engineers developed another plan, a 10-year level of protection plan calling for the construction of a “high flow” channel, sixteen miles long between Spring Creek upstream to Steubner-Airline Road. Estimated cost: $48 million (1991 dollars). HCFCD reported it was not implemented because of concerns regarding environmental impacts and recurring maintenance problems caused by constructing the “high shelf” through lenses of sugar sand plus the potential adverse flooding impact on Spring Creek.
Vansickle, Michelson & Klein, Inc. published Cypress Creek Upper Regional Detention Study. The study was prepared for HCFCD. A main objective of this study was to analyze the impact of known improvement projects within the upper regions of the Cypress Creek watershed and to identify possible first phase projects that would eliminate Cypress Creek sheet overflows into Addicts Reservoir (Note: It is CCFCC’s understanding that Addicks Reservoir was originally constructed based on a design which accommodated this overflow). The known improvement projects identified for the upper watershed were generally found to reduce 100-year flood levels along Cypress Creek. The report evaluated several alternative plans of improvement to eliminate the overflow from the main channel of Cypress Creek, the hydrologic and hydraulic impact to the downstream flows and flood levels along Cypress Creek, and the mitigation plan to offset these impacts. The report recommended that a 7,500-acre levee be constructed upstream of Katie-Hockley Road (Alternative 3) The source document said this plan effectively eliminated Cypress Creek overflow and mitigated any adverse effects on downstream flood flows. This plan is consistent with the Master Drainage Plan; however, it has not been implemented by HCFCD (Source: Flood Protection Planning Grant Application, March 30, 2000, submitted by HCFCD in association with CivilTech Engineering, Inc. to the Texas Water Development Board).
1990+ HCFCD constructed the Iverness Forest Levee Project consisting of a one-mile levee embankment, an internal drainage system of detention basins and pumping station, mitigating channelization, and environmental enhancements. It provided protection for 136 homes (Source: Water Ways, published by HCFCD, October 1997).
1986 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) presented a plan covering channel construction between the mouth of Spring Creek and U.S. Highway 290 for protection against 10-year frequency floods. It included recreation and environmental mitigation plans. Right-of-way to accommodate the channel ranged from 150 to 350 feet wide. The initial cost estimate was $125 million (1986 dollars). Congressman Bill Archer successfully got the project approved and funded in the Water Resources Act of l988 (PL 100-676). Twelve years later, USACE reported that Harris County no longer supported the 1986 plan because they “desire a project which is less structural and more environmentally pleasing.” HCFCD said the plan was not implemented “due to concerns that a wider Cypress Creek would cause adverse flooding impacts on Spring Creek,” and that “as time went on, the federal economic justification could no longer be met.”
On November 18, 1986, the HCFCD Director submitted a letter to Commissioners Court advising that the TC&B master drainage plan was nearing completion and “has been performed in conformance with the criteria established by the District’s drainage policy for the Cypress Creek Watershed” and “will present a reasonable approach to stormwater management and will include a regional detention plan in conjunction with…”
The letter recommended and Commissioners Court approved a $4,000 per acre contribution (impact fee) to be collected from developers in Cypress Creek watershed noting, “Adjustments to this amount may be necessary to take into fact inflation and actual project costs”…”The regional program for the Cypress Creek watershed will provide a drainage system utilizing all present facilities”… and “although the regional detention facilities will be large in size, [they will] have [the] potential to serve as recreational sites.”
1985 Floodplain mapping for FEMA adoption was officially approve in September and published in the FEMA Flood Insurance Study.
1984 Turner Collie & Braden published the HCFCD Master Drainage Plan for Cypress Creek Watershed (July 1984). A report which covered Phase I and II of the plan stated that it reflected conditions existing in the watershed in l982. Note: This was the most current drainage plan for the watershed as of 2003 and was approved as such by the Harris County Commissioners Court. It provides a 100-year flood event level of protection based on full urban development of the watershed. Construction cost of the recommended plan is $732 million (l984 dollars). The basic mitigation approach recommended is detention and emphasizes that priority be placed on acquisition of the land needed for detention.
HCFCD implemented a stormwater detention policy requiring new developments greater than ten acres to construct on-site detention ponds designed such that the peak run-off would not exceed that which would occur during a 100-year storm under pre-project/undeveloped conditions. A land-use inventory was performed to identify developments build prior to 1984 in order to classify the developed areas as having on-site detention or no detention
1982 Harris County Commissioners Court authorized a master watershed drainage and environmental study plan prepared by Turner Collie & Braden. In a grant proposal to the Texas Water Development Board eighteen years later, HCFCD stated “the primary purpose of this study was to develop a master drainage plan designed to facilitate future development without adversely impacting existing developed areas in the watershed.”
It further stated that implementation had not occurred due to insufficient money and that the plan contained components, “that are not feasible or publicly acceptable.”
1980 Harris County Commissioners Court approved a Policy Statement for Flood Control Improvements and an Outline of Stormwater Management Design Criteria. In a letter from HCFCD transmitting the policy statements, the court was provided a briefing on county-wide drainage matters. The letter stated that when Harris County joined the National Flood Insurance Program, “It became the District’s goal to provide adequate flood control measures to eliminate the 100-year floodplain from areas outside the banks of the drainage channels in the county’s developed areas. Where development had not yet created flood-prone situations within the l00-year flood plain, the District’s objective is to provide facilities adequate to accommodate new development so that existing development will not be subjected to flooding by a l00-year event.” (Source: Letter dated November 20, 1980, to the Harris County Commissioners Court from James B. Green, P.E. Director, HCFCD). (Click to view letter and the attached Policy Statement Exhibit).
1975 Land subsidence centered in southern Harris and Galveston Counties had been accelerating at an alarming rate for a decade. Industrial groundwater usage was a major culprit. The possibility of moving NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center from the Clear Lake area was being seriously considered. This phenomenon led to the creation of the Houston-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District (now called Houston-Galveston Subsidence District) by the Texas Legislature in May 1975 with the authority to regulate withdrawal of underground water from the area’s aquifers.
1973 Harris County became a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and adopted flood plain regulations relative to the 1% (100-year) flood plain.
1950s HCFCD channelized and straightened thirty miles of Cypress Creek from its confluence with Spring Creek to U.S. Highway 290. In the ensuing years, erosion and deposition of the “sugar sands” through which the creek flows caused the majority of the creek to “take a natural, undisturbed appearance.” (Source: Water Ways, published by HCFCD, October 1997).
1946 The Flood Control Act of 1946 authorized and directed preliminary examinations and surveys for flood mitigation on Cypress Creek.
1937 The Texas Legislature created the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD).
The Flood Control Act of 1937 authorized flood mitigation efforts on the San Jacinto River and its tributaries. Cypress Creek is a tributary of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.