Over 300 people joined a virtual public meeting called by the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) on the evening of Oct. 20 to learn about the much-anticipated Kingwood Drainage Study. It was formally made public at the meeting. Matt Zeve, the project manager and deputy executive director of HCFCD, presented a thorough overview of the 600-page report, complete with maps and explanations of the study’s findings. The purpose of the study was to identify the existing flooding concerns of all the Kingwood area streams and open channels and develop a strategy to try to Kingwood get to what is called a 100-years level of service.
“The majority of the San Jacinto River watershed is actually located outside of Harris County,” Zeve said. He explained how that fact makes a complete understanding of how all the rainfall, both outside of and within Kingwood, drains through Kingwood on its way to the San Jacinto River. That understanding is essential to reduce flooding in the future.
“The Kingwood drainage-area network includes all the paths the stormwater takes, from raindrops first hitting the ground to stormwater flowing out of the Kingwood area and into channels that move into Lake Houston,” Zeve said.
The beginning-to-end analysis includes the characteristics of land areas, such as degree of slope, and noted that the whole drainage area is generally a flat, slow-draining landscape. He included the importance of understanding how the structures on the land influence the way the water naturally flows. Since development first began decades ago that flow has been greatly altered. The study includes an inventory of flood-prone structures and also accounts for how the water flows from roof gutters and French drains and into the yards of property owners to get to the roads that are built in ways to direct the water from the storm drains to drainage ditches and bayous.
Zeve explained that the flood criteria for regulations establishing drainage in Kingwood has evolved over time. Most of the criteria currently used for development has been more tightly defined since around the year 2000. As a result, many of the older neighborhoods in the Kingwood areas to the west are at a greater risk of flooding because the original design for drainage did not adequately provide for extreme events as well as today’s standards.
“We analyzed 19 different channels. Nine were identified as not having a 100-year level of service,” Zeve said.
A 100-year level of service is defined as drainage criteria administered by the City of Houston and complemented by Harris County and the HCFCD to provide adequate drainage to prevent structural flooding from a 100-year storm event.
Zeve explained that the study makes it possible to prioritize projects and the order of work to be done within those projects. He pointed out that there are several major drainage systems where the channels need to be improved; the Kingwood Diversion Ditch; Bens Branch, where some but not all needed work is already funded and underway; the Kings Crossing Ditch; and Taylor Gully in the northeast part of Kingwood. Zeve reviewed detailed slides of the recommended improvements for each of the areas in detail.
“It is important to remember that there is no single solution to reduce flooding in the Kingwood area. Each recommended improvement will provide incremental benefits to the area and each recommended improvement may take years to implement, and some will require coordination with other entities, such as the City of Houston,” said
The meeting moderator, Sheldra Brigham of the HCFD Communications Team, began a question-and-answer session using written questions in advance by attendees. They were answered by Zeve, William Conlan, also a project manager for the study, and others, including Stan Sarman of the Houston Redevelopment Authority and Tax Increment Zone No. 10. Questions ranged from how often drainage ditches were normally mowed to minimize obstruction (three times a year), to more technical questions on individual areas included in the study.
A lady named Louann asked a more general question: “Why are we still in the first stages of feasibility two years past the bond election?”
Zeve answered, “We get asked that a lot. Believe it or not, this project moved very quickly compared to other feasibility studies of this size and complexity. The bond election passed in August 2018. The flood control district did not receive funding until November 2018 and then we were able to start projects in December 2018 and January 2019. So, there was quite a bit of work that took place, and this feasibility study was done on schedule and on budget.”
Zeve also pointed out that HCFD already has funding to move to preliminary engineering after the study is finalized following input received from this meeting.
The complete Kingwood Drainage presentation shown in the virtual meeting and a video of the meeting, including the questions and answers to the many questions, is available on the following HCFCD website, hcfcd.org/Find-Your-Watershed/San-Jacinto-River/F-14-General-Drainage-Improvements-Near-Kingwood.
Updates to the project will be maintained on this website as projects progress.