February 7, 2019

Bellaire Master Drainage Concept Plan

It’s perhaps the most exciting flood control development for Bellaire in the nearly year and a half since Harvey, and it’s actually something we’ve been working toward since before Harvey.  It picks up where our last drainage study left off, transitioning from our local drainage system to the surrounding regional issues that affect it.  What makes it so exciting is the enthusiastic response and participation of our regional partners.

The Bellaire Master Drainage Concept Plan is the next step in the evolution of our approach to solving our flooding problem.  We first began improving our local drainage infrastructure around the year 2000, with the Bellaire Millennium Renewal bond program, followed by Rebuild Bellaire from 2005 through 2016.  Based on what we’d learned in those programs, and with the benefit of new data and our experiences in major storms along the way, we set out to further study and refine our thinking about the problem and possible solutions.

The City Engineer completed and presented our most comprehensive drainage study to date in September 2016, which laid out a new local strategy for our current bond program, Bonds for Better Bellaire 2016.  Most notable are the introduction of upsized storm sewers to provide underground detention capacity at strategic locations, and backflow prevention devices at major outfalls.  Beyond its local focus, the 2016 study began to quantify significant regional contributors to flooding in Bellaire, and identified the inadequate north/south arterials as the logical next targets for improvement.  Not only are they severely undersized relative to our own drainage needs, we’ve got the engineering data to show there are large volumes of sheet flow coming from outside Bellaire, from perhaps as far away as the Westpark Tollway at Gessner Rd., that we’re forced to deal with.  That gives us something to work with in seeking the participation of our regional partners, in studying the problem and then devising and funding the solutions.

We’ve thus taken the lead in collaborating with the Harris County Flood Control District and TxDOT in developing the Bellaire Master Drainage Concept Plan.  Building on the scope of work we first envisioned, they brought their own ideas to the table and the project has grown, from $315,000 to a little over $700,000.  Subject to final approval by their respective governing bodies, the contemplated funding allocation is 18% from Bellaire, 63.6% from Harris County Flood Control and 18.4% from TxDOT.  The study is estimated to take about 10 months to complete.  Lots of potential solutions will be thoroughly evaluated, and the necessary data compiled to support our requests for funding, including federal grant applications.

In conjunction with our annual State of the City on Monday, we hosted a town hall meeting to present the Plan.  It prompted an excellent discussion, with thoughtful questions and comments from the public, with several offering their own ideas for potential solutions.  Some of those are already included in the project scope, while others may be more appropriate for outside study but are not in any way incompatible with what we’ll be doing.  We’re all in this together, and continued regional collaboration with public input is essential to finding the best answers.

Interlocal agreements with Harris County Flood Control and TxDOT for the Bellaire Master Drainage Concept Plan are currently under review, and we anticipate finalizing them in the next month or two following Commissioners Court approval.