June 5, 2019

From Local to Regional, Drainage Partnership Moving Forward

Our Master Drainage Concept Plan is now a step closer to getting underway, after the Harris County Commissioners Court voted yesterday to authorize the Flood Control District to engage in formal negotiations with us on an interlocal agreement.  This is a hugely significant development for Bellaire as we seek to mitigate the regional contributors to our flooding problem that we would never be able to tackle on our own, and are also what have the greatest impact on us in more extreme rainfall events.

In addressing the Court in support of the project I emphasized the distinction between the local and the regional, and that we need outside help in dealing with outside storm water:

On behalf of Bellaire I’m here to express our great excitement about this partnership, and our gratitude to Flood Control for working with us on it and to each of you for your consideration.  We’re so excited about this because we’re eager to take our flood control efforts to the next level—from the local to the regional.

We’re already doing everything we can locally.  Within our city limits we are systematically improving our streets and drainage through successive bond programs.  Over just the past 20 years we’ve invested more than $85 million in our local drainage infrastructure, and of course we’ll be continuing to do so for many years to come.  Also, starting with our current bond program that’s under construction right now we’re actually doing even more, by upsizing our storm sewers in strategic locations to a 100-year capacity, rather than the 2-year capacity that’s more typical of municipal design standards.  So again, we’re already doing everything we can locally, on our own, and are now turning our focus to the regional aspect of flood control.

Now, as we all know, flood waters do not follow jurisdictional boundaries.  It’s a regional problem requiring regional solutions.  Significantly, and this is a big part of why I’m standing here before you today, our topography directs sheet flow from the North and West down into and through Bellaire on its way out to Brays Bayou.  So those local improvements I mentioned a moment ago?  Well, in Bellaire we’re challenged with having to drain not only our own water, but also the large volume of water that’s flowing into and through our systems from the outside.  All of which only serves to highlight that, again, this really is a regional issue.  And it’s why the partnership as contemplated involves all three entities—Flood Control, TxDOT and the City—as we’ve all got a major stake in this.

The Master Drainage Concept Plan is just that, a concept plan.  It will analyze flooding throughout the area using a comprehensive hydraulic model, and will fully evaluate a number of potential improvement alternatives including preliminary cost estimates for each, to aid our shared decision making moving forward.  The Plan covers a wide regional area, which as you know was very hard hit in Hurricane Harvey, and also in other recent, regionally significant events like the Memorial Day and Tax Day Floods of 2015 and 2016, as well.

The Master Drainage Concept Plan is the next, very important step in our shared response to this shared problem.  I’m here to assure you Bellaire is committed to doing our part, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to work in partnership with Flood Control and TxDOT on achieving a win-win-win for all of us.

Commissioners Court authorization to negotiate is the first of a two-step approval process.  Now that we’ve reached this point with the County, we’ll also be working with TxDOT on getting an interlocal agreement finalized with them.  Given the agreed scope of work and well-defined geographic study area, the general framework for project participation among the three entities has already been determined at the staff level and we anticipate a relatively quick turnaround.  We look forward to getting back on the Commissioners Court agenda in the near future for final approval, so that we can get going right away on the study.