January 31, 2017 Update
I’m writing to provide another update on what is being done to address the significant flooding that the Bear Creek community experienced last year. I know the frustration your community is feeling and while a resolution to this problem has not come as fast as any of us would like, as your Congressman I want to keep you informed and up to date about the progress that has been made so far.
The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) has formed a project team and begun surveying the Horsepen Creek area. They are focused on what can be done to ensure that increased development to the west and northwest of Bear Creek does not increase flooding in the future. On January 24, they also began conducting surveys, and survey crews will be out along the pilot project channels gathering information about topography and other factors important to the project. These surveys will help the Flood Control District evaluate various alternatives for repairing and maintaining the channels.
In addition, the Flood Control District hired the firm of Western Group Consultants to obtain survey data. This will take approximately 2-3 months to complete the work, weather permitting. The goal of this project, which was authorized by the Harris County Commissioners Court, is to determine the impact of the Tax Day flood impacts on the condition of the channels that carry storm water out of surrounding neighborhoods and into the federal reservoirs.
For more information regarding the Harris Country Flood Control District’s progress, please click here. In addition, the City of Houston has begun conducting additional technical analyses done on the hydraulics of the Clay Road Bridge opening. This analysis will address head losses through the Clay Road Bridge opening.
I will keep the community informed on all progress as we move forward.
Meeting with Mayor Turner
Last Wednesday, I was pleased to meet with Mayor Turner and his staff to discuss the Bear Creek community’s concerns with flooding. We discussed what we can do to work with the City of Houston to improve water flow under Clay Road/Langham Creek intersection. Mayor Turner was supportive of the community’s concerns and agreed to prioritize the area among his flood mitigation projects. I asked that he help to quickly get an engineering analysis conducted to determine the best and most practical engineering solutions to make modifications to the bridge and/or road in that area. I will continue to work with Mayor Turner and his office and appreciated his desire to help the community. I will keep the community informed on all progress as we move forward.
Langham Creek/ Clay Road
Many Bear Creek residents expressed their concerns that when Clay Road was rebuilt and raised not enough channels were installed under the road to get the water to the other side. They stated Clay Road is acting as a dam and consequently, increases flooding in the neighborhood. There is particular concern that the bridge over Langham Creek is too low and not enough water can flow underneath it. Many residents expressed their belief that there is a direct correlation between the engineering of the road and the prevalence of recent flooding events.
The City of Houston has indicated that they are willing to begin a study of the engineering regarding the bridge. If this analysis can confirm that the bridge is in fact creating a hazard, the City will work to fix the issue.
- Congressman Poe will work with the Mayor of Houston, the Mayor’s “Flood Czar” Stephen Costello and other local officials to quickly confirm the engineering of the bridge and push the City to make the needed repairs as soon as possible.
- Congressman Poe is exploring whether or not repairs/rebuilding of Clay Road could be eligible for a federal FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant. These grants go to projects that seek to mitigation damage from natural disasters like flooding. If we can confirm that Clay Road is a contributing factor to the flooding, then this could be a possible option to provide funding for the repair project.
Development Issues/ Inadequate Infrastructure
Many residents expressed concern about what can be done to ensure that increased development to the west and northwest of Bear Creek does not cause increased flooding in the future. The concern is that increased development upstream is causing increased water to flow into the Bear Creek area, and there is inadequate infrastructure to get all of this water through the neighborhood and into the reservoir.
The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) explained that there is a mandate for all new developments to have adequate green space and retention ponds. HCFCD is conducting a large scale de-silting analysis and project in the vicinity around Bear Creek that will help move more water through the channels and help keep water out of the community along with clearing brush and overgrown vegetation.
- Congressman Poe will continue to work with county officials and HCFCD to facilitate this process.
Possible Buy Outs?
Bear Creek residents who have experienced one or more flooding events asked for more information on the FEMA buy out process, why the community is currently not eligible, and what steps would need to be taken in order to make it eligible.
A representative from FEMA explained that it does not decide whether or not a community (or particular sections of a larger community) are eligible for a buy-out. This decision is made by local entities. In Bear Creek, the local entity best suited to make such an application would be the HCFCD. HCFCD can then apply for a grant but this application does not guarantee that it will be accepted. Because there are disadvantages to pursuing the buy-out process, the community needs to work together to come to a consensus on this option. Buying out streets or areas of Bear Creek will mean that these houses will be torn down and will no longer be contributing to the tax base or the HOA of the area. Removal of these homes may also negatively affect the property values of surrounding homes.
- Should the community come to a consensus that they would like to pursue this option, Congressman Poe will work with the community, HCFCD and FEMA to guide them and support them throughout the process.
Addicks Reservoir / Diversion to Houston
Many residents expressed concerns about the Addicks Reservoir and its stated purpose of protecting Houston and areas down Buffalo Bayou. Specifically, the residents want to understand how much water was let out of the reservoir during the flooding event and whether or not deepening and infrastructure improvements at the reservoir and dam could allow it to hold more water, allow greater flows into the Bayou, and thus mitigate flooding in a future rain event.
The Corps of Engineers explained that Rivers and Harbors Act of 1938 authorizes Addicks reservoir and states that the primary purpose of reservoir is to prevent flooding in the City of Houston. The Corps is limited by this law to how much water they can put through the dam and down the Bayou.
It is unlikely that this law will be changed given the large number of residents and commercial property that exists down the Bayou from the reservoir. It would also be a very slow process as the law would have to be changed by another law that passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law by the President.
However, short of altering the intended purpose of the reservoir, we can immediately work with the Corps to ensure that the reservoir functions more effectively, holds more water, and is much less likely to flood the Bear Creek neighborhood again. The first step in doing this is to fund a section 216 study which looks at the entire reservoir and determines the most effective actions to take to improve the operations of the facility.
- In order to address these concerns, Congressman Poe will do all that he can to ensure that the Corps of Engineers works on ways to allow Addicks Reservoir to hold more water so that it will not flood the surrounding neighborhoods in a future flooding event.
- Congressman Poe will request the appropriators in the House of Representatives to fully fund a Section 216 study for Addicks that will aim to improve the capacity of the reservoir and the infrastructure surrounding the facility in mid-November when Congress returns to session. Congressman Poe will also seek the support of our Senators to support this study in Senate legislation.
A few residents requested an update on what has been done since the flooding event to clean out and improve flow of waters in the sewer system in Bear Creek. Many residents observed water coming out back through the system during the event.
The sewers in the Bear Creek area are maintained and operated by the local MUD. Residents are encouraged to contact their local MUD directly to express their concerns.
A number of Bear Creek residents requested information on what floodplain the community is in and whether the mapping should be modified given the recent flooding events.
The flood map is maintained by FEMA, but it is based on data provided by HCFCD. There are advantages and disadvantages for a community to be included in the 100 year flood plain. Inclusion in the 100 year flood plain will make flood insurance more expensive but could also make obtaining FEMA buy-outs more likely.
- Congressman Poe will support the community if there is a consensus to move forward with the process of attempting to obtain FEMA buy outs and attempting to update the flood map. Then, Congressman Poe will support such an action and will work with HCFCD and FEMA to make such a request.
For residents who do not currently have flood insurance, please contact FEMA at 800-621-3362.
Bear Creek Case Work
Individual Casework – Need Help with FEMA?
If you were affected by the spring flooding events and are having trouble getting assistance with a federal agency, please contact my office at (281) 446-0242 and ask to speak with a caseworker. You will be asked to confirm that you are a constituent of the Second Congressional District and will then be asked to complete a privacy release form before we can contact an agency on your behalf.