|Harris County Flood Control Projects
Natural disasters occur throughout
the United States, with flooding being the number one threat
to Harris County. The county is generally flat, has impermeable
clay soils, and is prone to severe rainfall, which leads to flooding.
The Harris County Flood Control
District spends millions of dollars
each year building projects that reduce flooding risks and damages.
These projects include widening and deepening bayous and their
tributaries; excavating large, regional stormwater detention
basins that hold millions of gallons of stormwater; implementing
voluntary home-buyout programs to move families who live deep
in the floodplain and whose homes repeatedly flood; and maintaining
more than 2,500 miles of channel in the county – basically
the distance from Los Angeles to New York.
The Flood Control District’s
largest projects are taking place on Brays, Sims and White Oak
$483 million Project
the largest undertaking ever by the Flood Control
District in partnership with
the Army Corps of Engineers and consists of widening
21 miles of Brays Bayou, excavating four massive
stormwater detention basins, and replacing or modifying
To date, eight miles have been widened and two detention
basins along Brays Bayou near Old Westheimer Road
and Beltway 8 have been completed. A basin near the
and Eldridge Road, the largest in Harris County,
is about 65 percent complete. A basin in Westbury
Willow Waterhole Bayou is about 40 percent complete.
finished, the combined capacity of the four basins will be
equal to seven Reliant
Astrodomes of stormwater storage. That is water that would
otherwise overflow from Brays Bayou and cause substantial flooding.
Overall, Project Brays is about 40 percent complete and is
expected to reduce the size of the 100-year floodplain so that
an estimated 30,000 homes and businesses will no longer be
$379 million Sims
Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project
of widening and deepening 19 miles of Sims Bayou and replacing
or modifying 21 bridges. Led by the Army Corps of Engineers
in partnership with the Flood Control District, this project
is supplemented by three stormwater
detention basins built using local funds. To date, 14 miles
of Sims Bayou have been widened and deepened, and four miles
are currently under construction. Sixteen bridges have been
replaced or modified as well. The project is about 85 percent
complete. It is expected to free 35,000 homes and 2,000 businesses
from the 100-year floodplain.
The Flood Control District has spent approximately $75 million
reducing flood risks along White Oak Bayou by widening and deepening
the bayou from Cole Creek (near Tidwell Road) to Beltway 8 and
excavating 10 stormwater detention basins totaling roughly 1
billion gallons of stormwater storage. The district is building
the Jersey Village Channel, which will allow roughly 30 percent
of the water in White Oak Bayou to flow around the flood-prone
city of Jersey Village during times of heavy rain. There are
plans to further excavate several basins and to continue widening
and deepening White Oak Bayou from Beltway 8 upstream to F.M.
1960. The county is trying to qualify many of these projects
built with local funds as federal projects in order to leverage
Through its Voluntary
Home Buyout Program
, the Flood Control
District has bought approximately 2,500 homes which were deep
in the floodplain and repeatedly flooded. After helping homeowners
move to higher ground, the district demolished the flood-prone
homes along major bayous and streams throughout Harris County.
Today, the land remains vacant and functions as a natural floodplain.
Projects of the Flood Control District have spared thousands
of homes from flooding during times of heavy rain throughout the
years. Most recently, the district estimates that approximately
1,700 homes were spared from inundation on April 27-28, 2009, because
of projects in the Brays Bayou, White Oak Bayou, Cypress Creek,
Buffalo Bayou and San Jacinto River watersheds.
The Flood Control District also has ongoing capital projects
taking place along Halls, Hunting, Greens and Armand bayous and
on Goose and Spring creeks.
New Program for Non-emergency Transportation Service Set to Save Harris County Taxpayers Money
calls come in every day to the 911 call system in Houston
a quick response. There are, however, a disproportionate
number of calls for ambulance dispatch where the “emergency” turns
out to be a set of surgical stitches that needs removing
or a child’s croupy cough or a prescription that has
run out on needed medication.
In a time of shrinking tax revenues and limited community
resources, unnecessary requests for emergency services
mean squandered tax dollars and potential slower response
times for true emergencies.
|Since 2007, the Harris
County Healthcare Alliance (HCHA) has been working with community
agencies and stakeholders to identify types of non-emergency calls
to the 911 system and implement a centralized community nurse triage
operation in Houston/Harris County. A call diversion pilot program
was initiated in June 2008 called the 911 TeleHealth Nurse Triage
Program, administered by HCHA and the Houston Fire Department.
of the program determined that a major reason that people are
calling 911 is because they
lack transportation to
any type of medical care – emergency or not.
HCHA approached Harris County RIDES in late 2008 to jointly
develop and implement a pilot transportation program
to provide such services for residents going through
the 911 Tele-Health Triage program. RIDES, a program
of the Transit Services Division of the Harris County
Community Services Department, has a successful history
of providing niche alternative transportation throughout
Harris County. Through a RIDES’ taxi vendor, Yellow
Cab, patients who qualify with a non-emergency situation
will be provided the option of a no-cost, one-way trip
to the appropriate level of care.
Service started November 2, and RIDES expects to provide approximately
135 non-emergency trips a month during the one-year pilot.
The savings to taxpayers
are not insignificant. Each emergency dispatch costs approximately
$1750. Further, by lessening the diversion of emergency vehicles
and services for non-emergencies, those resources are freed to
respond to true 911 emergencies.
With success, the
pilot may provide a model for other areas of the country plagued
by the problem of overworked 911 systems by diverting non-emergency
calls and providing alternative transportation solutions.
|Repurposing the “Eighth Wonder of the World”
|What shall be done with the Astrodome?
Like an aging Hollywood
starlet, the Harris
County Domed Stadium
(yep, that’s its real name)
sits abandoned and nearly forgotten, hoping only for another chance
to recapture its former allure. And thanks to folks inside and
outside Harris County government, she may get her chance to do
Harris County Judge
Ed Emmett and other members of Commissioners Court have said repeatedly
that they want to revitalize the old stadium and reserve it for
a public use of some type. There had been talk of converting it
into a hotel, but there has been no progress on that proposal for
many months. In the meantime, though, other ideas have moved to
One of the most recent proposals, a study
of which was approved by Commissioners Court in June, is to convert
part of the 44-year-old stadium into a Science, Technology, Engineering
and Mathematics (STEM) Institute, which could also include a planetarium
and/or museum. Emmett and Commissioner El Franco Lee have said that
one of the advantages of the idea is that it would also leave room
in the Dome for other potential projects, including use as a venue
for many of the unique cultural, ethnic, and community festivals
county residents enjoy. In addition, supporters of using the stadium
as a movie, video, and music production studio have said they are
willing to work with those proposing the STEM Institute.
In short, nothing
has yet been decided for the future of Harris County’s “Eighth Wonder of the
World.” But it seems clear that progress is now being made
to convert it into a public, multipurpose facility of which
Harris County residents can again be proud.