Water Park: Recreation Area Serves As Flood Control Tool

If you're driving on the west side of Harris county along the Beltway near Bellaire Boulevard, it's hard to miss Arthur Story Park. It's a shady oasis that serves as a popular recreation area, but is also a key part of the county's flood control strategy. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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Back in the mid 1980's, the Harris County Flood Control District began buying land along the upper reaches of Brays Bayou, mostly to build detention basins to hold floodwater, but also to create a recreation area that eventually became Arthur Storey Park. Now, that huge flood control project is nearly complete, with the final phase of excavation expected to be complete early next year. The Flood Control District's Heather Saucier says the mixed-use concept took a lot of planning.

"With this particular project, we worked with a landscape architect who was able to allow us to attain the amount of storage that we needed for stormwater, but at the same time have these different compartments of the basin excavated so that when complete it could become a really beautiful park, which is exactly what has happened here."

The park is a favorite for residents on the west side of town, with a full parking lot on most weekends, walking trails, a duck pond and playgrounds. Most visitors don't even realize the area around the park, a series of huge basins, serves as a key flood control device to keep water away from neighborhoods farther downstream.

"All of the different compartments or cells put together will hold what we call 3500 acre feet, and we use acre feet as a measurement because gallons is just too large, but essentially what that number equates to is just less than 2.5 Reliant Astrodomes of stormwater, which is a lot of water to be able hold back."

Rauof Farid is project manager of the larger Project Brays flood reduction plan. Standing a few hundred yards from where large earth movers are digging the latest detention basin, he says the park and flood control concept has worked well.

"It is a very good example of what can be done when you combine different activities, or different actions, with one project. This is will work very well as a flood reduction system and at the same time is a fantastic park facility. It has water features that are good for the birds and good for all the kind of wetland activities that we are planning here. It is a very good project."

Farid says this is not the only detention basin project along Brays Bayou.

"We have four regional detention basins like this. This is not the largest one. We have 300-acres at Eldridge, we have another one at Willow Waterhole. We have a somewhat smaller facility on Old Westheimer totalling 800-plus new acre feet of what we call detention, but what people will see as parkland."

The estimated cost of the entire basin project at Arthur Storey Park is $49 million.

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