Energy & Environment

Brays Bayou Flood Control Project Moves Forward

A water diversion system along Willow Waterhole is part of a broader $480 million effort.

A view of the Willow Waterhole stormwater detention basin in southwest Harris County. Construction is beginning in a separate area to finalize the flood control system.

Harris County is making progress on a local flood control project. Crews are now working on the last part of a storm water retention basin located off South Post Oak Road, one of many efforts in the Houston area to keep streets and homes from flooding.

You probably already know that flooding is a major problem in the city, but you might not realize just how easily it can happen.

“When you get these intense, localized downpours, the street drains aren’t designed for much more than about two inches an hour,” says Gary Zika, Federal Projects Manager for the Harris County Flood Control District.

Zika says about 700,000 people live in the Brays Bayou watershed. A $480 million project aims to keep water out of homes in the area with a series of interconnected channels and retention ponds.

In about a year, the Willow Waterhole part of that system will be complete.

“It’s nature and gravity,” Zika says. “Water gets to a certain level, it overflows into the detention basin, and then when the water in the bayou goes down, the detention basins drain out.”

According to Zika, these detention systems can keep water levels in the bayous two or three feet lower during heavy rains, but he says they can’t control every storm.

“Even when we have our project done, you’re still going to have street flooding,” he says. “If you have a storm event that dumps four or five inches in an hour, not only will you have street flooding, but you’ll also have house flooding, because the water can’t even get into the bayous that fast.”

Still, the projects have had some success. Zika says the county found that during the deadly Memorial Day flooding of 2015, the Willow Waterhole system kept water out of about 5,000 homes.

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Travis Bubenik

Travis Bubenik

Energy & Environment Reporter

Travis Bubenik reports on the tangled intersections of energy and the environment in Houston and across Texas. A Houston native and proud Longhorn, he returned to the Bayou City after serving as the Morning Edition Host & Reporter for Marfa Public Radio in Far West Texas. Bubenik was previously the...

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