Harris County Looks At Digging Storm Water Tunnels To Reduce Flood Risk

Houston’s low elevation and mix of soils present special challenges, raising the question of whether such a project is feasible with today’s technology.

Midtown Houston Harvey
Midtown Houston, Sunday morning, August 27, 2017

Could tunnels under Houston help reduce the risk of flooding during major rain storms? That’s the question Harris County hopes to answer. The county commissioners approved a study to determine whether building such large storm water tunnels is feasible.

The tunnels would range from 30 to 40 feet in diameter. Construction would have to dig 100 to 200 feet down, cutting through everything from clay to sand.

Why so deep? “Unfortunately, our land is very flat here,” says Russ Poppe, executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District, “and one of my requirements for making sure this is going to work is these tunnels have to work without the need for pumps during a rain event. They have to work by gravity.”

The study aims to determine whether such a project is doable with today’s technology and, if so, how much it would cost. Poppe says building such tunnels in other parts of the country has cost up to $100 million per mile.


Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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