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Woodlands drainage task force explores options after grant request is denied

November 28, 2018

A grant application that would allow the completion of a feasibility study for a Spring Creek flood detention reservoir has been denied — yet the interested parties have not given up on the project.

Members of The Woodlands Township Drainage Task Force discussed possible funding workarounds at a meeting of the large group on Tuesday.

Task Force Chairman Bruce Rieser seemed confident that despite the lack of money, the study still needs to be completed.

“We need to discuss what the next steps might look like. I still think we need to do this,” Rieser said of the study.

The grant had been submitted to the Texas Water Development Board by officials with the San Jacinto River Authority. It had two parts, the first of which was a proposed study to look for good sites to create flood detention areas, which are temporary water storage spots, along Spring Creek.

The creek is part of a watershed that spans almost 300 square miles and four counties, and includes The Woodlands area.

The 10 different Municipal Utility Districts in The Woodlands, which are managed by the Woodlands Joint Powers Agency, had pledged to contribute $400,000 proportionately for the study. The matching $400,000 in funds from the Texas Water Development Board is what was denied.

San Jacinto River Authority Division Engineer Shane Porter said agency officials are looking at other funding options to help bridge the gap between what has been pledged and what is still needed.

“In addition to the MUDS, the (Woodlands) township and Montgomery County, we’re going to continue knocking on doors and fund-raise to see if we can get additional funds,” Porter said at the meeting.

Alan Black, who is the engineering division director with the Harris County Flood Control District, offered a suggestion on where to find the money, the recently approved bond in Harris County.

“The Harris County bond election included $12.5 million for planning, right of way acquisition, design and construction of a reservoir along Spring Creek,” Black said. “Another suggestion is to ask us (to contribute funds).”

Chuck Gilman, the flood management director for the San Jacinto River Authority, said there were 38 applications to the Texas Water Development Board requesting more than $6 million for projects. Howver, only $1.8 million in funding was available to be doled out, he noted.

That’s why, Gilman added, he feels fortunate to have received money for the second part of the grant request — a tool that would help the SJRA in determining how and when to open Lake Conroe’s gates.

Gilman said the agency currently does manual calculations of lake levels based on several gauges, but the new tool would instead acquire data from precipitation forecasts and help officials to better anticipate the water levels in the lake.

The SJRA received a $150,000 grant for the new tool, and the agency will supply the matching $150,000 for the project.

“There’s a lot of need across the state for these dollars…we very much appreciate the support for this project,” Gilman said.

In regard to other projects, Jim Stinson with The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency reported that the agency was not able to lower the $7 to $9 million price tag on a Bear Branch area improvement project that was also recently denied funding.

With more hopeful news, Black shared that Harris County Engineering has activated a $50,000 sprint study in regard to preliminary planning for a Timarron-area flood wall, a project that has been discussed at previous meetings by Harris-Montgomery Counties MUD 386 representatives. Much of that district, which backs up to Spring Creek, was flooded by Hurricane Harvey.

There were two task force personnel changes made at the meeting. Zach Toups, who had represented MUD 386, has moved out of the MUD’s boundaries and therefore can no longer represent the district.

Toups said that he was excited about what has been going on in the district, such as the plans for a possible flood wall, as well as other plans to still keep up with the MUD even though he is no longer formally part of the board.

In terms of additions to the growing task force roster, Diane Cooper — Montgomery County’s floodplain administrator — was notified at the meeting that she is officially part of the task force.

The panel will not meet in December and instead plan to resume their monthly meetings in January.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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