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Bellaire works with other agencies to study drainage

January 7, 2019

The city of Bellaire is set to start a cooperative study to look at drainage and water flow both within its city limits and regionally.

Bellaire Director of Public Works Michael Leech presented details about the upcoming Master Drainage Concept Plan to the city council at its Dec. 17 meeting.

“This is a really exciting project for us. It’s going to enable us to study drainage from not a local perspective as we’ve traditionally done in the past but a regional perspective,” Leech said.

The Bellaire 2019 capital improvement is slated to fund 18 percent or approximately $126,000 of the Master Drainage Concept Plan, along with $130,000 from the Texas Department of Transportation and $446,000 from the Harris County Flood Control District for a estimated total of $702,000.

Leech said Bellaire also reached out to Houston about participating in the study. While Houston was unable to contribute financially, Leech said the two cities are working together on a different project studying the sub-watershed for Chimney Rock and that Houston offered access to reports and other helpful information.

After Harvey, Bellaire’s Flood Hazard Mitigation Task Force identified 32 priorities, including looking at how water areas from outside the city were contributing to its flooding issues.

“Drainage does not respect jurisdictional boundaries, so it’s important that we work with our neighbors and our partners to find solutions,” Leech said.

Leech presented a graphic from a city of Houston study that showed that water sometimes sheet flows from west of Bellaire into the Bellaire city limits, making flooding issues worse. Bellaire City Engineer James Andrews said looking at flooding events in 2001 and 2008, overland sheet flow from north of the Southwest Freeway and from as far west as Gessner has the potential to make its way through Bellaire while it heads toward the West Loop.

“So it’s important for us to identify where that water’s coming from and how much is coming,” Leech said. “That way as we develop this report, we can understand where the water’s going and where it’s from so that we can identify who the responsible party is and that they can participate financially in the solution.”

Engineering solutions and setting up the city for strategic funding through available grants are two main goals of the study, Leech said and added that it will largely be a cost-benefit analysis of how making X amount of investment will improve flood protection by Y.

Leech said real flood control in Bellaire would be no small task, that there were “no more low-hanging fruit in terms of simple and small drainage projects that we can do. To make a really big and effective dent in this problem, there are no more small potatoes, right? So we really have to think about how to fund this.”

Leech mentioned the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the Texas Department of Emergency Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Texas Water Development Board as some possible future funding partners.

The study should take about nine months, followed by a design phase of 18 to 30 months and then construction with a time frame yet to be determined, according to Leech.

Bellaire Council Member Neil Verma said he is looking forward to seeing real and effective improvements for the city of Bellaire and its citizens as a result of the work.

“I can’t think of another project that’s going to do more for this city, of any type of infrastructure or otherwise, that I’ve heard about or that I think I’ll hear about while I live in Bellaire, so this is really a big milestone moment for what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Verma said.

The Master Drainage Concept Plan will have a website led by Arkk Engineering with information, progress updates, graphics and space for public comment. There will also be four public meetings. The first will be at the town hall meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4, at the new city hall at 7008 S. Rice.

tracy.maness@hcnonline.com

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