Post Hurricane Harvey, residents and activists who fought to transform Clear Lake City's 178-acre golf course from a recreational tract to a detention pond were proved justified in their plan to protect the area from flooding.The suburb handled floodwaters better than most because of the repurposing of the former golf course.
It absorbed water so efficiently during the storm that The Washington Post highlighted the project in a Nov. 27 piece as a model for Houston and other cities to potentially follow.
"Millions of gallons of water that would have swamped streets or homes settled drama-free into the spot where crew had scooped out almost 34,000 cubic yard of dirt," read the Washington Post report.
The W-shaped reservoir is bounded by Reseda Drive on the north, Ramada Drive to the south and Diana Lane on the eastern edge. The project is a joint effort by Clear Lake City Water Authority and Exploration Green Conservancy, a nonprofit composed of active Clear Lake City area residents who want to see conservation, environmentalism and sustainable flood-measures in their area.
John Branch, president of the CLCWA, which manages water usage in the region, told attendees at a forum on flooding Tuesday evening that the project prevented more than 100 homes located around the course, from flooding. The project, begun in 2005, was only 80 percent complete when Harvey hit the area.
"It worked as designed," Branch said. "It filled to the banks with 100 million gallons of stormwater. All of those houses around the golf course would have been significantly under water."
He spoke at the Houston-Bay Area Storm Water Flooding Forum coordinated by University of Houston-Clear Lake Environmental Institute of Houston, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and grassroots community organizations Americans United in Action and Houston Region Concerned Citizens.Stephen Costello, chief resilience officer for the city of Houston, along with a panel of scientists, discussed the future of flooding in southeast Texas at NASA's Gilruth Center. The experts presented evidence on weather activity, global warming and took questions from the crowd regarding the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey and what the region can do to prevent similar levels of flooding in the future. Costello said that engineering efforts to allow for building on or near floodplains should be further explored.
"We have to think outside the box," Costello said, regarding innovative building strategies.
John Jacob, director of the Coastal Watershed Program at Texas A&M is on the advisory board to Exploration Green and was one of the panelists at the NASA meeting. He voiced different approaches to flood mitigation, advocating for moving development away from floodplains.
Jacob, who says a more traditional management of flood risk is best, said building homes in floodplains and erecting levees to protect residential areas is a "moral hazard."
"It incentivises people to do the wrong thing," Jacob said.
He acknowledged that although Harvey poured such an unprecedented amount of water over Houston that some flooding was inevitable, more could have been done.
"This was totally avoidable," Jacob said. "We have enough capacity in our floodplain to handle Harvey. We need to come to terms with floodplains."...Read more