City of Houston’s largest proposed flood mitigation project gets initial FEMA funding

FEMA has approved initial funding for the City’s proposed $131 million North Canal flood mitigation project, which is apparently the largest storm disaster prevention endeavor in Texas, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced today.

The North Canal, which has been considered for many years, plays an integral role in reducing flooding to the central business district and areas west of downtown, upstream along White Oak and Buffalo Bayous. The project will include rerouting White Oak Bayou along downtown, an overflow channel east of downtown, and bridge and channel improvements along Yale Street and Heights Boulevard to provide additional water conveyance capacity.

The funding calls for completion of the project in 2022.

“More than two years after Hurricane Harvey, federal government funding is flowing into Houston to save lives and protect property on a massive scale,” Mayor Turner said. “The North Canal is a landmark project, developed by the City, to minimize the devastation that may come with the next big storm.”

Local match funding for the federal grant is $25 million from the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority and $20 million each from the City, the Harris County Flood Control District and the Texas Department of Transportation.

In August, FEMA awarded the first set of federal grants to the City for the $46.9 million Inwood Forest Stormwater Detention Basin at the former Inwood Golf Course in Northwest Houston and the first phase of the $47.1 million Lake Houston Dam Spillway Improvement Project.

The Inwood project will protect over 4,400 structures in the White Oak Bayou and Vogel Creek watersheds. The City and county aim to build 12 floodwater detention basins to hold a total of about 1,200 acre-feet of water (roughly 592 Olympic swimming pools, or enough water to fill the Astrodome).

The City and the flood control district acquired the former golf course in 2011 as a potential flood mitigation facility. The project would take seven or eight years without recent federal funding.

The Lake Houston Dam project will add 10 gates to the dam to allow for larger controlled releases of water in advance of heavy rains, protecting about 35,000 residents and 5,000 structures. The FEMA grant provides $4.3 million for the initial phase and positions the city to receive $42.7 million for construction, with a goal of completion by 2022.

Another City-proposed flood mitigation project still awaits funding approval from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for a $60 million subterranean stormwater detention facility in the Memorial City area.

Mayor Turner continues to thank the City’s congressional delegation, state officials, City Council members and his staff for working together to open the federal funding stream for Houston.

The City started filing mitigation paperwork with FEMA in the first half of 2018, soon after Congress appropriated disaster relief and recovery funds in reaction to the devastation from Harvey and other 2017 hurricanes.