Officials Working to Develop Reservoir to Mitigate Future Floods

By George Slaughter

This representation of the 1940 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Flood Control Plan shows where the Cypress Creek flood levee wouldhave gone had it been completed, and gives an idea for where a proposed reservoir would go instead. it was included in a engineering study being prepared for the City of Katy.

Federal, state, and local officials know some things take time to get done. But U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul said time was “not on our side” when it comes to developing a Cypress Creek reservoir to mitigate future flooding after Hurricane Harvey.

At a Friday news conference at Katy City Hall, McCaul, Mayor Chuck Brawner, state Rep. Mike Schofield, and Col. Lars Zetterstrom of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spoke about plans to develop such a reservoir.

McCaul estimated the project, if and when approved, would take five to 10 years to complete, but emphasized that he and others were working to streamline the procedures and processes to move as quickly as possible.

“My goal is to light a fire” to get it done, McCaul said.

“We can’t wait a decade to move forward on this,” Schofield said.

McCaul said this solution would be neither easy nor cheap. The Katy Prairie Conservancy owns some of the land where the proposed reservoir would go, though the property is undeveloped.

McCaul said a “ballpark figure” for the reservoir would be between $550-600 million.

McCaul, R-Austin, is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and also has much of the Katy area in his district. Schofield, R-Houston, also has much of the Katy area in his district. Zetterstrom is a district commander with the Corps of Engineers, and is based in Galveston.

Officials are responding to a situation that was first raised over 70 years ago.

In 1940, the Corps of Engineers planned for the creation of a flood levee just south of Cypress Creek. The levee, when completed, would divert flood water from the creek should heavy rains or catastrophic storms occurred. The levee was never built, for what officials Friday said could have been a focus on other pressing issues of the day.

Had the levee been built then, the damage today would likely not have been as catastrophic. Zetterstrom said there was no way to quantify how much might have been saved. In any event, the levee wouldn’t work today.

Both McCaul and Schofield said addressing the Cypress Creek flooding issues affects not just the Katy area, but also Houston. Water from the overflowing Cypress Creek led to overfills of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. As a result, officials decided to release water from the reservoirs because they had overfilled too quickly as a result of the hurricane.

Work to modernize the Addicks and Barker dams had already begun last year, before the tax day flood.

In another topic McCaul wanted to address at the news conference, his committee has reported a border security bill out of committee. McCaul said he expects the full House to vote on the bill later this year. The bill includes, among other things, authorization for a wall to be built along the Texas-Mexico border.