Flood Water Restrictions Irk West U. Leaders

February 19, 2010

Drivers will probably celebrate in mid to late March as construction crews finish work on the Bellaire Boulevard bridge in Southside Place, which slows down traffic as cars merge to one lane. But some city leaders in West U. are not too happy about another slow down that will occur just as motorists get to speed up.

Bellaire Boulevard Bridge

Rain water drains out of West U. under the Bellaire Boulevard Bridge on Feb. 12. Contractors must install flood restrictors per an agreement with the Harris County Flood Control Agreement.

Construction crews are installing water restrictors under the bridge that are meant to slow down flood waters coming from inside West U., to ensure extra water in Poor Farm Ditch won’t negatively impact down-stream areas. The Harris County Flood Control District, which partnered with West U. and all adjacent cities on the Bellaire Boulevard drainage project, agreed to pay for improvements to the bridge with the agreement that the flood restrictors would be installed.

“They can’t allow more water to be flowing downstream at a faster rate without mitigating it,” said Heather Saucier, spokeswoman for the flood control district.

Mayor Bob Kelly said he is concerned about the flood restrictors, considering the city recently completed a massive drainage improvements project.

“The purpose of that was to get water out of West University Place,” Kelly said at the Feb. 8 city council meeting. “If you put the restrictors on there, then we’re not moving the water out of the city of West University Place we hoped to move out with that drainage project.”

Engineers with HDR Claunch & Miller, who designed the bridge improvements, said the restrictors will still allow West U.’s drainage system to function properly during normal rain storms. But the restrictors could back up the drainage system during rare, massive storms of the caliber of Tropical Storm Alison in 2001.

West U. is asking the district to remove the restrictors. Saucier said the district did hire consultant engineers to study how increased flood waters coming from Poor Farm Ditch would impact downstream drainage structures. Poor Farm Ditch drains into a water retention area in Houston called the Meyer Tract, and eventually reaches Braes Bayou.

“We really want everyone involved to take a look at this report,” Saucier said about the engineer’s study. “We’re trying to be respectful of all the parties in the process.”

West U. Public Works Director Chris Peifer said the city’s calculations showed that extra water from West U. would have minimal effects on downstream drainage facilities. But the information must go through all the bureaucratic channels and earn “the official stamp” to get rid of the flood restrictors, Peifer said.

“We need to reap the full benefit,” he said. “And the full benefit of all these projects is going to be with unrestricted flow and detention.”

At the Feb. 8 council meeting, Kelly said he wanted to make it clear the flood restrictors were being installed against the city’s will.

“We still hope we’re going to work this out before we get into the real dangerous season,” Kelly said.

Hurricane season officially begins in June.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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