Officials Could Have Drainage Study By End Of Week

March 24, 2010

The city of West University Place by the end of this week expects to receive a copy of a drainage study that the Harris County Flood Control District previously refused to disclose to InstantNewsWestU.

InstantNewsWestU requested a copy of the drainage study in mid February after city leaders became concerned that flood restrictors on the Bellaire Boulevard Bridge in Southside Place would stop intense flood waters from fully draining out of West U. The study researches how more flood water from drainage improvements on Bellaire Boulevard would affect down-stream areas like Poor Farm Ditch, a water detention area called the Meyer Tract, and eventually Brays Bayou.

The flood control district refused to release the study, arguing it is exempt from public disclosure because it is an internal draft study the district was using to create public policy, and it was subject to the “deliberative process privilege.”

But City Manager Michael Ross said on Monday that the district told him the study should be finalized by this Friday.

“It’s released everywhere, it’s public,” Ross said. “The draft is taken off.”

The city maintains a positive working relationship with the district, he said, and he doesn’t think administrators are trying to keep documents secret without cause.

City leaders hope the study shows that more water coming from drainage improvement projects on Bellaire Boulevard and within the city of West U. will not negatively impact downstream areas. They want the flood control district to authorize the removal of the flood restrictors on the bridge.

West U. Mayor Bob Kelly said he was not aware the drainage study existed until he learned about it from InstantNewsWestU. He requested InstantNewsWestU send him a copy of the letter and legal brief that Harris County sent to the Texas Attorney General asking that office to exempt the drainage study from public disclosure.

“After looking at this I came to the conclusion there’s nothing we can do,” Kelly said. “We can just wait and see what the Attorney General’s office response is to whether they have to release it or not.”

City Attorney Alan Petrov said part of the drainage study could contain engineering-related factual information, but part of it could contain policy-related information that would be subject to the “deliberative process privilege.”

“Often the A.G. rules in those cases that portions of document can be withheld, put portions must be released,” Petrov said. “Of course, we don’t know without seeing the document.”

However, the attorney general’s decision may be a moot point if the flood control district publicly discloses the final version of the drainage study. If that happens, West U. leaders are likely to examine the document with a fine-toothed comb.

“I’m hoping this will all be resolved peacefully by hurricane season,” Kelly said.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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