Sugar Land - Missouri City Edition | September 2021

A LOCAL LOOK Six projects from Fort Bend County’s November 2019 flood bond are in the Sugar Land and Missouri City area. Five projects in the area are moving forward— addressing issues like erosion, water detention and sloughing—with bond funds, as well as funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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BRAZOS RIVER

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OILFIELD R

S. PIN OAK BLVD.

OYSTER CREEK

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FLAT BANK CREEK

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FLAT BANK CREEK

Scope: This project will work to control erosion and stabilize the bank. Timeline: 2019-January 2022 Cost: $10.3 million (projected) Funding sources: 2019 bond and NRCS OYSTER CREEK

LONG POINT CREEK

Scope: This project will repair erosion. Timeline: summer 2020-TBD Cost: Repairs by FEMA between Sienna LID and LID 19 will cost about $1.2M. County repairs will use the remainder of the $2.5M in bonds not used by FEMA. Funding sources: 2019 bond and FEMA

Scope: The project will improve the channel. Timeline: spring 2021-early 2022

Cost: $2 million (projected) Funding source: 2019 bond

SOURCE: FORT BEND COUNTY/ COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Many Fort Bend County floodbondprojects left unfunded Officials: ‘It’s not going to be any better’ if the area sees another Hurricane Harvey BY LAURA AEBI

Sugar Land has a $6 million project under construction in the Settlers Way area. It should reduce street ponding and home flooding by adding an additional storm sewer outfall and replacing the existing storm sewer inlets and pipes. Officials said they expect the project to reach completion in September. Additionally, Li said the city has a project in the Chimneystone area under design, which is estimated to cost $16.5 million. It will be funded from the city’s general obligation bond passed in 2020. Shashi Kumar, Missouri City’s director of public works and city engineer, said the city implemented a new flood alert system in July, which was funded in part through a grant from the GLO. The $300,000 system consists of devices that measure rainfall and provide real-time stream- level information. “​[Missouri City City Council] takes drainage seriously,” Kumar said. “This area is flood prone. We’re flat. We have a number of rain challenges.” Kumar said the city is working on designing drainage improvements for the Cangelosi Ditch widening project. It will cost $2 million with nearly half of the funds coming fromGLO funding. Construction is projected to begin next year, Missouri City officials said. Missouri City is also moving forward independently with Willow Waterhole detention improvements. That project is under design with construction estimated to begin in 2022. It aims to expand detention capacity to accommodate watershed growth. It will cost $2.1 million—funded by the city’s capital improvement program. Additionally, the city is working with the Fort Bend County Drainage District to execute the drainage improvements

Funding limbo If the county had been able to secure the external funding to match its $83 million in bond funding, it would have translated to more than $250 million in drainage projects. At this point, however, less than half of the bond funds are being used, Vogler said. One stalled project affecting the Sugar Land and Missouri City area is a $6.25 million flooding mitigation structure at Flat Bank Creek, which was delayed due to lack of funding. That structure would have aimed to prevent flood waters from backing up. While Flat Bank Creek’s flood structure project is stalled, its $2.5 million erosion repair project secured the funding it needed and is moving forward with the bid process. Fort Bend County Drainage District officials said they are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to repair erosion damage and sloughing. “The banks are starting to slough, which means they’re starting to slide off and just fall in,” Vogler said. “If the bank falls in, the levee at the top is going to have a tendency to fall in or lose stability.” Additionally, Vogler said the county applied for $96 million in funding from the Texas General Land Office in 2020 but learned in May it did not receive any. Moreover, while the bond funds are available now, the funds have an expiration date in 2044. “The bond funds are only good for 25 years,” Vogler said. “If 26 years from now something happens to Oyster Creek, am I still going to be able to get the $1.5 million? I don’t know.” Moreover, the channel repair,

erosion repair and desilting projects weremeant to restore the damage done by Hurricane Harvey—not mitigate future damage, Vogler said. “It’s not going to be any better, and it’s not gonna be any worse,” Vogler said. “It’s going to be the same. So, the bondmoneywas to put things—inmost cases except for evacuation routes—to put things back like they were [before Hurricane Harvey].” While many projects were not able to secure the funding needed to move forward, others were fully funded by thebondor secured fundingelsewhere, such as FEMA or the Natural Resources Conservation Service. TheDitchHproject in the Sugar Land area, as well as the Mustang Bayou and Long Point Creek projects near Missouri City, were funded entirely by the bond—and the county secured external funding to move the Oyster Creek project forward. “We’re always going to continue to monitor,” Vogler said. “Any time there’s grant money out there that’s available, we’d be interested in it.” City efforts While the county continues to work toward securing funding for additional projects, both Missouri City and Sugar Land are working independently to improve their preparation for another major flooding event. Sugar Land’s City Engineer Jessie Li said the city has a long history of investing in drainage improvements. “We have done a lot,” she said. “The city actually spent more than $50 million in drainage improvements in the past eight to 10 years.”

Four years after Hurricane Harvey, 10 of 25 drainage efforts from Fort Bend County’s 2019 flood bond are unfunded or on pause. However, five of the six projects affecting the Sugar Land and Missouri City areas aremoving forward. Flooding was still front of mind for many Fort Bend County residents when voters approved the county’s $83 million flood bond in November 2019— two years after Harvey devastated the area in August 2017. Mark Vogler, the Fort Bend County Drainage District general manager and chief engineer, said most of the paused projects are due to a lack of supplemental funding. He described the county’s bids for grants to use with bond money as “wishful thinking.” “These projects were just so, so massive in cost that the county was saying, ‘We don’t have the funds right now to do this bigger project—but let’s see if we can get a grant, and if we can get a grant, maybe we can move the project forward by percentage of it,’” Vogler said. Despite the delays, some of the bond work is being done in Missouri City through cooperation with city officials. Meanwhile, both Missouri City and Sugar Land officials said they are working on their own drainage mitigation projects.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

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