Two projects aimed at reducing flooding near the West 7th Street entertainment corridor and University Drive will be eligible for state funds if a new regional flood plan is finalized in January.
The Trinity Regional Flood Planning Group was formed in 2020 as part of a statewide effort to address infrastructure challenges and flood threats after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Gulf Coast. The group’s target region stretches the entire length of the Trinity River basin, from Cooke and Wise counties to Liberty County, near Houston.
The committee had to deal with a breadth of issues, including geographical differences and a fast timeline to develop a plan, said Glenn Clingenpeel, the group’s chair and a top official at the Trinity River Authority of Texas.
Cities and counties have completed their own evaluations of flood risks, but much of it has been disjointed and siloed, Clingenpeel said.
“One of the challenges is getting all of the work that’s already been done, as disparate as it has been, into one place,” he said. “That’s going to be one of the huge benefits of the plan: formalizing that process and getting a process in place where we’re looking at the flood risk … and funneling resources to where we need it the most.”
If you go: Flood planning town hall
Time: Aug. 31, 6-8 p.m.
What to expect: Presentation and general Q&A, then opportunities to view exhibits and ask one-on-one questions. You can submit public comment in person or online here.
Location: North Central Texas Council of Governments, William J. Pitstick Room
Address: 616 Six Flags Drive, Centerpoint Two Building
Arlington, Texas 76011
After more than a year of soliciting proposals from cities and hearing public comment from residents, the group submitted its draft to the Texas Water Development Board in July.
Now that the report is publicly available, the group will host three in-person open houses to discuss the flood mitigation strategies and projects included in the plan. North Texans can attend the Aug. 31 session at the North Central Texas Council of Governments building in Arlington and submit comments on the plan online until Oct. 10.
Trinity flood planning officials will submit the final draft in early January, after which the Texas Water Development Board will compile all 15 regional plans into a statewide blueprint to be released in September 2024.
While the Legislature has not yet funded the next planning cycle, regional groups are expected to update their plans every five years. Clingenpeel’s team has tackled the process through a bottom-up approach that includes public input and the priorities of different areas of the state, he said.
“Everybody wants an ‘Ike Dike,’” he said. “They want some big, shiny magic bullet that’s just going to fix flooding. Sometimes that’s how it works, but mostly that’s not how it works. It’s going to be these local solutions that are locally driven that I think are going to, in aggregate, create the most benefit.”
Recommended Tarrant County projects would focus on West 7th, Village Creek
To be eligible for future grants from the state’s flood infrastructure fund, a city or county flood mitigation project must be included in the regional plan. The initial Trinity flood plan recommends seven flood mitigation projects – three in Tarrant County and four in Dallas County – with a combined total cost of nearly $176 million.
One recommended project, in Arlington, plans for drainage improvements by an “undersized bridge and severe erosion issues” near the intersection of Fielder Road and Interstate 30. Officials estimated the cost at $2.6 million.
In Fort Worth, a $50 million project would focus on mitigating flooding depths in the Linwood Park and University Drive area by building a storm drain that would empty in the West Fork of the Trinity River, according to the draft plan.
Another proposal would deploy a new storm drain system near the Norwood, Bledsoe and Crockett intersections in the West 7th area, with plans to run the infrastructure along Foch Street and through Trinity Park to the river. The price tag? An estimated $11.77 million.
Both areas are well known for flooding during major storms. That was no different during the Aug. 22 deluge, as residents shared videos of cars driving through high waters during record rainfall in Tarrant County.
The two projects are also close to Farrington Field, where city officials have studied future drainage improvements as part of proposals to redevelop the area.
“The things that were added to that list were some of the top priority areas where we knew we had significant flooding, and then we actually had the level of detail that they really needed to be able to put something on the list,” said Jennifer Dyke, Fort Worth’s stormwater program manager. “We had to really use projects where we already had that existing information.”
The flood planning group required extensive evaluations of each project that limited the amount of proposals that Fort Worth could submit, Dyke said. While Fort Worth might have plenty of information on flooding in a certain area, the city does not have the resources to conduct cost-benefit analysis on projects that don’t have guaranteed funding, Dyke added.
“We don’t want to spend the time to flesh something out, and then it just sits there on the shelf and becomes outdated,” she said. “We’re having to try to balance how much project development we do to kind of show the feasibility for some of these things when we know that we just can’t go out and implement it.”
Clingenpeel and his planning colleagues had about 80 criteria to score each potential flood mitigation project, all of which were submitted by sponsoring cities or counties. No one project was prioritized over another – they simply had to meet the criteria set by the Texas Water Development Board, he said.
“That information, by and large, just isn’t available for most projects,” Clingenpeel said. “Especially when you get into the rural areas, they haven’t done the hydraulic modeling that’s necessary to say whether or not there’s going to be a downstream impact.”
Planning group hopes to fill data gap with more flood evaluations
Beyond the potential funding for flood mitigation construction, regional flood planners hope to address the data gap between rural and urban areas of Texas. The Trinity group estimates that 70% of flood maps in the region are considered outdated or approximate, which translates to about 38,000 stream miles.
The draft plan recommends 342 flood risk studies, including 35 countywide evaluations that would provide up-to-date maps for about 9,500 miles of the Trinity. But that alone won’t solve the flooding challenges facing communities along the river basin, Clingenpeel said.
“We can tell (municipalities) all day long and show them a map, and we can say: ‘Hey, look, you’ve got a tremendous flood risk here,’” Clingenpeel said. “They can say: ‘Thank you very much. I don’t know what to do with that.’ You can say: ‘There’s funding available through the flood infrastructure fund.’ That’s not enough.”
The next step, Clingenpeel said, is to create local champions who can connect county and city officials with the financial and technical support they need to successfully mitigate floods.
Connecting local officials with engineering consultants could help address the problem since engineers have the economic incentive to help cities identify needs, apply for grant applications and hire their firms to execute projects, Clingenpeel said.
“There’s a very beneficial profit incentive and a motive that can help fill that gap,” Clingenpeel said. “That’s one of the big challenges that we’ve got is really pushing those solutions down to the local level, and basically helping people help themselves.”
Between planning cycles, the regional groups will have an expedited process to amend the plan and potentially include new recommended flood mitigation projects so that municipalities aren’t waiting five years to save lives and property, Clingenpeel said. Fort Worth looks forward to finding more projects that could meet state requirements, Dyke said.
In the meantime, residents have more than a month to submit feedback on the report’s 136 recommended flood management strategies. Beyond its open town hall sessions, the Trinity flood planning group will host its next public meeting on Sept. 8 at the North Central Texas Council of Governments headquarters in Arlington.
Clingenpeel’s team will have just two months to incorporate public comments into the plan before turning in a final draft by Jan. 10. He encourages residents to tell the group where and how they are seeing flooding in their communities.
“That’s the kind of information that is most useful,” Clingenpeel said. “Where are you seeing flooding and when did you see the flooding? Then we can look back and say: “OK, what were the conditions that led to that? That can, in turn, lead to solutions.”
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