More than a year after his west Fort Worth town home flooded three times in four days, remnants of Dane Steinhagen’s nightmare remain.
He spent $50,000 out of pocket to repair the damage from the historic rainfall that hit Tarrant County in August 2022, just a few days after Steinhagen moved into the Linwood neighborhood. Unable to drive home because of the storm’s downpour, he recalls swimming through the streets to rescue the dog he’d left crated on the first floor.
The possibility of such an event happening again haunts neighbors on Templeton Drive, who lost sleep watching stormwater flood sidewalks earlier this month, Steinhagen said.
“Every time there’s a storm, and it looks like it’s going to (rain) two inches, we all freak out,” said Steinhagen, a real estate agent. “We’re all in our garages or our balconies watching the street, phones ready to call the city of Fort Worth to say, ‘Hey, we need emergency vacu-trucks to come out and start pushing this water through.’”
Linwood homeowners aren’t alone in their concerns over urban flooding in Fort Worth and the threats it poses to human life and property values. From the eastside to Arlington Heights, residents are raising the alarm about what they see as a rising flood risk stemming from rapid housing and commercial development near their neighborhoods.
The topic will be at the center of an Oct. 18 ”Candid Conversation” event hosted by the Fort Worth Report. Experts will convene at Texas Wesleyan University to discuss the nature of flooding in Tarrant County and the regional planning efforts that could help Fort Worth chart a path forward.
If you go
What: This is a free community event with free parking. Complimentary continental breakfast will be served starting at 7:30 a.m., and the program will begin promptly at 8 a.m.
When: 7:30-9 a.m. Oct. 18
Where: Nick and Lou Martin University Center, Texas Wesleyan University (3165 E. Rosedale St., Fort Worth)
Admission: Reserve your free ticket here.
Panelists include Jennifer Dyke, assistant director for the city’s stormwater management program; Rachel Ickert, chief water resources officer for the Tarrant Regional Water District; Nick Fang, a civil engineering professor at the University of Texas at Arlington; and Tom Galbreath, chairman and principal of landscape architecture and engineering firm Dunaway Associates.
The solutions to Fort Worth’s flooding woes are far from simple — or cheap. Dyke, who recently led a push to raise the city’s stormwater fee by 15% next year, said the challenge often comes down to limited funding and the need for studies to identify fixes to complex engineering problems.
“Our current resources aren’t enough to tackle all the needs,” Dyke said. “It comes down to balancing how we use the resources we have most efficiently and effectively to provide that value to our community, really focusing on prioritizing life safety and protecting homes and businesses.”
Financial assistance could come in the form of grants from Texas’ flood infrastructure fund, which received $625 million from state legislators this spring. To be eligible for grant funding, a flood mitigation must be included in the state’s first statewide flood plan, set to be adopted in September 2024.
Fourteen flood reduction projects in Tarrant County will be included in the Trinity River region’s flood plan, which was shaped by Ickert and a group of experts. Six projects are in Arlington, while the rest are spread across Fort Worth, Westworth Village and Dalworthington Gardens. Fort Worth’s priorities include providing relief to the Linwood area, the Lebow Channel along North Main Street and Zoo Creek near Forest Park.
As officials navigate new funding opportunities, Fang is working with the North Central Texas Council of Governments to develop a long-range plan to prevent flooding that results from unmanaged growth and development.
With a focus on the western half of the Dallas-Fort Worth region, the five-year effort will produce maps and modeling data to help local governments implement regulations on transportation, stormwater and infrastructure expansion.
In Fort Worth, city staff have already taken steps to address how developers approach stormwater regulations. As former chair of Fort Worth’s development advisory committee, Galbreath was part of a group that pushed the city to simplify its review process for drainage and stormwater regulations.
After two case studies verified that development increases the amount of concrete and decreases flood storage along natural streams in Fort Worth, city staff also began the process of reviewing policies that address the cumulative impact of development on flood risk. That project, once expected to wrap up in mid-2023, is ongoing.
Stacy Shores, treasurer and former president of the Linwood Neighborhood Association, said she appreciates Dyke’s consistent communication with residents and her staff’s efforts to help. The city hired engineering firm Halff Associates to evaluate long-term solutions for the area, including a potential stormwater detention pond at Linwood Park.
“I love my city. I was born and raised here. I love everybody here, and I know they’re doing the best they can do,” Shores said. “But I’m anxious to see how we move forward.”
She’s not the only one. Steinhagen wants the city to upgrade its drainage system under Templeton Drive to prevent further damage to the homes most threatened by flash flooding. The city allowed developers to build without making necessary improvements, and now Steinhagen and his neighbors are caught in the crosshairs, he said.
“Until they fix the street, it’s just a gamble and a tossup before the next storm,” Steinhagen said. “No one cares about what it looks like, or how the money gets there. We want to see some action done in 2024.”
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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