Heavy Rains Prompt Texas County Officials to Study Ways to Reduce Flooding

Regional leaders are embarking on a nearly $1 million study to improve and expand the early flood warning capabilities for the county.

(TNS) - A good 40 inches of rain has pelted Montgomery County this year - well ahead of the typical pace and too much at times for the usually tranquil streams in this rapidly growing area.

So regional leaders are embarking on a nearly $1 million study to improve and expand the early flood warning capabilities for the county.

Under the plan, the San Jacinto River Authority also would analyze water flows and explore ways to reduce the likelihood of flooding, such as scooping out parts of streams that can cause bottlenecks.

The authority, which manages surface water in the river basin, is teaming with Montgomery County and the city of Conroe. The entities are asking the Texas Water Development Board to cover half the costs.

"The more information you have, the more you can anticipate," said Jace Houston, general manager of the authority, which also operates Lake Conroe.

Recent storms ruined some 900 houses and flooded scores of streets in the county. The series of downpours that began May 26 raised Lake Conroe more than 3 feet above the reservoir's normal pool, the second highest level it has ever reached.

President Barack Obama has declared a disaster in the county twice since mid-April, separate decisions that allowed federal funds to be used for cleanup and recovery.

Houston said the new effort wasn't in reaction to the storms, but the heavy rains reinforced the need for more information in advance to protect people and property from flood dangers.

Montgomery County doesn't have a taxpayer-supported special purpose district, like the Harris County Flood Control District, to help reduce risks of high water.

The Harris County district, for instance, can provide rainfall amounts and water levels in bayous and major streams in real time. The system involves 133 monitoring stations throughout the county.

The San Jacinto River Authority can furnish some of the same data, but it's limited because there are fewer than 20 monitors in the basin.

The project's partners would use the additional information in different ways. The San Jacinto River Authority would utilize it when deciding how much water to release from the gates at Lake Conroe, Houston said.

Conroe, meanwhile, would use it to find ways to reduce flooding risks along Alligator Creek, which runs through the west side of the city.

And Montgomery County would be able to provide more time for emergency responders to evacuate low-lying areas. They conducted more than 200 high-water rescues during the recent storms, officials said.

"That ability to warn people to get out when they can is hugely advantageous," County Judge Craig Doyal said.

The planning study is expected to be done by the end of 2017.


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