After 20 years of paying for the maintenance and operation of a flood control gate on Clear Creek, the Harris County Flood Control District wants Galveston County to pick up some of the costs.
The district’s director approached Galveston County commissioners last week to propose renewing a partnership that led to the construction of a gate near state Highway 146, just north of Kemah.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was looking for local partners to fund the construction of the gate in the 1980s, Galveston and Harris County judges agreed on a 50/50 funding split, said Russell Poppe, the executive director of the flood control district.
That division apparently dissolved in 1998, when the corps released management of the project to local partners. Since then, the district has spent about $2.8 million to maintain the gate, Poppe said. Galveston County has paid nothing.
“We were together when we first constructed it, but we seem to be taking the lion’s share with respect to maintenance since then,” he said.
An outlet channel and gate allows water out of Clear Lake when its water levels are 3 feet above normal and are higher than Galveston Bay’s elevation.
While no specifics were agreed to this week, county officials said they were inclined to at least listen to what the flood control district was proposing.
“I think we need to have that conversation,” Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark said. “I think we should probably pay some of that.”
Details still need to be worked out, however, Clark said. While the original agreement was for an even split, officials have some doubts about whether the outlet and gate benefit Galveston County as much as they do areas in Harris County.
The flood control district is also approaching Brazoria County, which did not participate in the original agreement, with a proposal to fund the maintenance of the gate and outlet, Poppe said.
Agreeing to renew the old partnership might help achieve a much larger flood-control project.
The Clear Creek gate is part of a wide-ranging flood control project first proposed by the U.S. Army Corps in the 1960s.
The corps spent about 40 years developing a plan to reduce flooding along Clear Creek, but Congress has yet to fund it. But Poppe told commissioners he believed the flood control project was finally close to being funded.
County officials could also seek assurances from the district that its upstream flood control work won’t adversely affect its southern neighbors.
In Friendswood, city officials have said they are concerned about a plan to line Mud Gully with concrete. While the district said the project will reduce flooding risks along Clear Creek, there are local fears the design will turn Friendswood and other areas into a detention pond for water rushing out of Houston.
Asked whether he’d be willing to consider an agreement about funding the outlet gate, if it meant progress on other flooding issues, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said he’d be open to it.
“Absolutely,” Henry said. “I’m wide open to that.”