Citing Galveston County’s need to be proactive on removing material from waterways around the county, Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark on Monday proposed spending $600,000 to use barges equipped with grappling arms and lawn mowers to clean parts of Clear Creek.
Fourteen months after Hurricane Harvey flooded communities around the creek, Clark said the barges would be able to “de-snag” the creek and remove trees and other material within 20 feet of its banks without requiring permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or other entities to move forward.
Clark’s proposed plan would only clear the Galveston County side of the creek, however, and commissioners on Monday questioned whether such a project would be the most effective way to spend money.
Commissioners discussed the proposed project at their workshop meeting on Monday but did not vote on the project.
Clark’s proposal would pay for clearing the Galveston County side of the creek between Highway 3 and FM 2351, which extends through parts of Friendswood and League City. He said he hoped Galveston County’s effort would convince Harris County to do similar work on their side of the creek.
“If we move forward with ours we could encourage Harris County to do their side was well and begin to allow that water to flow more freely without the hindrances,” Clark said.
Barges would be able to clear logs and small trees from the banks of the creek and mow down overgrown brush. After that, local governments could use their own machines to maintain the banks, he said.
The Army Corps would not need to get involved in the project because it doesn’t involved dredging or land removal on the creek, Clark said. Clearing some of the brush would also make future, more extensive projects — such as widening the creek — easier to complete, he said.
Other commissioners questioned whether the project would be worth the money, if only one side of the creek was cleared.
“I would want Harris County to agree to it before we start doing things, otherwise what’s the good of doing half the job?” Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said.
Commissioner Stephen Holmes argued that the county should make sure there aren’t other projects that would more effectively address flooding before committing to a de-snagging project.
While addressing flood prevention has been a topic of major discussion since Harvey, actual work to dredge or clear the creek has been limited, Clark said.
Friendswood in April voted to spend $1 million to clear part of Clear Creek in its jurisdiction.
The county should seek to use Hurricane Ike or Hurricane Harvey recovery funds to pay for the clearing work, Clark said, and doing so would require permission from the Texas General Land Office.
While Clark’s proposed plan wouldn’t be biggest or the most extensive project to address flooding, it would be a sign of progress for some county residents, he said.
“It shows our residents that we’re committed to try to alleviate flooding,” Clark said. “We have no control over Harris County. All we can do is what we can do.”
Although commissioners did not vote to approve his proposal at Monday’s meeting, Clark said he may propose putting the project out to bid at a future meeting.