It seems fair, on the surface anyway, to ask what’s left to study about flooding along Clear Creek. After all, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has studied flooding on that creek for the better part of 57 years.

Corps officials working today, however, argue there’s need for more study, in part because continued development in the watershed has made some of the earlier research obsolete, and in part because most the earlier study was of areas upstream of Galveston County.

Talk about how to reduce flooding along Clear Creek has ebbed and flowed over the years. It was a major topic of discussion through the 1990s, but that talk fell off before the turn of the century.

Hurricane Harvey, which dropped more than 50 inches of rain on some parts of Galveston County, flooding more than 20,000 homes in late August 2017, changed all that.

Flood control along Clear Creek has become the issue for communities such as Friendswood and League City, which were swamped during the awful days of Harvey.

A Friendswood drainage committee, for instance, recently unveiled the results of a long-term study that concluded improving flow along Clear Creek would be the most effective way to reduce flooding.

And the League City council in April approved an agreement with the Corps of Engineers to develop a comprehensive flood control plan for the Clear Creek and Dickinson Bayou watersheds.

Most corps studies depend on federal government funding, but the agency can help local municipalities with small-scale studies using a program called Planning Assistance to States, under which a city and the corps each contribute half of the cost, up to $500,000.

Under terms of the plan, although not yet completely finalized, corps officials would work with League City staff members on a study using hydraulic modeling technology and other corps’ capabilities that would give the Galveston County municipality information to pursue grant funding for construction projects.

Corps staff members would use information developed from earlier studies of the creek.

There’s been at least one significant change in the corps’ thinking since it began studying Clear Creek flooding back in the 1960s.

Back then, large-scale drainage projects meant channelizing waterways — straightening and deepening and encasing the banks in concrete to improve flow.

At one time, the corps had a flood control project that would have done that to the entirety of Clear Creek through Harris, Brazoria and Galveston counties, but environmental concerns and a lack of funding mired the project.

In some ways, it’s good the old plan for Clear Creek never got off the ground, despite the damage and human toll of Harvey flooding. Had the plan not stalled in a headwind of opposition, the creek might look like one of Houston’s bayous — a concrete ditch. And there’s no guarantee that having traded a living creek for a long concrete chute would have changed much of anything during Harvey. It didn’t for Houston.

While it remains to be seen what the new study, reflecting the corps’ new thinking about the creek, will recommend, we might have gotten a preview in the study Friendswood leaders commissioned.

Among other things, the study recommends building terraces 200 feet wide along both sides of the creek without straightening the channel. That method alone could have reduced water levels near the FM 2351 bridge during Harvey by more than 3 feet.

The devil will be in the details of any plan to reduce flooding along Clear Creek. Doing so will cost more than any local government can afford, and people might have to give up property, but the new thinking already looks more palatable than the old.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;

(2) comments

John Cole

Mike, Good Thoughts for the most part. When speaking on Friendswood...As you have stated, 'The Devil is in the Details.' Steve Rockey, one of the council members in Friendswood, decided to put together a sub committee on Drainage some time ago, and he controlled who would be on the committee. At the time, to me, This sounded like Rockey already had his conclusions...He was just looking for yes people to support his pre-intended results. This little sub committee has already cost Friendswood Taxpayers over $30.000 to find someone with a study to support Rockeys' intentions. This is part of the Devil is in the details... You see, Rockey has a phd. and thinks, as most phds. that I have known; they think that their level of thinking is higher than 'normal people,' IOW: This guy Never thinks that he is wrong...Though he has lied to me, for example, on several occasions. Anyway, This is the perspective from which he conducted his little sub committee. Oh, and he wants to saddle Friendswood Taxpayers with another $ 32 Million in Debt for his little project, and Taxpayers in Friendswood already have been burdened, by seemingly lawless mayors and council over the decades and, perhaps presently as well, with an over $85 Million Debt with ZERO plans to eliminate this debt. Steve Rockey, the rest of the Council/Mayor, would like to keep Friendswood in Debt from now to perpetuity with their idiotic economic lawlessness.
This is not what Friendswood Voters want of need.These are some of the Facts behind Friendswoods' devil in the details present Situation. Thanks for your time, Mike. Dr. John Cole-Friendswood

Michelle Aycoth

It is going to take more than just cutting the brush along Clear Creek back 200 ft. once you get past FM 528.
Bridges are going to need to be raised and lengthen. Rail Road tracks will need to have the same thing done. It will also mean some areas you will have to dredge the creek.
Once you move all that water down the creek faster then you need to move it out of the lower part of the creek faster and Clear Lake.
You will need screw pumps or a bypass Channel with flood gates to do that.
Andrew Aycoth

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