What residents near White Oak Bayou need to know as heavy rain causes it to swell

White Oak Bayou (KPRC 2)

HOUSTONWhite Oak Bayou has had a series of flooding issues over the years.

During major weather events like Hurricane Harvey, we saw water from White Oak Bayou spill into the main lanes and flood I-10. The main lanes of the Katy Freeway are notorious for going underwater between Heights Boulevard to I-45 over White Oak Bayou.

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In 2020, construction crews worked to widen the bayou to improve its flooding issues.

Here are some things nearby residents should be aware of as the bayou continues to swell due to heavy rainfall this week.

According to the Harris County Flood Control District, the White Oak Bayou watershed stretches from central to northwest Harris County and includes Jersey Village and portions of the City of Houston. Rainfall within the 111 square miles of the watershed drains to the primary waterway (White Oak Bayou).

The bayou flows southeast from its headwaters northwest of FM 1960 to its confluence with Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston.

Some of White Oak Bayou shown near I-10 Katy at Houston Avenue (Houston TranStar)

There are 146 miles of open waterways in the watershed, including White Oak Bayou and its major tributaries, including Little White Oak Bayou, Brickhouse Gully, Cole Creek and Vogel Creek.

Based on 2010 U.S. Census data, the estimated population of the White Oak Bayou watershed is 433,250. Development in the White Oak Bayou watershed has progressed rapidly and is expected to continue.

Here is a map from the Harris County Flood Control District that shows how water flows in the White Oak Bayou watershed:

Map from the Harris County Flood Control District that shows how water flows in the White Oak Bayou watershed (Harris County Flood Control District)

The total rainfall in the last 24 hours near the bayou is as follows:

  • White Oak Bayou at Heights Boulevard: 1.44″
  • White Oak Bayou at Ella Boulevard: 2.20″
  • White Oak Bayou at Pinemont Drive: 2.36″
  • White Oak Bayou at Alabonson Road: 2.24″
  • White Oak Bayou at Fairbanks North Houston Road: 3.08″
  • White Oak Bayou at Lakeview Drive: 3.04″
  • White Oak Bayou at Jones Road: 2.52″
  • White Oak Bayou at Tidwell Road: 2.24″
  • Little White Oak Bayou at Trimble Street: 1.28″
  • Little White Oak Bayou at Tidwell Road: 2.36″

White Oak Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project

The White Oak Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project is a multi-year, $124 million project that is supposed to substantially reduce flooding risks along the bayou.

Having started in 1998, the project is in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the flood control district was designated as the lead. This partnership, made possible by Section 211(f) of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996, reportedly allows the flood control district to work hand-in-hand with the federal government to leverage local tax dollars. The project is fully funded to completion.

The project includes:

  • Construction of about 15.4 miles of channel conveyance improvements along White Oak Bayou from Cole Creek near West Tidwell Road to F.M. 1960
  • Excavation of six stormwater detention basins to hold almost one billion gallons of stormwater
  • Construction of the Jersey Village Bypass Channel, which carries approximately 30% of White Oak Bayou flows around the City of Jersey Village during heavy rains.

According to the flood control district, many of these projects have been completed. Upon project completion, HCFCD estimates that most areas within the limits of the White Oak Bayou Federal Project will see water surface elevation reductions of 0.64 to 2.49 feet for the 1% (100-year) flooding event.

Recent actions the flood control district is taking

The Harris County Flood Control District conducted a drainage analysis for the Little White Oak Bayou sub-watershed within the White Oak Bayou watershed. The flood control district will analyze the current flooding conditions to identify and propose efficient and cost-effective projects to reduce the risk of flooding.

As part of the HCFCD’s 2018 Bond Program, $30 million has been identified for the Little White Oak Bayou watershed; however, it is likely the total cost of proposed projects identified by this analysis will exceed that amount. The study team is developing a “master plan component” to assist in the orderly implementation of projects as funding becomes available.

This drainage analysis was initiated in June 2019 and will conclude in early 2021.

About the Author

Prairie View A&M University graduate with a master’s degree in Digital Media Studies from Sam Houston State. Delta woman. Proud aunt. Lover of the color purple. 💜

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