As the city experienced fresh showers this weekend, Mayor Sylvester Turner took a major step in working to proactively prevent flooding along White Oak Bayou—one which could have far-reaching effects for The Leader area and its neighborhoods.
The city of Houston is converting the Inwood Forest Golf Course, a 223-acre site closed since 2007, into a series of 10 connected detention basins. Once complete, the new detention basins will be able to hold 350 million gallons of storm water, almost 530 Olympic-size pools worth of water — which is more water than the Astrodome could hold.
“We’re very excited about this happening. The water retention itself will immensely help with our flooding issues, but it will also help make this an amenity for the community,” said Wayne Norden, president of the Near Northwest Management District, which is just a stone’s throw away from the golf course. “Flooding has been a problem in Inwood for a number of years, and this has the potential to dramatically reduce any flooding concerns here in the Northwest area.”
One area couple who could use such a project earlier is Paul and Joan Hillman, who had nearly three feet of water enter their home which forced them to take cover on the second floor of their home during the most recent flooding.
“As near as we could tell about 85 of the 105 homes in our area flooded, including ours, and we’re still recovering,” Paul Hillman said of the 2016 Tax Day floods. “We’re not back to 100 percent, and we still have some outside damage to the deck and landscaping things, as well as a little bit of work left on the inside.”
While the Hillmans were lucky enough to be able to stay in their homes, many were not.
“Many of the homes are only one story, so those people had to go somewhere else during this process. All the walls, insulation and floors were done for,” Paul said.
The Hillmans have lived in their home near the White Oak Bayou since September of 1976, and have experienced three major flooding incidents — most of it from the White Oak Bayou watershed overflowing its banks, lending credence to Norden’s claim.
“Every time we get a really heavy rain or a forecast of heavy rain, you find yourself going over to White Oak Bayou to look at how high it’s getting,” Hillman said. “I guess people would say that borders on paranoia, but it’s based somewhat on fact, too.”
The city purchased the 227-acre course in March 2011 for $9.3 million and spent $2.5 million building the first two detention basins. With recent Council approval of an interlocal agreement, the City and Harris County Flood Control District are now free to invest about $20 million to design and develop the remaining basins, with the first phase slated to begin construction in 2018.
“After the design phase and masterplan study, we will have a better understanding of the basin layouts, depths, and potential green space available for the community,” said Paresh Lad, acting deputy assistant director for the Department of Public Works and Engineering’s Infrastructure Planning.
The Hillmans have no plans to relocate from their home due to their love of the neighborhood (despite the flooding), and Paul expressed gratitude to the city and its partners for attacking the problem head-on.
“I think it’s very positive for the homeowners in this area and for the city of Houston that at least it’s being addressed—not just on the federal level but on the city and state level as well,” he said. “They recognize the severity of the problem, they’ve done research into the problem and they’ve allocated the resources needed to attack it, so we’ll just have to hope that it works. I don’t have any reason to believe it won’t, so we’re hopeful for the future.”