The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved initial funding for what appears to be the “largest storm disaster prevention endeavor in Texas,” the office of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Friday.
The $131 million North Canal project aims to mitigate flooding downtown and to the north by rerouting White Oak Bayou upstream of where it now connects with Buffalo Bayou, adding an overflow channel east of downtown and making bridge and channel improvements along Yale Street and Heights Boulevard.
Steve Costello, chief recovery officer for the mayor’s office, said in August that the project would help water flow more freely underneath those bridges and reduce flooding risks for as many as 1,000 homes.
“More than two years after Hurricane Harvey, federal government funding is flowing into Houston to save lives and protect property on a massive scale,” Turner said in a statement. “The North Canal is a landmark project, developed by the city, to minimize the devastation that may come with the next big storm.”
The project, which has long been in the works, is a collaboration between the city, state, county and Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority, also known as Houston’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) 5. Match funding for the federal grant is $25 million from TIRZ 5 and $20 million each from the city, Harris County Flood Control District and the Texas Department of Transportation.
The federal funding calls for the project to be completed by 2022.
“The minute we build those structures downtown, you get a significant lowering of flood levels on Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou right there,” Costello said. “By the time it gets up to the Heights and the I-10 area along White Oak, the benefit has been diminished. Because the bridges have obstructions, they create flooding on I-10 and upstream. What we’ll do is replace those bridges with what we call low-profile bridges (to improve water flow).”