Working to Protect Communities from Damaging Floods
By Ashish Waghray, P.E., CFM, and Chris Sallese, PMP
Ashish Waghray, P.E, manages DEC’s Water Resources division and is a certified floodplain manager (CFM). Chris Sallese is former commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District and DEC’s Principal for Special Projects.
Like droughts, floods are part of the natural water cycle in Texas. As the state population grows and rain events become more severe, managing floodplains to reduce the risks of flooding is more critical than ever. DEC, one of the most experienced water resource management engineering firms in Texas, has developed flood management solutions for public and private clients for decades.
During Flood Awareness Week, we want to highlight some of the research and engineered solutions that our engineers use to help protect communities, property and natural resources during extreme weather events.
Our comprehensive water resource services cover all aspects associated with the analysis of drainage-related issues, the development of potential solutions, the production of design documents and follow-on construction services. Our federally certified floodplain managers are trained in the most current policies and concepts and have executed studies and projects for our clients that mitigate coastal and inland flooding risks.
Regional population growth has led to denser development and more people living closer to the floodplain. This combined with more frequent extreme weather events and aged drainage infrastructure has put greater pressure on our current water systems, including channels, creeks, bayous, basins and wetlands. We’ve seen the results countless times on the news – devastating flooding, loss of lives and billions of dollars in damage.
IDENTIFYING AND ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS
Based on comprehensive research and current data, our engineers design stormwater and flood management projects, large and small, to reduce and mitigate risks.
One of our largest floodplain management projects is in the Clear Creek watershed. The 197-square-mile drainage area encompasses portions of Harris, Galveston, Brazoria and Fort Bend counties, 16 cities, 27 utility districts, and 5 drainage flood control districts. Almost 200,000 people live in the watershed, according to the Harris County Flood Control District.
DEC has been involved with project work in the watershed since 1989. Because of our expertise in the region, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District awarded DEC a sole source contract in the early 2000s.
Most recently, DEC conducted a hydrology and hydraulics (H&H) study prior to design and construction of the Clear Creek Federal Flood Risk Management project. Updated flood profiles were used as the basis for proposed channel improvements and future flood mitigation analysis.
As another example, DEC is providing design and construction services to Jefferson County Drainage District No. 7 for the new 35-acre Groves Detention Pond. This project is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program in support of post-Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.
Work includes a structural inventory analysis to estimate existing damages and recommendations for proposed improvements. A detailed H&H study will support the master drainage plan and analyze the benefits of mitigation in existing problem areas. Once completed, the Groves Detention Pond will mitigate the risk of future flooding of homes, businesses and roadways within the watershed.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
We expect water resource management to become increasingly challenging and complex. Today’s solutions, including structural work like detention ponds and channel widenings and nonstructural risk reduction measures like home buyouts, may not be enough. It may require major capital projects and innovative new solutions to prevent loss of life, property, infrastructure and natural resources.
DEC engineers will strive to deliver engineering excellence in water resource management and identify effective solutions for our clients and communities, even if flood risks increase.