Fort Bend County Commissioners Court authorized advertising a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a countywide watershed study.
The study will provide up-to-date information on water flow across the county, allowing the court to use it as a tool to plan and prioritize flood mitigation projects. The RFQ is the first step in performing the extremely broad-based study that will evaluate water flow patterns and identify problems over the entire 880 square miles of the county.
The study will look at streams, creeks, bayous, drainage districts and levee districts, as well as consider the effects of development that Fort Bend County has experienced in the last 30 years and will experience for decades to come. The study will also integrate current research on the Barker Reservoir, and Jones and Bessie’s creeks into the final report.
“As a result of this study, we are going to determine and prioritize improvements in the handling of water within the entire watershed that will mitigate the risk of flooding, especially during high rain events,” County Judge Bob Hebert said.
The county anticipates award of the contract sometime in mid-June with completion of the study in December 2019 or early 2020.
“We have to know, as quickly as possible, what projects make sense,” Hebert said. “We have to prioritize those projects and determine which have positive cost-benefit ratios before we can make an intelligent bond request from taxpayers. We will need voter approval to issue debt as the working number for local contributions is estimated to be $250 million, and voters won’t approve that amount of debt unless we do our homework.”
Gov. Greg Abbott has asked for funds from the federal government for the study, but there is no indication at this time as to when or if funds might become available.
“We know that if the study were funded directly by the federal government, the process would add a significant amount of time to its completion. Based on our recent history with the river and rainfall in the county, we do not have the time to wait. We will move ahead on this study. Hopefully, federal funding will catch up with us so we are following all federal procurement rules to maintain eligibility,” Hebert said.
Fort Bend County has previously submitted a wish list of necessary infrastructure projects of more than $1.5 billion at the request of the governor. Of that, $1.4 billion is to stabilize the Brazos River banks in areas where erosion threatens federal, state, local assets or recognized historical properties as required by federal law. Only $100 million of the current request targets local flood-hazard mitigation projects.
“The $100 million currently requested addresses projects that have been on our needs list for several years, but the results of (Hurricane) Harvey show us that we have much greater needs across the county,” Hebert said. “This study will allow us to qualify and quantify those needs and will allow us to expand our project list in an intelligent, cost-effective manner.”