The authorized Lower Colorado River Basin Phase I project consists of two separable elements, Onion Creek and Wharton. Onion Creek construction has been fully funded and construction will essentially be complete in Fiscal Year 2019, leaving the Wharton separable element to be funded and constructed. The City of Wharton, with a population of approximately 9,000, is nestled along the Colorado River in the lower part of the basin, approximately 60 miles southwest of Houston. The citizens have been subject to frequent flooding from both the Colorado River as well as from more localized events.
Not including Hurricane Harvey, two major flood events estimated as approximately 25-year events have occurred since 1998. In November 2004, a flood event inundated approximately 150 homes and businesses, causing $8 million in damages. Three separate events of a slightly less magnitude (approximately a 10-year event) also occurred in 2015 and 2016. Each time, evacuations were performed and as many as 100 homes were affected. Federal disaster declarations such as the one in 2015 have almost become ‘routine’ for the small town, but the relatively low income residents have little choice but to bear the consequences.
The Wharton separable element consists of approximately 35,600 feet of levees, 2,300 feet of floodwalls, 7,000 feet of channel modifications, and interior drainage features. Approximately 60 percent of the city is within the designated 100-year floodplain, but the project would effectively remove the vast majority of the city (approximately 2900 structures) from the 100-year floodplain.
Questions and Answers
*Answers provided by the United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE)*
How many property owners will be impacted by the construction of the levees and associated drainage channels for the project?
Will USACE be acquiring property or will it be the city?
Potentially both but all requirements of the Uniform Act will be followed. The foundation process to acquire private land by the federal government in a uniform and equitable way is spelled out in detail in the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, and amended in 1987. This law is commonly referred to as the Uniform Act.
When will property owners begin to be contacted? Once a Project Partnership Agreement has been signed then the acquisition of property may begin.
Once a Project Partnership Agreement has been signed then the acquisition of property may begin.
Is there a published schedule yet for when design and construction will be complete?
There is currently no published schedule.
How long will it take to build the levee?
Actual construction time is currently being estimated to take 24 months.
When will building of the levee begin?
The exact date is unknown due to property acquisition requirements and award of contracts but are working toward a construction start date around January 2020.
How will I know if my property will be part of the levee?
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or City of Wharton representatives/contractors will be contacting property owners impacted directly by building of the levees.
How will it affect property owners outside of the levee?
The design of the levees to be built in the Wharton area give the maximum benefit for the costs. USACE builds systems for flood risk management so the prudent person is aware of those risks and mitigates/plans accordingly. Property owners need to ensure where there property is located in relation to protection being provided by the levee system.
Will the City of Wharton still flood even with a levee?
The design of the levees to be built in the Wharton area give the maximum benefit for the costs. Mother Nature has the last say when it comes to protection. No system protects 100 percent for 100 percent of time. This project is substantially different than most USACE levee projects, in that it will allow a portion of the Colorado River's discharge to pass through the protected area, during moderate to very rare flood events. Even the classically-defined 100-year event (1% annual chance of exceedance event) will/would still spill through the City of Wharton, albeit at a much reduced rate compared to the without-project condition. This spillage is not "over the levee" but rather "around the upstream end of the levee". During the plan formulation phase of this project, it was decided that this proposed configuration was more strongly justified, economically speaking, than one which would fully seal off the northwestern corner of the City of Wharton from any inflows. As proposed, this project simply reduces flood event stages within the City of Wharton, while slightly shifting the frequency at which spills from the Colorado River enter the City. We build systems for flood risk management so the prudent person is aware of those risks and mitigates/plans accordingly.
Who is paying for the levee?
Funding is part of Public Law 115-123, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed into law February 9, 2018. The American taxpayers are paying for the levee.
My property is downstream from Wharton and I hear you all are funneling all the water through Wharton and are going to flood me out?
The levee system being built in Wharton will protect the city and its citizens from catastrophic floods while not raising the downstream consequences significantly. The project reduces the amount of spillage from the Colorado River which passes directly through the City of Wharton, without meaningfully increasing flood stages outside the City. It produces no "funneling" of flood waters and actually reduces the flood water discharges which would pass via Caney Creek and subsequently engage properties situated downstream from the City.
City of Wharton Flood Reduction Project Fully Funded Press Release
City of Wharton
120 East Caney Street
Wharton, Texas 77488
Phone: (979) 532-2491
Wharton Volunteer Fire Department
319 N. Fulton St.
Wharton, Texas 77488
(979) 532-4811 Ext 400
Wharton Police Department
1407 N Richmond Rd
Wharton, Texas 77488
Tim Barker., Mayor
Clifford Jackson, Councilmember Place 1
Steven Schneider, Councilmember Place 2
Terry Freese, Councilmember Place 3
Don Mueller, Councilmember Place 4
Russell Machann, Councilmember Place 5 - At-Large
Alice Heard-Roberts - Place 6 - At-Large
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