USACE Wraps Up their Study, but Work on the River Continues with Project Brazos

At this time it is hard for anyone to catch any news that does not involve COVID-19, but the world does continue to exist outside of the current emergency situation.

Yesterday the USACE announced that they have completed their Brazos River Fort Bend Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study. For some, this news could be interrupted that nothing is going to be done to address the River Erosion and its impacts to Fort Bend County.

“No structural plan was justified and no non-structural plan was available, so our study recommends no federal action at this time.”

Dionicio Gonzales, Project Manager with USACE Galveston District

However… Thanks to the Leadership of Fort Bend County and several of their Partners like the City of Sugar Land, the County is taking the lead to make sure the erosion is addressed. This effort is called Project Brazos and it is being led by Fort Bend County Precinct 1 Commissioner Vincent Morales and Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken DeMerchant.

Project Brazos

Project Brazos was developed from erosion studies that were completed by the City of Sugar Land and Fort Bend County over the past few years. The purpose of the studies were to evaluate various sites and project the future erosion at each location. The City of Sugar Land’s study primarily focused on areas impacting the City of Sugar Land while the Fort Bend County study focused on 24 sites across the entire County.

Insert for FBC Study on all 23 Sites

As a result of the study 13 of the 24 sites were considered critical locations with the most significant impact to Fort Bend County and its residents.

Insert on 13 Critical Sites from FBC Commissioner DeMerchant Presentation

Rates of Erosion (Side Note)

One of the most interesting items that come out of the various studies is the overall rate of erosion. From the studies, our rate of erosion dramatically increases when the Brazos River flows reach 70,000 to 75,000 cfs and higher. This is the main reason we seen severe erosion from the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Floods.

Insert for FBC Study on Historical flows from 1953 to 2017
Historical Brazos River Migration Rate from 1953 to 2017 (Data from FBC Study)

Sites

This post will not go into full detail of all the locations. We are working on a separate set of pages to help track and document the progress of Project Brazos. At that time we will include a little more information on all 13 sites.

All Sites

Simonton Area (Valley Lodge Section 1 at FM 1093)

I did want to highlight one area that can be overlooked by residents living on the western side of Fort Bend County due to the limited amount of residents and taxable value. These are Sites 1 and 2 near FM 1093 in the Simonton.

Insert on Critical Sites 1 and 2 from FBC Commissioner DeMerchant Presentation

The image above shows the potential migration of the Brazos River Banks upstream of FM 1093 near Simonton. The red line represents the possible highbank location in the year 2048 assuming the more aggressive trend based on our more recent erosion rates experienced along the River. The blue shows the possible highbank location in the year 2048 assuming a less aggressive trend.

As you can see, within the next 25 years, this erosion would have major impacts on the numerous residents living within this section of the River. Although some could (and have) argued that there is not much economic value specifically impacted at this location, the “cut-through” of the Brazos River through Valley Lodge has a major impact on the Brazos River through Fort Bend County. By short cutting the long bend in the River, velocities could increase which has an impact on future erosion rates and could possibly increase the overall risk of flooding downstream through Fort Bend County.

Solutions and Money

Now that we better understand the problem, the main goal of Project Brazos is to identify solutions and the financial requirements to construction those solutions.

On of the greatest items that came from the USACE Study as well as their experience across the Country was providing good, reliable solutions to address the erosion. This post will not go into full detail on the solution, but the images below are taken from a Presentation by FBC Commissioner DeMerchant. More detailed information will be included in future posts as the project moves forward.

With this solution, we have a good understanding of the costs, which comes in around $350M to address all 13 sites which helps protects over $10B in taxable value. This creates a very positive Benefit-Cost Ratio that is critical to receive any State and Federal Grants to cover the project.

If you have any questions about Project Brazos, feel free to reach out to Commissioner Vincent Morales (Pct 1) or Commissioner Ken DeMerchant (Pct 4). You can also get more information by visiting the County’s Website.


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