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Floodwater Damages Prevented With Help from New Flood Control Dam

story by Randall Henry

During the recent torrential rainfall in Milam and Bell counties in October, a new dam within the Elm Creek (Cen-Tex) Watershed recently constructed by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and local sponsors helped prevent the possibility of floodwater damages.

With rainfall measuring 9-12 inches in one weekend and a growing populace in Milam and Bell counties, flood control dams were vital in averting floodwater damage to the rural landscape and surrounding communities.

"Downstream flooding has been reduced since the construction of the flood control structures in the Elm Creek Watershed, and the benefits are being recognized by the landowners with reduced damages from washed out water gaps and livestock being swept away during flooding," said Jeff Heath, NRCS program manager in Weatherford, Texas. "Homeowners and county government infrastructure in the two counties also benefit due to reduced or controlled flooding that could damage land, roads and bridges."

In 2009, the completion of Elm Creek (Cen-Tex) Watershed dam No. 34, which is a 53-acre project, brought the total number of flood control dams constructed in the watershed to 34. The completed dams Nos. 34 and 5A are a part of nearly 2,000 dams constructed in Texas by NRCS and local sponsors. Statewide these dams provide nearly $120 million of annual benefits protecting downstream properties, infrastructure, and countless lives."

The water was running pretty good through the riser, and a lot was backed up but the dam site at No. 34 worked exactly the way it was designed to do " it was quite a sight," said Cody Mathis, NRCS soil conservationist in Cameron, Texas.

These dams in Bell and Milam Counties were constructed by NRCS and local sponsors, including the Elm Creek Watershed Authority, Bell County Commissioners Court, Milam County Commissioners Court, and the Central Texas Soil and Water Conservation District.

Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, these projects are part of the Obama Administration's plans to modernize the nation's infrastructure, jump-start the economy, and create jobs. NRCS is using Recovery Act dollars to update aging flood control structures, protect and maintain water supplies, improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and restore wetlands.

Also, in order to fulfill Clean Water Act permit requirements, $746,000 of Recovery Act funds are currently being utilized to fund mitigation at the two newest flood control dams in the Elm Creek (Cen-Tex) Watershed, which are dams Nos. 34 and 5A that was completed in 2006.

Moreover, mitigation activities compensate for and minimize impacts of dams on stream and wildlife habitat. These mitigation projects will create shallow water ponds and establish vegetation to improve wildlife habitat. Restoration or enhancement along the streams will include a variety of practices, including the planting of trees and grasses to prevent erosion.

In addition to nearly $172,000 of annual benefits from flood damage reduction and flood protection provided by the two dams, the ARRA funded mitigation projects will also create or save jobs through industries supplying or supporting construction activities, along with the sale of goods and services adding approximately $700,000 to the local economy.

Elm Creek #34 Pre Rain Elm Creek #34 Post Rain
This 53-acre flood control dam was built to help prevent downstream flooding, and did so when 9-12 inches of water hit the area in early October this year. Recently constructed dam No. 34 of the Elm Creek (Cen-Tex) Watershed averted possible floodwater damage after torrential rainfall hit Milam and Bell