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NRCS Helps Jefferson County, Texas with Hurricane Harvey Repairs

By Melissa Blair, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist

With the assistance of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Jefferson County Drainage District No. 6 has completed the first part of their multi-million dollar Hurricane Harvey restoration project. Through the USDA-NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP), the drainage district received funding and technical assistance to repair a 26-foot deep washout in the bottom of the levee in the Green Pond Detention Basin near Fannett, Texas.

Through EWPP, NRCS assist local community’s recovery efforts after a natural disaster to help relieve imminent threats to life and property. The program helps approved cities, counties and other organizations with clearing debris-clogged streambanks, erosion control on compromised public infrastructures and water control structures. 

As soon as roads were passable after Hurricane Harvey, NRCS staff were checking with farmers, ranchers and community officials to assess agricultural losses and watershed damages. During one of these trips, NRCS Civil Engineer Technician Tom Bresee ran into the Jefferson County Drainage District No. 6 assistant general manager and visited with him about EWPP assistance to help repair the levee washout in the detention basin.

“The levee was built for a 500-year flood, but some estimate this was a 1,000 plus year flood,” said Richard LeBlanc, Jr., general manager of Jefferson County Drainage District No. 6. “It was very disappointing to see these folks who we work with every day to protect get flooded. We have spent a lot of time and money to protect our area. We repair the damage and hope we never have this type of historic rain again.”

The 5,800-acre Green Pond Detention Basin protects 219 area homes in the Gilbert Lake Estates, Farm to Market Road 365, Interstate Highway 10, and thousands of agricultural acres. But with Hurricane Harvey lingering for multiple days, dumping 40 to 50 inches upstream and in the basin, the volume of rushing water finally took its toll on the levee. 

“Even though the levee breached, the neighborhood area had already flooded from the high water backing out of Taylor’s Bayou plus the area had already received 40 inches of rainfall,” said Doug Canant, Drainage District No. 6 engineer. “The levee held back floodwaters from the Green Pond Gully 50-square mile watershed for four days prior to the breach.”

Canant went on to say, the breach occurred at the end of the rainfall event and the water in the surrounding areas began to subside soon after.

EWPP funding was approved in 2018 for the first phase of restoration of the levee washout with a subgrade stabilization of the basin. NRCS and the drainage district entered into an agreement to develop designs and construction documents to obtain a construction contract for the washout.

Remedial Construction Services, L.P. (Recon) was selected through a bid process to repair the washout with their blend of cement and bed-ash, which is a byproduct of electricity production. Recon completed the job within five weeks, ahead of the 90 days allowed. Soil tests, conducted at the end of July, showed the washout was stabilized. The remaining work will be completed by the drainage district. They are working on the next portion of the EWPP contract to stabilize the embankments eroded away by the flooding.

“It would have been beyond our budget,” said LeBlanc. “The drainage district couldn’t have done the repairs without NRCS assistance.”

The project was funded 90 percent through EWPP and 10 percent by the drainage district.

“Having NRCS engineers nearby to help us through this process has been a big help,” said Canant. “We couldn’t wait a long time on these repairs because we know the rain will come again.”

Jefferson County Drainage District No. 6 has also worked with NRCS on debris removal following Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Learn more about the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP) and visit our Hurricane Harvey Resources for more information.

NRCS Helps Jefferson, Texas with Hurricane Harvey Repairs, Melissa Blair, USDA-NRCS public affairs specialist (2018, August)