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Priority Watershed Dam Rehabilitation in Texas Complete

By Melissa Blair, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist

One of the largest watershed dam rehabilitation projects in Texas was recently celebrated by the public and partners such as the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Plum Creek Conservation District (PCCD), Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) and associates with the Plum Creek Watershed. More than 50 people attended a ribbon cutting ceremony held recently to celebrate the completion of the $8.1 million project.

Through the USDA-NRCS Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program (Small WRP), the PCCD received technical and financial assistance to upgrade the Plum Creek Watershed Site 6, located near Kyle at FM 150 and Goforth Road. Funding was provided by NRCS, the TSSWCB, and the PCCD. Other partners included Hays County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), Caldwell-Travis SWCD and Hays County.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, 28 flood control structures (dams) were built on the tributaries of Plum Creek and Lower Plum Creek in Hays and Caldwell counties by the Soil Conservation Service – now NRCS.  These projects were planned, designed, and constructed by NRCS with the cooperation of local sponsors that initiated the projects, acquired land rights, and agreed to operate and maintain the dams after they were built. The dams protected agricultural lands and were classified as low hazard dams. Due to rapid urban growth around and downstream from the dams, as well as changes in dam safety criteria, resulted in many of these dams being most of these dams were reclassified as high hazard dams.

“Plum Creek Site 6 was constructed in 1967 and has provided flood protection and environmental benefits to this area for more than 50 years,” said Brian Wenberg, acting state engineer for NRCS. “With the completion of the rehabilitation work on this dam, I am pleased to say that Plum Creek Site 6 now meets all of the State and Federal criteria required for high hazard dams and it should continue to provide benefits to this area for many more decades.”

PCCD Executive Manager, Johnie Halliburton said that the worst flood to his knowledge was the flood of October 2015 which hit as the construction of the rehabilitation project began. “It destroyed the auxiliary spillway and fences within the spillway. During the three-year construction period, it was a constant concern of another flood before the project was finished.”

NRCS engineering upgrades included a concrete labyrinth spillway built over the dam and replacing the existing principal spillway pipe with a new principal spillway, performing quality control reviews during design and construction of the project. Freese and Nichols, Inc., advanced NRCS’ concepts and completed the engineering design.

The Plum Creek Watershed Dam Site 6 upgrades will reduce the velocity of floodwaters during large rainfall events and release the flow at a safer engineered rate. The upgrades will also extend the service life and benefits of the flood control dam for an additional 100 years and provide more than $74,000 a year in annual flood protection benefits in the watershed.

“As for working with NRCS, no one could have done it better,” said Halliburton. “All information related to the project was explained in great detail to the PCCD board as well as to the public. The NRCS inspectors and engineers made my job very easy and I can’t thank them enough for all of their good work.”

Hays County’s Transportation Department helped with rerouting of traffic for 16 months during the project. This allowed Goforth Road between Bebee Road and High Road to be realigned for improved safety and mobility for the increasing traffic flow. R&J Consulting provided administrative assistance to PCCD.

“This project simply could not have been done without everyone’s cooperation,” said Halliburton.

Site 6 is the second in the Plum Creek Watershed to be rehabilitated through the Small WRP to meet Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and NRCS safety criteria for flood control. Four other Plum Creek Watershed dam sites are in various stages of design with NRCS.

Priority Watershed Dam Rehabilitation in Texas Complete, Melissa Blair, USDA-NRCS public affairs specialist (2018, November)