August 4, 2022

Contact: Jessica Beemer (832) 393-3008
Update: Lake Houston Spillway Dam Improvement Project
HOUSTON, TX - In 2017, immediately after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Lake Houston Area, Mayor Pro Tem Martin began the task of transitioning Lake Houston from solely a water reservoir to a water reservoir with flood mitigation infrastructure. This would allow Lake Houston to not only provide our region with needed drinking water but also protect our area in the event of a flood. Equipping the Lake Houston Spillway Dam with flood gates allows a systematic lowering of Lake Houston, during a flood event, reducing the risk of flooding to area homes and businesses.

An improvement project of this magnitude normally takes between five and twelve years, however determined to advance this project as quickly as possible Mayor Pro Tem Martin coordinated with federal, state, and local elected officials shrinking the timeline to between five and seven years. Entering the fifth-year post Harvey and still in the design process for the Lake Houston Spillway Dam Improvement Project (LHSDIP) is not where Mayor Pro Tem believed where the City of Houston would be.

The age of the Lake Houston Spillway dam, built in 1953, is proving to be a huge obstacle for this project as it continues to move forward. Originally, six different alternatives of the project were proposed. Another factor complicating this project is the cost variations between alternatives as project costs are outside of the existing federally funded amount, $48 million. The City of Houston is working with the Texas Division of Emergency Management and Federal Emergency Management Agency to find the option with the highest Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR).

The range for a favorable BCR on a project like this is between .75 and 1. The two alternatives in preliminary design only yielded a BCR of .48, largely due to the aging structure of the existing spillway dam. Mayor Pro Tem Martin continues to persist on finding a path forward. Currently, the final design of LHSDIP is paused to complete a study on alternative 1A looking at constructing five new tainter-gates on the existing embankment located on the east side of the dam. The BCR analysis for the embankment alternative will be completed by end of September 2022.

Mayor Pro Tem Martin is continuing his due diligence taking multiple avenues working to find additional funding for the project and reaching a favorable BCR with both federal and state partners. Including the exploration of additional funding through the upcoming Texas Legislative Session with outgoing State Representative Dan Huberty and incoming State Representative Charles Cunningham. It is easy to be discouraged with the perceived lack of progress on this project, however, obstacles have only fortified Mayor Pro Tem Martin’s resolve to see this project through and defining a clear path forward. More information will be forthcoming in a fall public meeting and Mayor Pro Tem Martin is optimistic by October the LHSDIP will have an attractive BCR for the 1A design.

The City of Houston is committed to continuing to utilize the existing Lake Houston pre-release strategy which has occurred each time there has been a forecasted rain event of 3 inches or more within the San Jacinto Watershed, since Hurricane Harvey, which has worked extremely well. This strategy has been used more than twenty times in the past four years. Many thanks to Congressman Dan Crenshaw, Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Commissioner Tom Ramsey, State Senator Brandon Creighton, State Representative Dan Huberty, State Representative-Elect Charles Cunningham, TDEM-Chief Nim Kidd, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello, and Harris County Flood Control District. All parties are committed to constructing these additional gates to ensure protection against future flood events.