Houston Chronicle: McCaul pushes for Cypress Creek reservoir
An engineering project proposed before the U.S. entered World War II could have reduced the effects from the massive flooding brought on by Hurricane Harvey that sent thousands of people fleeing for their lives, the head of the House Committee on Homeland Security said Friday during a press conference at Katy's city hall.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, (R-Texas), said the Army Corps of Engineers in 1940 looked at constructing a levee system in the vicinity of Cypress Creek.
"Unfortunately, that was never done," McCaul said. "That's why we're here today - to talk about what happened during Harvey and what we need to do."
Now that the Houston area has entered into the post-Harvey rebuilding phase, McCaul said it's time to take another look at what Army engineers were planning. He said an overflowing Cypress Creek has been the cause of the most recent flooding in the Houston area - including Harvey.
A breach of the Barker or Addicks reservoirs would have sent "a tsunami of water" through Buffalo Bayou and into downtown Houston," McCaul said.
"We've had three floods in the last two years. It all emanates and stems out of Cypress Creek," McCaul said.
Last month, McCaul flew in an Army Blackhawk helicopter to inspect neighborhoods that were battered by the fast-rising floodwaters.
"It was tragic to see so many homes under water directly south of (Addicks and Barker) reservoirs. My heart goes out to them," he said.
While it was adequate for its time, a levee system in the original Army Corps of Engineers plan would no longer be sufficient to prevent flooding, officials said.
"It would simply push water downstream east along Cypress Creek," said Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District. "A reservoir would temporarily retain water and allow it to be released in a way that would be able to mitigate impact."
Displacing homes and businesses for a Cypress Creek reservoir wouldn't be an issue because the area where it would likely be located is still generally undeveloped. McCaul gave an early ballpark figure of $550 million to $600 million for the project.
"It will not be easy and it will not be cheap but it has to be done," McCaul said. "I can think of no higher priority in the greater Houston area than fixing the Cypress Creek issue."
He said it could take up to 10 years before a reservoir at Cypress Creek becomes a reality - if the project follows the normal construction schedule. State Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, said his constituents can't wait that long.
"This is probably the highest priority in the state in terms of flood control for the number of people who would be affected and the number of people whose lives and whose homes we can save if we simply do what the government intended to do 70 years ago," Schofield said.
McCaul said his goal will be to cut through the bureaucratic red tape in Washington and expedite the process.
"The money's going to be there," McCaul said. "The question is how quickly we can get it done."