About Project Brays
128 Square Miles of Southwest Harris County
Located in southwest Harris County, the Brays Bayou watershed has a population of more than 700,000 people and covers approximately 128 square miles. This watershed drains stormwater from unincorporated areas of Harris County, as well as from communities within Bellaire, Houston, Southside Place, West University Place, Meadows Place and Missouri City.
Brays Bayou is about 31 miles long, starting west of Highway 6 and flowing east through many residential, commercial, institutional and industrial areas to its mouth, where it joins Buffalo Bayou at the Houston Ship Channel. Key landmarks along or nearby Brays Bayou include the Texas Medical Center, Rice University, University of Houston, Texas Southern University, Reliant Park, Hermann Park and the Houston Zoo.
Harris County's History of Flooding
Since the early settlement of Houston, residents have had to contend with flooding along many Harris County waterways and bayous. In fact, significant floods have been recorded as far back as 1843 and as recently as the Memorial Day Flood in May 2015. While experience, engineering and planning have improved our ability to cope with floods and reduce damages, the potential for flooding can never be completely eliminated. The massive storms that have been recorded in Harris County serve as a reminder that nature will prevail, and floods will occur. At best, we can protect lives and reduce flood damages.
Project Brays: How It All Began
Residents and businesses experienced a significant reduction in flood damages after the completion of a federal project along Brays Bayou in 1968; however, additional flooding made it clear that further efforts were needed.
In 1988, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) completed the Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Study and found that the benefits of a flood damage reduction project along Brays Bayou would significantly outweigh the costs. Armed with this study, the Corps began work on the Brays Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project, in cooperation with the Harris County Flood Control District.
HCFCD Takes the Lead
When HCFCD was created in 1937, its primary purpose was to be the local partner for major projects with the Corps. In 1996, the Federal Water Resources Development Act gave local non-federal sponsors authorization to take the lead in the planning, design and construction of federal flood damage reduction projects. As a result, in 1998, HCFCD officially took over the planning and implementation of the Brays Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project. HCFCD then created Project Brays to serve as an umbrella to manage and coordinate federal project components with local initiatives.
The Corps' experience in flood damage reduction projects benefits Project Brays through the Corps' monitoring of design and construction according to set standards. HCFCD, in turn, is able to take the lead role and construct all of the various components of Project Brays efficiently and with prudent allocation of local resources.
This unique arrangement between the Corps and HCFCD for Project Brays is defined by the Project Cooperation Agreement (PCA), signed in 2000 for the upstream element, or the reach of the bayou that extends from the Sam Houston Tollway to State Highway 6. This agreement allows HCFCD to receive federal reimbursements for the construction already underway and for future components. In 2010, the agreement was amended to include the downstream element, which extends from the mouth of the bayou at the Ship Channel to Fondren Road.
The total cost of Project Brays was originally estimated to be $550 million. Upon completion of approved components within the overall project, HCFCD can be reimbursed by the federal government for 50 % of the completed cost. The Corps' participation and annual Congressional support is essential for Project Brays to receive federal funding. This partnership allows HCFCD to leverage local dollars and speed implementation of the project.
Project Brays Today
Project Brays is well underway. Since 1994, construction on Project Brays has primarily focused on the construction of the four stormwater detention basins. Together, these stormwater detention facilities already hold back more than two billion gallons of water and encompass approximately 900 acres of land. In 2005, channel modifications began on a three-mile upstream channel segment between Old Westheimer Road and Highway 6 and construction is now complete. Construction began on the first downstream channel segment, from the mouth of Brays Bayou to Lawndale, in the first quarter of 2006. In the second quarter of 2006, construction began on the second downstream channel segment, from the mouth to Lawndale.
> See status of projects on the Construction Activities Update
With new approaches and state-of-the-art technology, Project Brays is helping to make flood damage reduction projects more effective and efficient than they were decades ago. As HCFCD continues to implement Project Brays over the next several years, residents and businesses along Brays Bayou will benefit from the new technology and approaches, which have taken flood damage reduction projects to a whole new level.