Houston-area water authority continues work on flood control project

Clear Lake City Water Authority (CLCWA) completed work on Phase 3A of Exploration Green, a massive 178-acre flood control project in southeast Houston. The water authority also selected SERCO Construction Group, Ltd. to construct Phase 3B of the project.

Exploration Green, named in honor of the community’s local exploration legacy and its proximity to Johnson Space Center, is transforming a former golf course into five massive detention ponds that can each hold 100 million gallons of stormwater (the equivalent of 750 Olympic-sized swimming pools). In addition, Exploration Green will also serve as a nature park comprising 105 acres of natural habitat with wetlands and native grass land areas, six miles of hike-and-bike trails, two athletic fields and other amenities.

Phase 3A of the project features a 16.6-acre detention pond, 11.4 acres of natural habitat with wetlands, and 0.80 miles of hike-and-bike trails. Phase 3B, which will be completed next summer, includes a 11.3-acre detention pond, 12.2 acres of natural habitat, and 0.67 miles of hike-and-bike trails. Phase 4, currently under construction, features a 22.5-acre detention pond, 9.8 acres of natural habitat and 0.99 miles of hike-and-bike trails. Phase 4 will be completed this fall. The first and second phases were completed in April 2018 and September 2020, respectively.

Clear Lake City Water Authority (CLCWA), the local provider of water, sewage collection and treatment, and storm drainage services, is spearheading the project. Exploration Green Conservancy, Inc., a non-profit organization, is serving as CLCWA’s partner to develop and preserve the project’s green spaces. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc. (LAN), a national planning, engineering and program management firm, is the project’s design engineer.

Building the detention ponds has turned out to be immensely beneficial to the community. During Hurricane Harvey, although only 80 percent of the Phase 1 pond was excavated at the time of the hurricane, it helped detain 100 million gallons of water, protecting at least 150 homes from flooding. The project also protected the community during Hurricane Nicholas and Tropical Storms Imelda and Beta. Ultimately, when all five phases are completed, Exploration Green will protect up to 3,000 homes.

“As we recently watched Hurricane Nicholas test this latest phase addition of Exploration Green, it performed as designed and has impressively improved flooding conditions for the surrounding Clear Lake community,” said Jennifer Morris, CLCWA’s general manager.

“Exploration Green has transformed Clear Lake from a flood-prone community into one of the most flood-resilient communities in Texas,” said Wayne Swafford, P.E., LAN president. “In addition, it is creating a healthy, sustainable neighborhood for its residents.” 

Economically the project protects homes from flooding, increases home values and decreases flood insurance costs. Located in an area that was in economic decline, the project has already begun to revitalize home values. Anecdotal evidence from area realtors indicates that homes abutting the project have increased in value by 50-100 percent over the past three years. 

Situated in the  center of the Clear Lake community, this project provides easy green space and trail access for strolling, walking, jogging or biking. Nearly 70 percent of the 40,000 people living in the direct Clear Lake area will be within walking distance of Exploration Green, and the remaining 30 percent will be less than a mile from one of the sections.

Finally, the wetlands and native trees, grasses and wildflowers have provided an attractive habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife. iNaturalist reports indicate that hundreds of birds, plants, insects and reptiles have been verified at Exploration Green.

LAN is a full-service consulting firm offering planning, engineering and program management services for the nation’s heavy civil infrastructure needs. With more than 350 employees across the United States, LAN is a national leader in the engineering industry and is consistently ranked among the “Top 100 A/E Firms” according to Engineering News-Record. LAN is a LEO A DALY company, an international architecture and engineering firm.

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