Project Barker continuing to seek public investment

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 6/16/22

Project Barker, a $24 million drainage improvement and community park project for the Barker Reservoir, continues to seek public investment, an official said Thursday.

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Project Barker continuing to seek public investment

Posted

Project Barker, a $24 million drainage improvement and community park project for the Barker Reservoir, continues to seek public investment, an official said Thursday.

Willow Fork Drainage District President Wendy Duncan gave an overview and update on the project at an infrastructure summit held at the Embassy Suites, 16435 Katy Fwy. The Katy Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the event.

Duncan said the district oversees about 15 miles of drainage channels, 50 miles of storm sewer and outfalls, and 30 miles of off-street trails. The district oversees three parks. Central Green Park was completed in 2013. Exploration Park, was completed in 2015. Willow Fork Park was completed in 2017. Duncan said the district has overseen approximately $7.7 million in Hurricane Harvey-related recovery projects.

The Texas Water Commission, the predecessor to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, created the district in 1985. The district finances the acquisition and construction of drainage facilities, sewer facilities and related drainage projects.

Drainage has been an issue in the Katy area for decades before Hurricane Harvey’s 2017 appearance. Duncan showed a map of Houston, circa 1940, with two projects that were to help with the floodwaters but were never built. One project was building a levee north of Katy, near Cypress Creek. The other project was a diversion channel that would move floodwaters from north of Katy to Fort Bend County. These floodwaters would be moved south of Houston and empty into the Gulf of Mexico.

To solve flooding issues, Duncan said, two things were needed. One is conveyance, or moving the floodwaters downstream. An example of this, Duncan said, is a recent $390 million project to improve the Sims Bayou channel.

The other way to deal with flooding, Duncan said, is storage, which involves excavating reservoirs to enable more floodwater storage. This is where Project Barker can be useful.

Duncan said the goal for Project Barker was to increase the reservoir surface area to approximately 12,036 acres, with the ability to hold approximately 209,600 acres to cubic feet, or 210 Astrodomes, full of water when necessary.

The project would also increase park space and features, with additional trails to connect to the existing regional system, Duncan said. It would enable environmental enhancements and educational opportunities as well, she said.

The district would maintain the vegetation, natural plantings, sediment and silt removal, and park facilities, Duncan said.

Duncan said the district has committed $10 million to the project. It continues to seek other public investors for the remainder of the money.

Duncan said Project Barker has been envisioned as a “first domino,” with successful implementation making it easier for similar flood mitigation projects to happen in the future.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed both the Barker and Addicks reservoirs to prevent downstream flooding of Buffalo Bayou, according to the Texas Water Development Board website. Barker Dam construction began in 1942, and ended in 1945. The dam is a rolled earth embankment that is 71,900 feet long and rises up to 36.5 feet above the streambed.

Project Barker, Willow Fork Drainage District, Katy Area Chamber of Commerce

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