Fort Worth-area growth has made flooding worse. A new regional water study could offer solutions
The city of White Settlement is working with the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the Texas Military Department to address flooding along the arms of the Farmers Branch Creek that have cost millions of dollars in damages to the area over the years.
During one of last spring’s heavy rainfall, the Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base observed over three inches of rain near the city of White Settlement. Reported flash floods swept people away.
That incident is just one of the examples of the impact of Fort Worth’s westward expansion, which has increased the risk of flooding of the Farmers Branch Creek into the Texas Army National Guard’s armory and nearby residences.
“If we don’t do something and we’re not proactive, something will happen. It’ll get worse,” White Settlement City Manager Jeff James said.
“Progressively over the last few years, we happen to be kind of toward the end of that creek as it is trying to get all that water into Lake Worth,” James said. “And so as that water accumulates and it’s going through our town, we’ve had to progressively work on this creek to kind of mitigate some flooding issues.”
The $1 million project also is part of a larger program that the North Central Texas Council of Governments is spearheading called the Upper Trinity River Transportation and Stormwater Infrastructure Project. The goal is to study and find ways to address flooding risks of the growing Fort Worth-Dallas area.
“This is a little project embedded in a much larger analysis, but it’s having very localized flooding impacts on the city of White Settlements, residences, and on the National Guard property,” said Dan Kessler, assistant director of transportation at the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The local project on the city limit between Fort Worth and White Settlement would expand the existing channel of the Farmers Branch Creek to accommodate more water on heavy rainfall days. The channel is between the armory and the edge of a residential area.
In an email statement to the Fort Worth Report, the Texas Military Department said it is working with the cities of Fort Worth and White Settlement on this project. Officials said White Settlement conducted a drainage study, which will result in the armory property losing 30 feet of property.
The White Settlement residential neighborhood that backs up into the Shoreview armory property has caused flooding in the past, the Texas Military Department said.
The city of White Settlement already committed $500,000 in funding for this project. It will be responsible for maintaining the property as well.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments said it is applying to the Local Defense Community Cooperation program to cover the other $500,000 needed for this local project.
Kessler said there is an early indication that the council of governments could be accepted as one of the limited recipients of the $90 million grant program.
“This idea of improving the resiliency of the system, I think, would certainly qualify,” Kessler said.
The grant is expected to be awarded in the fall.
As the region continues to welcome more residents, the risk of flooding rises with an increase in development. The North Central Texas Council of Governments is working with the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Trinity Water Authority, the Tarrant Regional Water District and municipalities to conduct a regional study called the Upper Trinity River Transportation and Stormwater Infrastructure Project.
The program is set to look at the Trinity River system and how to better equip the local infrastructure to survive heavier rainfall.
“We forget we go through these periods where we don’t have as much rain, but when we have it, it seems like we have a lot of it,” Kessler said.
According to a 2019 presentation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the North Central Texas Council of Governments, only 46% of the Trinity River Basin is regulated. Increased flooding has cost the state of Texas about $150 billion since 2015.
“Even though development complies with our regulations, you’re adding more and more impervious surfaces as the area develops,” Fort Worth stormwater program manager Jennifer Dyke said. “There is an impact of adding more and more impervious surface on flooding. Cumulatively, as you add more and more, that can increase flooding in certain areas of town.”
The city of Fort Worth also is working on identifying hazardous road locations that flood and finding ways to make them safer. Over 300 potentially hazardous locations have been identified within the city at risk of flooding.
Edith Marvin, director of environment and development at the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said the Trinity River basin project will help the region get in front of growth. The regional study will take three years and is expected to cost $10 million. All funding has already been secured, she said.
“The general population has begun understanding that, until we do something different in the way we plan, flooding is going to occur, it’s going to continue to occur as long as growth and development are happening, which we’re thrilled that that’s happening in our area,” Marvin said. “But it’s one of the consequences because people don’t really do flooding studies until a subdivision is going in.”
The project will focus on studying ways to improve transportation, stormwater and environmental infrastructure to address the effects of growth in the area. This should help reduce flood-related damage to roads and bridges and better designate stormwater areas that will absorb floodwaters.
“We didn’t want to focus on the areas that are already developed, where the biggest investment opportunities are already lost,” Marvin said. “When people build houses along the stream, down in the floodplain, it’s hard to fix that — and it costs a whole lot of money.”