Haltom City spending about $12 million to cut flood risk for Little Fossil Creek

Posted Monday, Jul. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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George Chavez got home from school on a very rainy day in 2011 to find that his mother and then-7-year-old sister had fled.

As Little Fossil Creek rose to the edge of its channel behind their home, and backed-up runoff lapped over Posey Lane’s curbs in front, Raquel Chavez had grabbed Anna and taken refuge with relatives in Fort Worth, he said.

A video his mom shot before fear of the raging water overwhelmed her shows that the creek “was up to the trees at the back of our house,” said Chavez, who will be a Richland High School senior this fall. “It never came up to the house. By the time I got home from school, the water was still high in the creek, but the streets were going down.”

Little Fossil Creek normally isn’t more than a glorified trickle, and it hasn’t threatened their home since, said Chavez, 17. But when an Army Corps of Engineers project to widen, deepen and shore up the creek is finished, flooding will be less likely in the neighborhood near Carson Street and Texas 121, and elsewhere in a 2-square-mile area on the city’s south side, said City Manager Tom Muir.

Construction of the $12 million first phase, which began last year, is expected to be completed in December, according to the Corps of Engineers. On the drawing board since 1994, the project will widen the channel to an average of 75 feet; beef up the sides with concrete, rocks, interlocking blocks and grass to prevent erosion; create a pool downstream from the Trinity Railway Express tracks with a small dam; and add a hike-and-bike trail along the entire project.

“The trail head will be where homes were taken out on Orval Court, and it will have a pavilion,” Muir said.

Just getting the creek behind their house cleaned up is the best gift David and Nancy Bird have had in a while. They’ve endured a lot of annoyances since moving into their Posey Lane home in 1969, though the occasional high water hasn’t been an issue.

“I’m not concerned with flooding,” David Bird said. “To the extent that the chance was there, it isn’t now. But cleaning it up is the best part because it used to smell bad, and there were all kinds of critters that would come into the yard.”

Little Fossil flooding traditionally was a greater threat to commercial properties than residential, Muir said. In the review plan for Little Fossil Creek Flood Control Project, the Corps of Engineers said a 1981 flood caused about $10 million in damage.

The creek’s improved storm-drainage capacity will virtually eliminate a 100-year flood plain, in turn reducing costs for development, redevelopment and insurance in the area, Muir said.

“It means expansion of businesses, new businesses coming in and redevelopment of residential properties,” he said. “The people who want to do that now have to raise the foundations two or three feet before they build.”

The project will cost the city an estimated $12 million or more. The federal government is covering only about $7 million of the project’s first-phase cost, leaving Haltom City holding the bag for more than $5 million, and for the entire cost of phase two.

“We’re anticipating another 6 to 7 million dollars,” Muir said.

Phase two will finish the southern end of the flood-control project near where Little Fossil joins Big Fossil to flow into the Trinity River’s west fork. It also includes the trail system and replacement of the Carson Street bridge under Texas 121, Muir said.

Haltom City voters approved a $4 million bond election in 2001 for the project. The rest of the funding has come from certificates of obligation, which do not require voter approval, Muir said.

“The option was to say forget it, or grin and bear it and find the money,” he said. “So we found the money.”

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620 Twitter: @fwstevans

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