Fort Worth

Levees that protect Fort Worth deemed ‘minimally acceptable’

The 10 levees that protect 21.5 miles of Fort Worth along two forks of the Trinity River were deemed “minimally acceptable” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in its regular five-year inspection.

Minimally acceptable is a category that describes 65 percent of federal levees across the United States. Nationally, only about 1 percent of federally inspected receive the highest rating of acceptable. None of the Fort Worth levees were deemed unacceptable.

The Corps said the Fort Worth’s levees “would perform as intended during a flood event.”

Congress passed the beefed-up levee inspection program after the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

While routine inspections are done yearly, periodic inspections come every five years.

Here 5 things to know about Fort Worth levee system:

1. Worst flood in history

The worst flood in Fort Worth’s history occurred in 1949, when 11 inches fell overnight on May 16. Ten people were killed and the floodwaters caused an estimated $11 million in damages, mostly in north and west Fort Worth. As a response the current levee system was constructed and Lake Benbrook was completed in 1952.

2. Levee system would protect

If the the 1949 flood happened today, the floodwaters “would just be in the levee system” but there would be “localized flooding in low-lying neighborhoods” in other parts of the city, said David Marshall, the Tarrant Regional Water Districts ’s director of Engineering and Operations Support. TRWD maintains the levee system.

3. Another flood in 1990

Since the levees were built, water has only come to the bottom of the levees, the Corps said. The greatest flood occurred in 1990, which was considered a 20 to 30-year flood. The floods in May and June of 2015 were only considered “a 7 to 10-year-event,” Marshall said.

4. Trees in the levee zone

During the inspection, the Corps dinged the levee system for having trees in the levee zone. Some of the levees heights were also considered to be “below original design grade.”

5. System begins along Clear Fork

By the Corps definition, the levees begin on the Clear Fork near Bellaire Drive and the Chisholm Trail Parkway and proceed toward downtown. On the West Fork, they start below the Lake Worth spillway near Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth then proceed toward downtown. There is also the West Fork Loop levee that extends north and east of downtown. It ends near Beach Street where the river returns to its natural flow through the rest of the county.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna