Other Voices

Thanksgiving floods took a toll downstream in east Fort Worth

The boat ramp and facilities near the Loop 820 bridge were still flooded on Nov. 30, the Monday after Thanksgiving.
The boat ramp and facilities near the Loop 820 bridge were still flooded on Nov. 30, the Monday after Thanksgiving. Star-Telegram

In 2006, I purchased farm property in east Fort Worth to develop an equine training and event facility especially geared toward youngsters.

The property had been used for horses for more than 30 years. Although it was in a flood plain, any flooding was infrequent and not destructive.

This year, both in May and on Thanksgiving weekend, floods threatened our livestock and the farm’s ability to operate.

The release of water from area lakes with no warning, combined with the unmonitored impact and lack of oversight for upstream construction and land use, all led to disaster for my operation.

We need to adopt a “no adverse impact” approach to land development and have a flood warning and monitoring system that takes all areas of the city and its residents equally into account.

The most dramatic and life-threatening event started with rain on Thanksgiving Day.

At 4 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 27, online National Weather Service gauges indicated that the river was still below flood stage.

But between 6 and 7 a.m., we were flooded after only about three inches of rain over a 15-hour period.

The Fort Worth Fire Department and volunteers helped us evacuate our smaller animals. The horses were easily moved to higher ground.

Sadly, many of our dwarf Nigerian goats and their babies drowned.

Evaluation of the damage showed that the water came in an unprecedented tidal wave.

Officials indicate that beginning on Thanksgiving Day, water release started at Eagle Mountain Lake.

The release continued, putting my farm under water for four days. In the past, any flood waters receded within about 12 hours.

Property owners on the east side of Fort Worth have expressed their concerns to the city and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The river on the east side cannot handle the volume created by the changes that have been made upstream.

Flood control measures have been made from downtown to the Handley-Ederville area, but nothing has been done to the east to manage the river flow.

The Tarrant Regional Water District and the Corps of Engineers control water discharge from the lakes. They take care to protect the houses on the lakes, but apparently without concern for those downstream.

Downstream property owners should receive notification of planned upstream water releases that might cause flooding.

Construction development in the area should be monitored and land use regulations should be enforced so as not to cause an adverse impact on residents downstream.

Engineers justify development in the flood plain with concepts like mitigation and valley storage.

A developer who wants to build in the flood plain agrees to build a 10-acre lake, 50 feet deep. Conceptually, the lake is to drain to the river and be maintained at a certain level so there’s always a certain amount of storage area available.

But this isn’t always being done, and the process is not monitored.

If the lake is full, it doesn’t matter how deep it is — flood water still runs downstream.

It is imperative that all entities that share responsibility for water management work together.

I urge our elected officials and the various leadership teams of the Tarrant Regional Water District, the city and the Corps of Engineers to help all of us protect our properties and our very livelihoods.

Julie Amendola runs the Trinity River Farm & Equestrian Center in Fort Worth.