Houston Community Converts Golf Course Into Detention System, Natural Areas (Source: Civil Engineering)

By Jay Landers

When constructed in the 1960s, Clear Lake City—a master-planned community on the southeastern edge of Houston—featured a golf course at its center for recreation and relied exclusively on drainage channels for managing stormwater runoff. Over time, the golf course eventually would go out of business, and the drainage channels would prove inadequate to the task of accommodating the increasing volumes of runoff resulting from newer area and upstream development. Although unfortunate for local golfers, the demise of the course proved a boon for efforts to improve stormwater management in the area.

In 2011, the Clear Lake City Water Authority (CLCWA)—the local provider of water, sewage, and drainage services—spent $6.2 million to purchase the 178 acres of land that formerly served as the golf course. This month, construction is scheduled for completion on the first of five planned phases to convert the former golf course into a series of flood-mitigation features that also include wildlife habitat and recreational amenities. Upon its completion in several years, the multi-phase project—dubbed Exploration Green in honor of the neighborhood’s proximity to, and close ties with, the nearby Johnson Space Center—will expand significantly the local capacity for detaining stormwater while meeting community demands for greater access to natural areas.

When Clear Lake City was developed originally, drainage channels were provided as the sole means of managing stormwater, says Kelly Shipley, P.E., M.ASCE, the project manager for Lockwood, Andrews, & Newnam (LAN), Inc., of Houston, which designed the project. “There really wasn’t a detention policy in place at that time,” Shipley says. “Nothing was holding back water.” The drainage channels extended through the various subdivisions, conveying stormwater to a series of bayous that culminated in the Gulf of Mexico.

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