Master Drainage Concept Plan for City of Bellaire – UPDATE – Preliminary Cost is $335 Million

In December of 2018 Bellaire City Council viewed a presentation for an interlocal agreement among Bellaire, TX-DOT, and the Harris County Flood Control District.  In July of 2019 the City signed an interlocal agreement with Harris County Flood Control committing $351,000 to the agreement.  A March, 2018 Flood Hazard Mitigation Report from ARKK Engineers is available here.   

Watershed Map

In August of 2021 the latest draft of the Master Drainage Concept Plan was scheduled to be distributed and on September 28, 2021, Michael Leech, the Director of Public Works, presented those plans that have been developed to the Flood Hazard Task Force.

At that meeting Interim City Manager Brant Gary enumerated about $30 million dollars possibly available to the City.  Current unappropriated bond funds total $11 million; an anticipated $4.7 million from the American Rescue Plan Act; $15 million from Harris County.  Find a link to that meeting hereFind the PowerPoint presentation here.   Note: As of 12-3-2021 Brant Gary is no longer employed by the City of Bellaire.

A presentation was then made to City Council on October 4, 2021.  Council has not not approved any projects for funding at this time.  The video of that meeting can be accessed here.

Cypress Ditch – Click to enlarge map

Find links to draft reports below.  The following is an excerpt from Page 1 of the Report. The consensus seems to favor Concept 3, at $335 million, as the most attainable.  The 2021 report from AARK Engineering and Costello Engineering is no longer available.

Three Concepts were developed which included improvements to reach the goals of the study. To evaluate each concept, the reduction in flooding was determined by simulating that Concept in the hydraulic models. 

Both Cypress Ditch and Kilmarnock Ditch are mentioned.  Both are in Houston, not Bellaire.  Kilmarnock Ditch runs south from Bellaire Blvd along the east side of the railroad tracks.  Cypress Ditch runs west along Beechnut from Chimney Rock almost to the railroad tracks that border Bellaire.  It then turns south and empties into Brays Bayou.

Concept A includes improvements to Kilmarnock Ditch and a flood tunnel down Bellaire Blvd. to collect flows from the Rice/I-610/Newcastle system and direct it to Kilmarnock.  The Kilmarnock ditch improvements would rely upon the ability to place channel expansions and detention within the CenterPoint Energy easement. It also requires storm drainage improvements to the local streets to convey water to shaft collection points along Bellaire. A preliminary cost estimate for the entire Concept A implementation of $286MM in total. Concept A has some ability to Phase, but the main components Kilmarnock and Bellaire tunnel are upfront projects with high cost.

Concept B includes the installation of a flood tunnel under I-610 that travels from Brays Bayou to just north of Bissonnet. This system also includes a supplemental pump station that would increase the discharge of the tunnel b approximately 3,000 cfs. Micro lateral tunnels are proposed to collect drainage for the side systems and convey to the main tunnel.  A preliminary cost estimate for Concept B implementation of $346MM was computed. Concept B is very difficult to phase as the tunnel and its required shaft locations are needed as the first phase project. Additionally, even with the tunnel in, real hydraulic benefits don’t arise until the lateral tunnels are in place.

Concept C requires the use of the existing drainage ways and includes expanding the capacity of each. Rice and I-610 are proposed to be traditional storm sewer improvements with the addition of 3-10×10 RCBS for each system. Two options were evaluated for Newcastle 1) a micro 12-ft tunnel down Newcastle and 2) Redirection of upper Newcastle flows to an improved Kilmarnock Ditch. Additionally, improvements to Cypress Ditch are required to include expansion of the I-610 cross culverts to 2-12×12 RCB and upstream channel improvements to the Rice outfall. A preliminary cost estimate of $335MM was developed for the entire implementation of Concept C. Concept C allows for full phasing of the project in as small of construction projects as desired.


Harris County Flood Control District – $351,000 (50%)
City of Bellaire – $221,832 (31.6%)
Texas Department of Transportation – $129,000 (18.4%) Engineering
Project Team
ARKK Engineers, LLC.
Costello, Inc.
Freese & Nichols, Inc.

City of Bellaire Master Drainage Concept Plan City of Bellaire, Harris County Flood Control District, and Texas Department of Transportation, August 2021

Master Drainage Concept Plan – September 2020

Master Drainage Concept Plan 2018

Concept Plan Memorandum issued August, 2020

The following is an excerpt from an article published on this website in December, 2018.

Bellaire is located at the east/southeast terminus of various watersheds that flow into Brays Bayou. Combined with upstream development to the west/northwest that drains into Brays Bayou. the loss of permeable areas, and changes in the area’s topography including the construction of Loop 610, Bellaire is now more prone to flooding.

The cost of the proposed study is $702,000, to be shared by the three government bodies, with the Bellaire portion at 18% or about $126,000.  The City had already budgeted $315,000 for a drainage study, which means a savings of almost $200,000.

Michael Leech, the City’s director of Public Works, and James Andrews, the City engineer from ARKK, emphasized this cost is only for a drainage study to develop a plan.  Technology such as water tunnels and pumps was mentioned.  The actual costs for design and construction could run $200 million or more if the entities involved decide to pursue it.  Hopefully such a project would be funded with grants from the Harris County $2.5 billion bond issue or other government sources.

The proposal for the Master Concept Drainage Plan will be presented to Bellaire residents at a Town Hall Meeting scheduled for February 4, 2019, and three additional meetings will be held during the year.  If approved the project will be managed by ARKK Engineering.  The anticipated outcome of the studies and presentations could result in the inclusion of future costs in a bond issue in 2019.

The basis of this study is a 2016 drainage study by ARKK engineering,  which is no longer available on the City website.  Here’s the concept report from 2018.

A review of the FIRM map shows that most of Bellaire is in the 100 year flood plainAverage elevation ranges from 56 feet to 52 feet (along the east/southeast boundary).  With the ongoing  improvements to Brays Bayou some areas of Bellaire are expected to be removed from the 100 year floodplain.  You can find your address and elevation on the FIRM map.  Enter 77401 in the search box:

About Jane McNeel

Bellaire resident since 1956. Email: Find more information on 'About This Site' in the main menu.
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