All phases of Exploration Green flood-control project and park in Clear Lake complete

All five phases of Exploration Green, a major 178-acre flood-control project and park area, are officially complete.

Clear Lake City Water Authority, alongside Houston-based Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. — the project’s design engineer — are holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the project grounds on Sept. 30. The project, which transformed a former golf course into recreational green space with five massive detention ponds, was implemented to help prevent nearby homes from flooding.

“We understand the importance of flood control measures and are dedicated to implementing innovative solutions that will contribute to the long-term resilience and safety of the surrounding communities,” Kelly Shipley, senior associate at LAN, said in a statement.

The new detention ponds have the ability to hold 100 million gallons of stormwater. To put the amount in perspective, this is equivalent to 750 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

However, Exploration Green — which is named for the community’s local exploration legacy and its proximity to Johnson Space Center — serves as a natural park. The park portion of Exploration Green comprises 153 acres of natural habitat with wetlands and native grassland areas, 6 miles of hike-and-bike trails, two athletic fields and other amenities.

Of the 40,000 people living in the direct Clear Lake area, nearly 70% will be within walking distance from one of the sections of Exploration Green, with the other 30% less than a mile from part of the project.

The first pond protected at least 150 homes from flooding during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 — and it was only about 80% complete at the time. The area also withstood Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019 and Tropical Storm Beta in 2020. With all five phases completed, Exploration Green is expected to protect between 2,000 and 3,000 homes near the floodplains by Horsepen Bayou.

“Exploration Green has transformed Clear Lake from a flood-prone community into one of the most flood-resilient communities in Texas,” Wayne Swafford, LAN’s president, said in a statement. “In addition, it is creating a healthy, sustainable neighborhood for its residents.”

The total cost of the Exploration Green project was expected to be $30 million, John Branch, board president of CLCWA, told the Houston Business Journal in 2018. However, the updated estimated cost for all phases in total was $53.65 million, according to officials, but the actual construction cost came in at $46.71 million, $6.95 million under budget.

Other projects are in the works across the Houston area to help mitigate flooding, including the proposed Galveston Bay Park. If the park project moves forward, silt dredged from the Houston Ship Channel would be used to build a 10,000-acre park in the form of a few small islands running from Baytown to Texas City. These islands would be connected by a series of gates that could be closed to drastically reduce the impact of storm surges in the west Bay communities and the petrochemical plants in the area. It would provide new public recreation space as a bonus.

Meanwhile, the Houston Stronger coalition of civic groups, economic development organizations, professional organizations, business associations and citizens throughout the Texas Coast area are working with the government on a comprehensive regional flood and storm resiliency plan. The plan, which comprises 12 discrete and independent projects, spans Harris, Montgomery, Liberty, Chambers, Galveston, Brazoria, Fort Bend and Waller counties. The projects include restoring and expanding the capacity for the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, doubling the flow of all major bayous in the greater area, restoring the eroded Brazos River, constructing reservoirs in Montgomery county and more, the Houston Business Journal previously reported.


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