Plans moving forward with “biggest drainage project Orange County Drainage District has ever had”

Published 12:20 am Tuesday, February 6, 2024

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Orange County Drainage District is about to embark on the largest drainage project in its history thanks to newly released funding.

The drainage district, which covers the entire county and includes more than 600 miles of earthen ditches, was recently approved for $31 million in funding for drainage improvements.

Orange County is one of 10 counties receiving funding from the Texas General Land Office.

Don Carona, OCDD executive manager of special projects, said the funding will be used for Tiger Creek Stormwater Detention Project.

Tiger Creek is a major, natural drainage structure that exists in the Western part of Orange County, including Vidor and surrounding areas. In anticipation of the project, OCDD purchased approximately 600 acres of land in that location from the Texas General Land Office.

OCDD is looking to use 450 to 500 of the acreage and over excavate the land and add a pump station to the detention pond.

The plan is to be able to pump out water that’s in the pond to create additional capacity for a predicted rain event, Carona said.

A significant amount of the storm water originates in Jasper County, which is north of Orange County. The point is to capture and detain the water during a storm and release it after the event.

“That would create a drainage benefit for all of the areas that rely on Tiger Creek for drainage,” he said. “OCDD has been working closely with Orange County, including Judge (John) Gothia, he’s done a tremendous amount of work and Commissioner (Robert) Viator.”

Carona said the drainage district is also appreciative of the Texas GLO and Commissioner Dawn Buckingham for making this project happen.

The next step is for the GLO to provide OCDD with a contract, which will include a very detailed schedule of the project and design.

Another major portion of the planning is the permitting process.

“Environmental permitting can be arduous, it takes some time,” Carona said, adding they will likely need permitting from the U.S. Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and potentially from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

“The design includes environmental permitting which is necessary for the project,” he said.

After the design the project will be out for construction. OCDD intends on performing a significant amount of the work.

“This is the kind of work we do, day in and day out,” he said. “We intend to use contractors, probably for the construction of the pump station and maybe some other features.”

While the detention pond will help alleviate flooding from predicted rain events, it’s not a miracle answer.

“There is no detention pond anywhere that will eliminate all flooding, like with Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda,” Carona said. “Those were epic rain events.”

But, he added, it will help.

“This will be the biggest drainage project Orange County Drainage District has ever had,” he said.

The Texas General Land Office allocated $1.1 billion in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Regional Mitigation Program to reduce the risks and impacts of future natural disasters, according to a news release from Texas GLO Commissioner Dawn Buckingham.

Regional mitigation funds approved by the Texas GLO total more than $122 million is earmarked to improve streets, drainage and sewer systems in Burleson, Colorado, Galveston, Jefferson, Lavaca, Orange, Sabine, San Augustine, San Patricio and Waller counties.

Orange County was awarded $31,091,100 for drainage improvements.

— Written by Mary Meaux