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Issue 6
June 2021
Debris Removal Program Aims to Prevent Channel Blockages
Debris Removal Program
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Debris removal is an important part of the work we do at the Harris County Flood Control District. We classify debris two different ways, organic debris: trees, brush, grass wads, big stems that get caught under bridges and then inorganic debris, which is man-made debris. This includes things like pallets, mattresses, sofas, car tires and other man-made items that float into the channels.

Native Seed Study Laying Roots for a More Sustainable Tomorrow

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Harris County Flood Control District is sowing seeds for a more sustainable tomorrow. The Harris County Flood Control District is partnering with Texas Native Seed on a new project that studies native grasses in an effort to develop a genetically improved seed mix that can be used for future site stabilization projects. Native grass seeding on Flood Control District projects has been a long-sought-after goal. However, identifying a commercially available and locally adaptable species suitable for the region has been challenging.

"Prescribed Burn" in Greens Bayou Reduces 40 Acres of Invasive Vegetation

Recently, Acorn Forestry, a state-certified burn management consultant working with the Flood Control District’s Environmental Services Department, set fire to 40 acres of prairie within the Greens Bayou Wetlands Mitigation Bank (P700-01-00-Y001). This type of “prescribed burn” was used as a tool to reduce invasive vegetation and improve habitat on flood control property. There was coordination with necessary state and local agencies, and nearby residents were informed ahead of time by the Communications Division.

Employee High Five Recognition Program
High Five
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Jonathan Holley: Environmental Services Department Manager

What was your first job?

My first job after college was a Stormwater Management Intern for the City of Greensboro, North Carolina, which is small city near where I grew up and went to school. I helped collect stormwater runoff samples, monitored fish and macroinvertebrate communities in streams as an indicator of aquatic health, inspected stormwater detention basins, and helped map the City’s storm sewer system. It was a great experience for where I am today and I learned a lot about how stormwater is managed, how a municipality maintains their infrastructure and how to improvise with limited resources.  

How did you get your start at the Flood Control District? 

I started out at the Harris County Flood Control District in 2009 as the Stormwater Quality Design Project Manager. I helped project teams design and incorporate environmental enhancement features into flood control projects.  This involves creating areas that will be planted with native tree and wetland vegetation and trying to incorporate features, where possible, into a channel improvement project that make it look and function more like a natural river. These design features are not just intended to make our projects more aesthetically pleasing; they also help us comply with environmental regulations to improve water quality and protect riparian habitat for wildlife. I am now the manager of the Environmental Services Department.   

What are your day-to-day duties? 

The Environmental Services Department ensures Flood Control District compliance with Federal, State and local environmental laws and regulations for all operations and maintenance programs. The Department also manages a mitigation banking program to offset unavoidable project impacts to regulated waters and wetlands. A key function of my current role is to oversee a diverse and talented group of staff that assist in the preservation of natural resources and the greening of Flood Control District practices while meeting our regulatory obligations.

 

What do you like most about your job?

I enjoy seeing a project go all the way through project development from a concept during a feasibility study, to preliminary engineering, to final design, and finally to a completed flood damage reduction project.  It can take a long time (years) to complete this process, but it’s very rewarding and humbling to look back at all the planning and individual decisions that went into creating a project with a big impact on a community.

 

What is the best career lesson you've learned so far?

I have tried to be open to developing skills that I may never need or want to use again, like Calculus.  This openness has created a lot of opportunities and allowed me to meet a lot of interesting people.  My Calculus professor introduced me to the person that got me my first job and I still talk to him today even though I struggled in the subject.

 

What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now? 

I am fortunate to have a window into just about all of the innovative and cool projects the Flood Control District is doing, but I am personally interested in an effort working with Scott Elmer and Laura Cahill to develop  guidelines for minimizing wildlife hazards around airports. It’s been fascinating to learn about all the things airport operators think about to keep planes flying safely and how wildlife biologists view the various design features in our stormwater detention basins.  As a result, we are developing a consistent methodology with design guidelines for coordination of Flood Control District projects with the local airports in order to achieve our individual objectives.

 

What is something about yourself that most people don't know? 

I am an avid home brewer and enjoy brewing many styles of beer to share with friends and family. I had a neighbor that taught me the ropes of taking just four ingredients (water, barely, hops, and yeast) to create limitless possibilities. And my gracious wife allows me to sneak off to local craft breweries whenever we travel so that I can sample the regional specialty.

From the Interim Executive Director
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Click here to read the monthly message from the Harris County Flood Control District's Interim Executive Director Alan Black.

Major Bridge Work
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The Harris County Flood Control District installed beams on the Buffalo Speedway bridge in the Brays Bayou Watershed.

The new bridge will be four lanes wide, include a left turn lane at each intersection, and have an expanded 10-foot sidewalk. Construction on the Buffalo Speedway bridge began in Spring 2021 and is anticipated to be completed in Winter 2021/2022. The bridge serves more than 15,000 commuters each day.

Flood Control District Throwback Photo
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The Harris County Flood Control District Flood Warning System has come a long way.

In 1982, the Flood Control District designed and installed AFLOWS – our Automated Flood Observation and Warning System – with more than 90 battery-powered sensors located on channels throughout the county.

Sign up for alerts at harriscountyfws.org

$9.8M in Partner Funds Awarded