LiDAR technology utilized in study to mitigate Spring Creek flooding


Published 3:44 pm, Thursday, January 4, 2018

Data collected from a high-tech surveying method that uses lasers beamed from aircraft is being compiled to help local officials try to find a way to reduce flooding along portions of Spring Creek.

The information gathered by a remote sensing method called Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR for short, is being utilized to reconstruct and study the rise and the spread of the creek’s waters during Hurricane Harvey, said Rich Jakovac, president of the board of Municipal Utility District 386.

The data compiled by Tuck Mapping Solutions, Inc., a Virginia-based mapping technology company, will be used to try to determine ways to reduce future flooding near the creek in the Harris County portion of MUD 386, which is essentially the Village of Creekside Park in The Woodlands, Jakovac added.

Once all the data from the LiDAR study is assembled, it will be developed into a model for further evaluation, Jakovac said. The model will be shared with officials from The Woodlands Township and The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency, the management agency for MUDS that serve The Woodlands, he said.

“That data is being used to construct a two-dimensional model and that model is going to show what happened during the flood event in the district,” Jakovac said.

According to descriptions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, LiDAR uses lasers, along with a scanner and a specialized GPS receiver that are placed in a airplane or a helicopter to map out an area. The NOAA is not involved in the Spring Creek study but the agency describes LiDAR systems as allowing scientists to map areas with “accuracy, precision, and flexibility.”

Jakovac described LiDAR as a “proven technology.”

The LiDAR study comes after Spring Creek topped its banks during the torrential downpours generated by Hurricane Harvey, sending water into homes in the Village of Creekside Park, Timarron and Timarron Lakes areas. In all, about 300 homes in the area were flooded during Harvey.

When the data from the LiDAR study is assembled, a model will be developed, with the model expected to be completed in February, Jakovac said. That model is expected to help solve future flooding issues for the area.

“We’re going to use that model to see if there’s any local or regional solutions to mitigate flooding,” Jakovac said. “It’s an excellent way to look at a flood event and decide what to do.”

Officials with the Woodlands Joint Powers Agency will also be reviewing the data.

“We’re all anxious to get the model in place to run the various ‘what if’ scenarios that you would have during another Harvey-like event,” said James Stinson, general manager of the WJPA.

Stinson said he was expecting a formal presentation on the LiDAR study sometime in March.

Jakovac said the price tag just to gather the LiDAR data is about $80,000. Additional engineering costs for “developing concepts and potentials solutions” are also expected as the study advances, though the extra costs are not known at this time, he added.

MUD 386 was established in 2009 by the state of Texas and collects taxes from homeowners within the district’s boundaries for drainage, water and sewer services.

The LiDAR study, which MUD 386 is funding, comes not only after Harvey’s flooding, but also after some residents who live in the MUD’s area gathered last fall to protest what they described at the time as unfair treatment from MUD officials, with some complaining they weren’t allowed to provide their input during a special board meeting in October.

However, disputes between the residents and MUD officials seemed to have been smoothed in mid-November, with members of a group called Stop the Flooding in MUD 386 saying conversations were taking place with the MUD board and that the board seemed to be responding to their concerns.

“I will say that Chad Abrams, the engineering consultant for the MUD has been very receptive to meeting with the residents out at Timarron to look at the areas they saw problems during Harvey and explaining how the drainage system works,” a member of the group, Jen Bowman said in an email Wednesday. “While it hasn’t generated solutions, it has helped residents understand a little bit of what happened and how things work (or should work normally).”

The resident group’s next scheduled meeting is Jan. 10.

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