Freese and Nichols Inc. is leading a team conducting Phase One of a study for the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) to determine whether deep underground tunnels can help improve resiliency in the region by alleviating persistent and destructive flooding.
HCFCD is responsible for approximately 2,500 miles of bayous and tributaries that drain stormwater from Harris County, including Houston and some of Texas’ fastest-growing suburbs. It is using a federal grant to study the feasibility of tunnels that would convey large volumes of stormwater by gravity away from vulnerable neighborhoods and businesses.
The Phase One study intends to determine the feasibility of constructing large-diameter deep tunnels in Harris County. The study will assess geotechnical and geologic conditions, hydraulic capacity and impacts, scheduling and cost projections, and compare conditions in Harris County with other active and completed tunnel projects around the United States and the world.
“Many large urban areas in the United States including Chicago, Dallas and Washington, D.C., have turned to tunneling to mitigate flooding risk and protect lives and property from potentially devastating damage,” said Freese and Nichols’ Tunneling Services Leader Brian Gettinger, who has been involved in tunneling and flood control projects across the United States.
“Decades of advances in tunneling technology have made this a solution worth investigating for the Houston region despite its soft clay, sandy soils, high groundwater and flat terrain.”
The HCFCD study is being conducted through a $320,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and an $80,000 cost share from HCFCD funded with bonds approved by Harris County voters in a 2018 election. FNI is partnering on the project with Parsons, Brierley Associates, Terracon, HVJ, Sowells Consulting Engineers and Middleton Brown.