Environmental Assessment and Public Communication for the Addicks and Barker Dam Safety Program, US Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District, Texas
Addicks and Barker Dams are two 11-mile-long earthen dams creating 16,000 acres of reservoir in the heavily populated western region of Harris County. The outlet structures at Addicks and Barker Dams, which feed into Buffalo Bayou, have been deemed to be at high risk of failure due to structural integrity and their associated flooding risk to the region. With this information, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) led an intensive study of the structures and a concurrent public awareness and community education campaign to communicate this risk to the adjacent communities.
The risks associated with these dams include flooding of regions both upstream and downstream of these structures, including downtown Houston and the many industrial complexes along the Houston Ship Channel.
Crouch Environmental Services' scope included NEPA documentation, incremental cost analysis, and habitat analysis for reconstruction of Addicks and Barker Dams. In addition to these efforts, Crouch Environmental Services conducted field studies and records reviews to document the existing environment surrounding the dams (portions of the dry reservoirs made up of over 50,000 acres) including wetlands, waters, threatened and endangered species, aesthetics, floodplains, soils, farmland, socio-economics, air quality, and noise impacts. Crouch provided the USACE with a comprehensive Environmental Assessment documenting the purpose and need for the project, alternatives considered, the existing environment, and the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts that would result from the project. A biological assessment was prepared for the project that documented potential impacts to threatened and endangered species that would result from the project. In order to ensure that the proposed wetland mitigation would fully compensate for the proposed impacts, Crouch conducted complex ecological modeling using the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Habitat Evaluation Procedure. An incremental cost analysis was also conducted to guarantee that the proposed mitigation was cost effective and a best-buy scenario.
Crouch Communications, a branch of Crouch Environmental Services, developed a comprehensive communications plan, and a multi-step public awareness campaign was implemented through 2012. To kick off the communication initiative, Crouch Communications held a total of 11 outreach meetings in February 2010 – 4 meetings hosting the general public and 7 other meetings targeted towards various media, public officials, and interested stakeholder groups. Crouch Communications prepared a branding system, mass invitations of attendance, multiple collateral pieces, an online web presence (www.addicksandbarker.info), a social media presence, and a 20-minute video explaining the subjects of investigation and the associated risk. A follow-up large‑scale public meeting was held in subsequent months to provide an update to the interested public about the outcome and findings of the Addicks and Barker Dam Safety Modification Studies.
Risk communication is a delicate and necessary task, and the Crouch Communications team was honored to assist USACE in launching and implementing this awareness campaign. The well-attended public meetings allowed for broad dissemination of key project messages that were easily understood by the public. Ensuing media coverage was balanced and accurate, focusing on the proactive measures being taken by the USACE and personal safety responsibilities of the public. The public involvement approach developed by Crouch Communications was named a national "Best Practice" by the USACE National Headquarters.
Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project, Coastal Water Authority (AECOM)
The Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer project is a 23-mile conveyance project designed to transfer surface water from the Trinity River in Liberty County, Texas, to Lake Houston in Harris County, Texas. The purpose of this project is to increase the available water capacity that can be used to supply Harris County with clean, potable water as demand for this resource increases over time.
Crouch participated as an active member of the environmental team led by AECOM, conducting numerous environmental surveys on approximately 1,200 acres of land. In a matter of hours, Crouch Environmental Services increased its staff by eight people and mobilized field biologists and technicians to meet the urgent needs of the project. These needs included wetland delineation, threatened and endangered species assessment, biological assessment, habitat modeling, and a zebra mussel management and control plan. Crouch developed a compensatory mitigation plan, a wetland evaluation report, threatened and endangered species assessment report, and other environmental documents for the project.
Crouch Environmental Services was required to analyze the project site utilizing several different ecological modeling procedures, including Wetland Evaluation Technique 2.0 (WET 2.0), the Modified Charleston Method, and Interim Hydrogeomorphic Model (iHGM). Crouch Environmental Services processed each model independently on approximately 1,200 acres of the project site and then compared the results of each model to determine appropriate mitigation for potential impacts to project site. Crouch Environmental Services, in consultation with the client and several resource agencies, determined the appropriate model to utilize in wetland restoration and mitigation for activities. Through a broad and effective documentation approach, project information was compiled including intensive field surveys, agency input, and stakeholder input and design. Crouch Environmental Services is actively involved in the development of final versions of the referenced reports and compilation and creation of the final Environmental Impact Statement.
Harris County Flood Control District E535-01 Environmental Assessment for a Stormwater Detention Basin
This project is located in Jersey Village, Harris County, Texas, adjacent to a tributary of White Oak Bayou. The project site is approximately 42 acres in size and is the former site of the Jersey Meadow Golf Course.
The project involved the construction of a stormwater detention basin to reduce the risk of flooding and future flood loses and damages to property in the project area, and Crouch Environmental Services provided necessary environmental services and coordination.
Crouch collected data for various environmental constraints within the project limits. This included performing a wetland delineation, vegetation characterization, habitat evaluation for threatened and endangered species, surveys for potential wildlife utilization on-site, cultural resources screening reviews, evaluation of potential hazardous materials within the project vicinity, collecting demographic data to evaluate socioeconomic conditions, and collecting data regarding geology, soils, water quality, and floodplains.
After data collection was complete, an evaluation of Action and No Action Alternatives was conducted to determine the extent of potential impacts to the human, physical, and natural environments. The collected data, along with the results of the alternative analysis, were documented in an Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
Crouch Environmental Services coordinated with the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to facilitate public involvement activities required for this project, including preparation of a public notice and documentation of public feedback regarding the project.
Following receipt of the FONSI, HCFCD was able to move forward with construction of the project in order to protect the public from flooding and its associated damages to property and infrastructure.