Texas & Harris County gets $ 320,000 federal grant for research on the flood tunnel

The county where Houston lives is in line to receive a $ 320,000 federal grant to evaluate a flood protection strategy that involves deep underground tunnels being built to move rainwater into the city's shipping channel .

The Harris County flood area would use the money from the US Economic Development Administration to investigate whether the tunnels would be a cost-effective option without overloading the bayous of the area, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The district has already begun working on flood control projects funded through $ 2.5 billion of bonds approved by the voter last summer. The bond money is intended to complement federal funds for flood mitigation projects after Hurricane Harvey Texas has left $ 125 billion in damage. So far, none of the projects have seen underground tunnels that pose unique challenges for the Houston area due to the flatness of the region, soft soils and a high groundwater level.

"The study is actually to look at our ground conditions, including our groundwater table, and compare it with existing technology in the tunnel industry to see if there is a match," said Russ Poppe, the executive director of the district. "If that is true, we can start looking at costs, routes and opportunities that we may be able to pursue."

Officials from the county could approve the study on February 26, including $ 80,000 in matching dollars.

District leaders said tunnels could help Harris County protect against 100-year floods, which have a 1 percent chance of occurring in a given year.

Jim Blackburn, co-director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation of Disasters Center at Rice University, is not opposed to underground tunnels, but expressed his concern that the strategy could shift money from more urgent proposals.

The construction of the tunnels is estimated to cost between $ 40 million and $ 163 million per mile, according to flood management. Officials from the province said last year that the total price tag could be several billion dollars.

"It is one of those big dream projects that can take us away from much more reasonable short-term projects," said Blackburn. "I doubt it is feasible."

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