North Texas

Lack of Green Space in Cities Contributes to Flooding

Cities deal with development but issue remains a challenge

As the population of North Texas explodes and as available land is being turned into houses, apartments and businesses, it creates an unintended consequence -- flooding, experts warn.

Heavy rain has always caused flash flooding in low-lying areas, but it's happening now in places it doesn't usually happen.

Some experts point the finger at developers gobbling up green space.

General Contractor Donald Pengelly traces the problem to the building boom that started years ago.

"As people went in and developed land they just simply sheet drained the lowest lying areas and then that flooded on downstream,” he said. “There was no efforts made to control flood-waters."

He said newer housing developments like Walsh Ranch in West Fort Worth are doing it right, building huge channels so when tranquil creeks become raging rivers, there's a place for all the water to go.

"They've made some great steps in the right direction," he said.

But in older already-built parts of the city, that's just not possible.

"A lot of the areas where we're having problems is where the system is old and doesn't have capacity,” said Greg Simmons, director of Fort Worth’s storm management system.

"Lots of times the real estate is very expensive, it's already fully developed so getting enough land to provide adequate detention can be really, really hard in those areas,” he said. “It's one of the challenges we have."

So the city has to prioritize, spending what money it can to mitigate the worst flooding.

And it has to be creative.

Several years ago, the city built a detention pond to help the Arlington Heights neighborhood. When it's dry, it serves as a city park. But when it rains, it's also a big hole in the ground that holds a lot of water.

City officials say it helps but doesn't solve the flooding problem in Arlington Heights. Fixing it, they said, would require replacing all the storm water pipes underground. And that could cost up to $60 million, they said.

Pengelly said he's all for new development. After all, he's in the construction business.

But he added, "Clearly any development creates additional runoff and the question is how that additional runoff is handled."

He also suggested every homeowner buy flood insurance.

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