Nearly 2,000 floodwater retarding structures, or dams, have been built over the last 60 years within the State of Texas. The primary purpose of the structures is to protect lives and property by reducing the velocity of floodwaters, and thereby releasing flows at a safer rate. These are earthen dams that exist on private property, and were designed and constructed by the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). They were built with the understanding that the private property owner would provide the land, the federal government would provide the technical design expertise and the funding to construct them, and then units of local government would be responsible for maintaining them into the future.
Local sponsors of the dams were required before a federal project was begun. Local sponsors signed a watershed agreement which outlined the duties and responsibilities of the federal and local sponsors. In general, local sponsors are required to obtain and enforce easements, conduct operation and maintenance (O&M) inspections, maintain the structures, and implement land treatment measures in the watershed. Soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) are one of the local sponsors in all watershed projects. Other local sponsors include counties, cities, and Water Control and Improvement Districts (WCIDs).
Due to the passage of time and difficulty in raising adequate funds locally, many sponsors approached the Texas Legislature with their concerns over amount of needed O&M and repairs. In recognition that these dams will continue to serve as a critical protection for our state's infrastructure, private property, and lives, the Legislature appropriated $15 million dollars to the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) for grants to local SWCDs during the 2010-2011 biennium for O&M and structural repairs.
Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Grant Program
The O&M Grant Program is a reimbursable grant program for local SWCDs and certain co-sponsors of flood control dams. This program reimburses SWCDs 90% of the cost of an eligible O&M activity as defined by the program rules; the remaining 10% must be paid with non-state funding. Rules for the O&M Grant Program were developed by the TSSWCB staff and a representative stakeholder group during the Summer of 2009. Rules for the Program are codified in the Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 529, Subchapter A.
Structural Repair Grant Program
The Structural Repair Grant Program provides state grant funds to provide 95% of the cost of allowable repair activities, including match funding for federal projects through the Dam Rehabilitation Program and the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program of the Texas NRCS. Rules for the Program are codified in the Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 529, Subchapter B.
For information relating to competitive bidding requirements for this program, please review Local Government Code, Chapter 271, Subchapter B, Section 271.024.
For information relating payment and performance bonding requirements for this program, please review Local Government Code, Chapter 271, Subchapter C, Section 271.059.
For more information on flood control dams in Texas, please visit the USDA-NRCS Watershed Program webpage.
For more information on dam safety in Texas, please visit the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality webpage.
John Foster, Statewide Programs Officer
(254) 773-2250, ext. 235
Lee Munz, Flood Control Programs Coordinator
(254) 773-2250, ext. 241