History of the WCID
HISTORY OF THE LOWER BRUSHY CREEK WCID
The Lower Brushy Creek Water Control & Improvement District is located in southeast Williamson County and western Milam County and is the Local Sponsor for 23 Flood Retarding Structures or dams built by the USDA – Natural Resource Conservation Service (formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service) under the 1954 Watershed Protection and Flood Control Act.
Major floods in September 1921 and August 1955 resulted in significant property damage and the earlier flood also resulted in the loss of 93 lives in Williamson County with many of those from the Brushy Creek watershed.
In 1955, the USDA – Soil Conservation Service completed an extensive evaluation of the Brushy Creek watershed and prepared reports recommended that a series of flood control structures and several miles of creek channelization be constructed to reduce future flooding in the basin.
The Brushy Creek Water Control and Improvement District #1 of Williamson and Milam Counties (original WCID) was created in 1957 by the Texas Board of Water Engineers to be a Local Sponsor for the project and to help implement the recommendations contained in those studies. The Taylor Soil and Water Conservation District #513 also agreed to act as a Local Sponsor and has assisted landowners by providing guidance and leadership in applying on-farm conservation practices.
As easements were obtained by the original WCID, the Soil Conservation Service provided engineering design and construction funding for the improvements. Eventually, 46 dams were built between 1959 and 1976.
During the last fifty years, two major changed impacted the original WCID:
- The first was the significant increase in population within Williamson County. It grew from an overall population of 38,853 in 1950 to 422,679 in 2010. Most of this growth occurred in the western portions of the district.
- The second has been the adoption of design and construction standards for dams by the State of Texas. By 2000, 19 of the original structures had been classified as “high hazard” dams by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Since that time, 5 additional dams have been reclassified as “high hazard” and this trend is expected to continue.
In 2000, the original WCID completed a comprehensive evaluation of its 19 “high hazard” dams. This engineering study confirmed that a breach of any of these structures would place a significant number of lives at risk as well as causing considerable property damage. The total cost to upgrade all 19 dams to meet state dam safety requirements was estimated to be in excess of $90 million.
In November 2001, the Board of Directors of the original WCID asked the voters to consider approval to split the district so that there would be 23 dams in each of the new districts. The eastern district would only have 2 high hazard dams while the western district would have the remaining 17 high hazard dams. This split was approved by a wide margin. In February 2002, the original WCID was officially dissolved and two new districts were officially created. These are now identified as the Lower Brushy Creek WCID and the Upper Brushy Creek WCID.
In 2009, the USDA – Natural Resource Conservation Service provided funding to make significant repairs to 3 dams in the Lower Brushy Creek WCID as part of the Federal government’s American Recovery and Rehabilitation Act stimulus funding. The overall cost of these improvements were approximately $2.9 million.
Also in 2009, the Texas legislature approved the creation of a Flood Control Program to be administered by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board that has provided limited funding to the Lower Brushy Creek WCID for operations and maintenance. The program received additional funding in 2011 and 2013. At this time, there is a significant backlog of deferred maintenance estimated to be in excess of $800,000. After this backlog is eliminated, it is estimated that at least $92,000 will be required annually to perform minimal operation and maintenance of its’ 23 dams.
Four additional dams are in need of significant repairs – 2 due to slope failures and 2 due to extensive wave erosion. The estimated cost to complete these repairs is $2,824,000.
The 2 high hazard dams are in need of rehabilitation to meet current TCEQ dam safety regulations at an estimated cost of $3,171,000. TCEQ recently made two inspections and has reclassified one more as dam as high hazard. There is not yet an estimate of the cost to rehabilitate it.
All significant and high hazard dams are required to have Emergency Action Plans developed and on file with the TCEQ and the appropriate County. No funds have been available to prepare these plans for the 5 sites requiring such plans.
According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the 23 dams sponsored by the Lower Brushy Creek WCID provide over $1.4 million in annual benefits including $113,000 in annual flood control reduction benefits to numerous county, state and federal roads as well as bridges and culverts. They also capture 180,000 tons of sediment annually.
At this time the Lower Brushy Creek WCID has no taxing authority while several other neighboring water districts including the Upper Brushy Creek WCID, the Elm Creek Watershed Authority and the Donahoe Creek Watershed Authority and tax between 2 and 3½ cents per $100 in assessed valuation.