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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Golf course turns to flood detention center

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Photo courtesy of Exploration Green

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Disaster Assessment and Recovery Unit contributes to a flood detention center that used to be a golf course.

At the end of September, a flood detention site made from an old golf course completed its final phase with A&M’s help.

Exploration Green is a 200-acre mitigation and nature park in Clear Lake, Houston. The site was transformed from an unused golf course to a floodwater detention center to prevent the surrounding community from being flooded. 

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Disaster Assessment and Recovery Unit is a part of the Texas Community Watershed Partners, or TCWP, that controls the wetland — the backbone of holding the stormwater back. 

Exploration Green holds 500 million gallons of flood water. Wetland stores the excess water, Christina Taylor, a stormwater wetland specialist, said. 

“Regular turf grass will usually hold about three inches of water when the wetlands can hold up to eight inches, like eight to 12 inches of water in the soil,” Taylor said. “There is very little maintenance other than occasional pulling out invasives or trimming back the woody species and [mowing.]”

AgriLife Extension Disaster Assessment and Recovery Unit specialist Charriss York said the wetlands also create a healthy ecosystem that welcomes wildlife from Galveston Bay, such as geese and alligators.

“Wetlands are known as nature’s kidneys,” York said. “They have the ability to filter out a number of pollutants. Whether the plants uptake them directly, or it’s the microbes that live in the soil or the biofilms that grow on the roots in the soils within the wetland, there’s a whole lot of different biogeochemical processes that happen within the wetland that improve the water quality.”

Taylor said what makes this mitigation different from others is the area being accessible and the community using the space for leisure activities. There are different community events on their six miles of concrete trails, with their next one being a glow-in-the-dark trick-or-treat event on Oct. 28.

“They have over 200 visitors a day in the park space, so there are always people walking or riding their bikes,” Taylor said.

The Clear Lake City Water Authority owns Exploration Green, so all of the funding for this project was through local bonds, York said, which aided in the cost of around $43 million. She said the cost is more on the lower end compared to other projects like it.

“The other component that was cost-saving was the amount of volunteer work that went into this,” York said. “We are not going out and buying the plants. We are growing them and propagating them, then community volunteers, boy scouts [and] different companies that want to do a community outreach project … will come out and plant with us.”

Horticulture freshman Hallie Bates, who has a two-acre strawberry farm, said it is necessary for students to take care of the ecosystem, whether it’s watering plants or picking up trash. She said that if people do not protect the ecosystem in the environment around them, it can easily get destroyed.

“So much of what we have is taken for granted,” Bates said. “We have to be mindful of the ecosystem that serves us and how grateful we should be in attentive to that.”

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