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HOUSTON (AP) — A county in southeast Texas is moving forward with designing the final $14 million stretch of a decades-long project to widen and deepen Brays Bayou.

Harris County commissioners voted Tuesday in favor of paying CivilTech Engineering nearly $600,000 to design the final phase of the project. Construction is expected to begin next summer and conclude in 2021, the Houston Chronicle reported .

The Harris County Flood Control District and the Army Corps of Engineers have been working since the 1980s to increase the bayou’s ability to handle floodwaters in hopes of providing relief to nearby flood-prone neighborhoods like Meyerland and the Texas Medical Center.

“We’re actually finishing a multi-decade, $500 million-plus mega-project,” said Matt Zeve, director of operations at the flood control district. “It’s pretty significant. We’ve been working on Project Brays for a very long time.”

The vote comes nearly four months after Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston region, covering it in more than 50 inches (about 130 centimeters) of rain in some areas and flooding hundreds of thousands of homes and other structures.

The roughly 700,000 people living in the Brays Bayou watershed have been hit repeatedly by flooding recently, including Harvey. The project is expected to remove about 15,000 homes and businesses from the bayou’s flood plain downstream of Beltway 8.

The overall project also includes retrofitting and replacing more than 30 bridges along the bayou that could hamper the flow of stormwater.

Commissioners also voted Tuesday to design a large stormwater detention basin on Greens Bayou. The basin will complement several other projects aimed at improving the bayou and its tributaries’ limited capacity to handle floodwaters. Greens Bayou is ranked among the worst in Harris County in its ability to carry stormwater, according to Russ Poppe, executive director of the flood control district.


Information from: Houston Chronicle,