Project managers and engineers from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division's Fort Worth and Galveston Districts, along with city officials from Wharton, Texas, held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the Santa Fe Ditch, Nov. 9, 2022.
During the ceremony, held on a dry, beautiful fall day, the Fort Worth District’s Operations officer, Capt. Joseph Sterr, thanked officials and fellow Army Corps of Engineers team members, for their support.
“I would like to specifically thank our elected officials that passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which provided the funding for these projects,” Sterr said. “I’d also like to thank the construction team, which consisting of the Corps of Engineers’ Omaha, Galveston, and Fort Worth Districts, the city of Wharton, the contractor, and everyone else that supported this effort. Without your hard work and due diligence, none of this would have been possible.”
The ditch section is the first phase of a four-part flood risk management project funded by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 and designed to help mitigate risk from future flooding events in Wharton.
“Since the 1998 floods, the city of Wharton has been working tirelessly with the Army Corps of Engineers on the Colorado River Flood Reduction Project and this outfall is only one small piece of that project,” Wharton Mayor Tim Barker said during the ceremony. “After repeated disasters the outfall received significant damage and we were unable to fund the extensive repairs needed.”
Located near the Gulf of Mexico, and close to the confluence of the Colorado River, Caney Creek, Baughman Slough, and Peach Creek, the city of Wharton has historically suffered when heavy rains hit the region.
The city constructed the initial Santa Fe outfall embankment in 2013 but that was damaged during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and further damaged during two large rainfall events in 2019 and 2020.
In 2020, the city conducted $48,000 of emergency repairs, but the ditch and outfall still needed major reconstruction.
Although classified as a ditch, it provides drainage for about a quarter of the city during heavy rainfall and acts as supplementary interior drainage storage if the Colorado River runs high.
As project managers toured neighborhoods that were flooded in 2020, water marks were seen four feet above ground level, nearly 25 feet above normal river levels.
Knowing that stormwaters flow to Wharton from hundreds of miles away, future phased construction will include building levees to manage the Colorado River and provide for interior sumps and drainage features.
“We are grateful for the funding and construction oversight provided by the Army Corps of Engineers for the repairs that have been completed to this critical piece of our infrastructure,” Barker said.
The entire project is projected to be completed in 2028.
Editor’s Note: Major stakeholders in the construction project were the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Southwestern Division’s Fort Worth and Galveston District, along with Northwestern Division’s Omaha District, the Texas Department of Transportation, Kansas City Southern Railroad, Lewisville Aquatic Environmental Research Facility and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.