By JUDY SHERIDAN
Melton Harms, chairman of the board for the Parker County Soil and Water Conservation District, didn’t get any assurances from Parker County Commissioners Monday that — come budget time — the court would up its $30,000 yearly allotment to maintain aging flood control structures in the Trinity River Watershed.
Instead, Harms — who asked the court for more money — was directed by Judge Mark Riley to work with individual commissioners to secure assistance from their off-season work crews.
“I know we could do that without any legal issues,” Riley said, referring to a longstanding contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help maintain the structures, built by the USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service in the 1950s.
“The stability or instability of those dams could have an impact on our roads depending on where they are, so if we have some in that situation it seems to me that road and bridge could work without being reimbursed or anything like that.
“If we offset some of the road and bridge costs, it’s still cheaper than paying someone from another county to come up here and mow.”
The 34 flood-retarding structures — mainly small reservoirs that trap and release storm water slowly — are located on private property, many in northern Parker County, according to Wanda Carter, office manager for the PCSWCD.
Originally erected in rural areas, the structures are gradually being encroached on as the county urbanizes, Carter said, and three are now part of residential subdivisions.
The district owns the easements necessary to operate and maintain the reservoirs, Carter said, which has become more and more work as the structures age.
“Commissioner Craig Peacock has most of them in his precinct,” Carter added, “and he helps us tremendously.”
Private landowners also sometimes help with mowing, she said.
In his presentation to the court, Harms emphasized how important the reservoirs are, saying they control runoff from more than 54,000 acres, protecting infrastructure, private property and lives.