Exploration Green gets $500,000 grant

The Clear Lake City Water Authority and Exploration Green Conservancy have been awarded a $500,000 grant to help in their joint effort to make the Clear Lake area a safer and more enjoyable place to live.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission recently awarded the grant to develop pedestrian trails, landscape and site restoration, and help fund installations of irrigation systems. Exploration Green received the People’s Choice Award for Urban Land Institute Development of Distinction, recognizing the Exploration Green Conservancy, a non-profit, for its conservation efforts and dedication to environmentalism and safety for all citizens in the Houston Bay Area.

Exploration Green was only on Phase 1 of 5 when Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston last year. It was estimated to have retained a 100 million gallons of water and prevented more than 100 homes from flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods. The second phase started this year and will add another pond, wetlands, trails, and 1,000 native trees.

Phase 2 should be completed by the end of 2019. Construction on Phases 3 and 4 will begin later this year and will be completed in 2020. The final Phase 5 will begin construction in 2020 and will be completed in 2021. When all five phases are complete, they will hold half a billion gallons of storm water.

The project utilizes natural infrastructure to protect our vulnerable community from imminent disasters. The purpose is to build a vital stormwater detention on a 200-acre recreation space to preserve the bay and surrounding areas. Exploration Green is a nature-based solution to prevent tragedies before disaster strikes and provide park recreation area for citizens and wildlife habitat. Last fall, Exploration Green was recognized by the Galveston Bay Foundation as its governmental “Guardian of the Bay.” It was also recognized with the National Disaster Resilience Award sponsored by Allied World Insurance and the National Wildlife Federation.

The wetlands implement man-made filtration systems for storm sewer runoff before it is released downstream. Recycled water systems are used to maintain clean water for aquatic life and wildlife, and utilized as a drought-proof water source for the community.

Funding for the construction of the detention ponds was approved by CLCWA voters in 2016. The Exploration Green Conservancy was created to engage the community in fundraising for all the amenities and coordinating volunteer support.

Frank Weary, chairman of the Exploration Green Conservancy, said, “The response from the community has been phenomenal with over 9,000 volunteer hours documented already. Fundraising has been a huge success and we continue to seek new grants and gifts to complete all five phases.”

Exploration Green is a great role model for sustainable development along the Gulf Coast, CLCWA President John Branch pointed out. “Policymakers must realize in order to maintain our precious Bay Area Houston community we need to be proactive and prioritize planning. Amenity funding has been graciously donated from groups such as Trees for Houston, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Galveston Bay Foundation, City of Houston, Texas Community Watershed Program, Space Center Rotary Club, and Harris County,” he added. Recently, a representative from FEMA visited the project for consideration as a national model for local flood control, Branch said.

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