ANALYSIS: Growth causing severe drainage problems in county
Ellis County is growing.
What used to be rural, country living, is quickly shifting to suburbia, with more and more people moving to our county and joining our family. Every week, new building sites, commercial and residential, are going up along our highway corridors and farm to market roads.
With all this growth, the question becomes – is Ellis County ready?
The answer, from an infrastructure standpoint – is NO.
In times of rapid growth, it is crucial that the proper infrastructure, water, erosion, and flood control, be in place and maintained to ensure that services can be efficiently provided and property values protected.
Today, this system is failing us.
Growth is outpacing the capacity of the infrastructure currently in place, and new developments are going in lacking the appropriate flood and erosion controls.
The people downstream and on the surrounding properties are beginning to feel the negative effects of this escalating problem.
Adding to this issue is the very real fact the institutions in our county which should be able to oversee the infrastructure lack the enforcement ability to fulfill this function.
Ellis County Development and the National Resource Conservation Service are both funded by our tax dollars.
Both can answer any questions residents may have, and both are able to provide all the suggestions and feedback on what infrastructure should be in place.
However, they have no funding and no authority to ensure their suggestions are carried out.
How does this affect the residents of our county?
If you live in Waxahachie or Midlothian proper, the biggest concern is street flooding when storm drains are overloaded.
Both cities are built on or very near to the bedrock and have minimal topsoil to absorb rainfall.
This water eventually drains into Lakes Waxahachie and Bardwell while also taking significant amounts of precious topsoil with it.
In Palmer, lack of drainage along FM878 leading out of the city, leaves yards and houses flooded, with the standing water becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Similar issues plague residents of Boyce, and a new development going in just west of town, with no storm or erosion control in sight, is sure to increase the issue.
Rural areas county-wide are seeing increased amounts of erosion along creeks leading to washed out bridges and roads as well as loss of valuable farm and pastureland.
Conservation lakes put in by the now disbanded Soil Conservation Office are beginning to silt in and lessen in their effectiveness.
In a dramatic example of these issues, an alarming increase in the volume of erosion has been noted by homeowners recently along Ebenezer Road between Palmer and Boyce.
New homes and recent road work on FM879 (the road was raised, and ditches dug out) have increased the flow of water through what was once a very small creek.
I have owned property in this area since 1984, and have stated for most of that time, the creek was little more than a ditch a few feet across and could easily be crossed.
In the last three years, however, the erosion has increased to such a degree this small – barely a creek – is now 30-feet across and over 15-feet deep.
Myself and the other property owners in the area are watching the property they worked so hard for wash steadily, and heartbreakingly downstream.
I recently consulted with Ellis County Development regarding this sudden increase in storm water and erosion. Their response was they could see there was a problem and were able to offer suggestions, but since the problem was on private property, they said they have no authority to intervene and no financial assistance to offer.
This is even though the water rushing down this ever-growing creek rapidly runs under two county roads within one mile of my property.
All of this is not to say there is no infrastructure development happening.
A new Rockett SUD water supply line is being laid along 287 between Waxahachie and Ennis.
The issue is inconsistent and appears to have little to no oversight or regulation.
While this new waterline is certainly needed, there is no sign of storm drains, sewer or erosion control being done in conjunction with this project.
In a sense, only part of the job ls being done, and only one of our county’s needs is being met.
There is no question Ellis County is growing, and this growth will bring new opportunities and many benefits to all our residents.
The question is are we going to take the steps necessary now to ensure we are ready and able to support not only this new growth, but more importantly the people who already call our great county home?
Will we learn from the examples of Dallas, Fort Worth, and their surrounding cities, or will we follow them?
The institutions to help us do better are in place.
Perhaps it is time to afford them the funding and authority to do more than consult.
Perhaps, we as tax paying residents of Ellis County need to now stand up and insist they begin taking care of all of us.