Panther Island / Central City News

What do the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau numbers, more rainfall and the Central City Flood Control Project
have in common?

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Photo: @iamcjclements

Booming population growth along with more
annual rainfall brings higher risk of devastating flooding.

Fort Worth has nearly tripled in size since the United States Corps of Engineers built the current levee system in the early 1960s. Our levee system was built for a population of roughly 350,000 people and Fort Worth has now surpassed 920,000 people. Because of the booming population growth, even as far back as the early 2000s, the USACE had already determined that 86% of Fort Worth’s current levee system is no longer tall enough to protect us from the events the Corps expects to hit this area. Meaning, if Fort Worth saw a flood similar to that of the 1949 event, over 2,400 acres of neighborhoods in our city could be flooded again. With that in mind, after seeing the 2020 estimates released from the U.S. Census Bureau, Fort Worth’s population growth is not something that is going away.

The 2020 U.S. Census Bureau estimates have Fort Worth’s population pulling ahead of Jacksonville. The latest estimate was that Fort Worth has a population of 927,720. From 2019 – 2020, Fort Worth added nearly 19,229 residents. That is 3rd in total growth among the 50 largest cities, behind Phoenix and San Antonio. The percentage of growth over that period is 2.12%, which make Fort Worth 2nd in the nation among the 50 largest, trailing only Seattle. The growth is more than just year-to-year though. From 2010-2020 Fort Worth added an estimated 179,000 residents, placing it 5th overall, behind Phoenix, San Antonio, Houston and Austin. Again, among the 50 largest cities, Fort Worth was the 2nd highest percentage growth, still behind Seattle, with 24% growth between 2010-2020.

During the 2010 census, Fort Worth was the 16th most populous city in the country, moving four spots after the 2020 census. Finally, if Fort Worth continues to add 17,930 residents per year as it has estimated to do over the past decade, the city will hit the 1 million mark in 2025.

In addition to Fort Worth’s population growth, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released the new “climate normal” for our region. The region’s average rainfall is now 37.01 inches annually. The increase over the last 70 years translates to about eight more inches of rain per year.

With all the population growth and rainfall increase, what is being done to keep Fort Worth safe from devastating flooding? The Corps’ hydraulic and hydrology modeling of their bypass channel determined that the bypass channel will solve Fort Worth’s flooding problem. The channel will cut off the section of river that is causing our system to back up and the efficiency of the bypass channel will make the rest of the levee system of sufficient height to protect the 2,400 acres of neighborhoods that are currently at risk. The bypass channel will also make the section of levees that are cut off from the rest the system obsolete. Because that section will be obsolete, that section can be removed if so desired. However, none of the rest of the system will be lowered.