Flooding On Lake Livingston (part one)

I’m considering buying
a waterfront home on Lake
Livingston but am somewhat
concerned about flooding.

No need for concern and here’s why.

The TRA or Trinity River Authority is the governing body over Lake Livingston and one of the things they are charged with is keeping the water level as close as possible to the normal pool rate of 131 feet above sea level. Typical fluctuations in water levels are about a foot over or under that mark. But, in extreme conditions, whether it be a long, severe drought or period of heavy rains up N of the lake towards Dallas & beyond, either may cause changes in the lake level to such an extent that the dam cannot maintain the 131 feet. 

TRA can minimize the amount of water flowing through the dam for instance, but if a drought lasts long enough, the lake level will drop.  Or, when extreme rains & flooding occurs on the Trinity River watershed N of the lake, the release rate can be adjusted  to prevent flooding but that control weakens as you get further away from the dam towards the upper end of the lake which can be 40 plus miles away.

Following are some terms & figures that will help you understand why flooding is not typically a problem here:

The normal pool level of the lake is 131 foot above sea level.

Bulkheads are supposed to be put in at 134 foot above sea level.

The TRA has a Flowage Easement on most all waterfront properties which gives them the right to let the water level rise to 135 foot above sea level in very extreme flooding conditions. According to the TRA, they have never reached that number on the lower end of the lake. In fact, their record high at the dam is 134.38 foot above sea level which would follow that, according to Jacob Young of the TRA, between the dam and the Onalaska area, the 135 foot level would hold pretty close.

The Flowage Easement is often depicted on subdivision plats and, for sure, you would want it shown on a survey you might order or receive from a seller. This way you can get a general idea of where that 135 foot elevation is on the lot in relationship to the waterfront home you are considering and whether this will need further looking into or not.

What does this all mean to you?

It is not common for water to get over bulkheads but it does so on occasion.  If this happens, as most of the land around the lake slants downward towards it, the water will be moving up hill and may only go a foot or 2 into your yard or could go all the way almost to the 135 foot mark. But, as homes are supposed to be built higher than the 135 feet above sea level mark (generally 2 feet above on the lower end of the lake), by and
large, water should never get into your house so it is nothing to be concerned about as long as you take the proper precautions.

The 135 feet above sea level applies only to about the middle of the lake (Onalaska area) on down south to the dam. This figure rises as you go N towards Riverside and Hwy 19 where it crosses over the Trinity River because the dam has less and less effect on the water level as you move further North away from it. Also, because the dam has less effect on water levels on the upper end of the lake, you will also get larger fluctuations in that water level.

For the conclusion of this post, see See Part Two