Urban Golf Course-Turned-Wetland Cuts Storm and Flood Impacts

The Takeaway: The project, supported by Texas’ coastal zone management program, provides recreational opportunities and slashes flood risks for thousands of area homes.

When fierce storms bear down on the Texas community of Clear Lake, a reclaimed urban wetland, transformed from an abandoned golf course, performs exactly as it should—acting as a sponge to keep floodwaters away from area homes. The 200-acre wetland and green space, named Exploration Green, protects this land from commercial development. It was supported by the Texas General Land Office’s Coastal Management Program through a grant from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management.

Now that Exploration Green is completed, up to 3,000 homes no longer reside in “100-year” or “500-year” floodplains that carry greater risks of flood damage. Five large detention ponds hold an estimated one-half billion gallons of stormwater. In addition, studies supported by the state’s coastal management program document water quality changes provided by its 40 acres of restored wetlands. Other community benefits include miles of hike and bike trails, athletic fields, bird habitat islands, native grasslands, and thousands of trees.

Exploration Green received a 2018 Excellence in Green Infrastructure award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies.

This reclamation effort was implemented by the Galveston Bay Foundation. (Original story 2016/ updated 2018 and 2022)

Partners: Galveston Bay Foundation, Texas Coastal Management Program of the Texas General Land Office

Fast Fact: Did you know that coastal wetlands prevented more than $625 million in property damages during Hurricane Sandy? For more statistics related to this story, check out Wetland Benefits and Hazard Mitigation Value.