Dredging, Tropic, Lake, Ditch, and Retail Updates: Sometimes Progress is Measured in Inches

Updates on several subjects.

This afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a two-sentence press release about the start of their emergency West Fork dredging project.

Two-Sentence Dredging Update

It simply said, “USACE contractors are prepared to begin moving the first dredge on Sunday afternoon with operations possibly beginning Monday. If weather conditions pose threats to operational safety, dredging along West Lake Houston Parkway will begin when conditions improve.”

Tropical Development Complicates Dredging

Safety issues related to a potential tropical rain event now have the Corps concerned about safety. Note that orange X in the oval below that’s aimed toward the Texas coast..

Low Pressure System in Gulf has 50% Chance of Formation for up to 5 days.

Latest Tropical Updates for Gulf

As of 3PM Thursday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said about it, “A weak low pressure center has formed a couple of hundred miles east-southeast of Brownsville, Texas. In addition, showers and thunderstorms in association with this system have become more numerous today. While upper-level winds are generally conducive for development of a tropical depression, the system only has about a day before it reaches the western Gulf coast. An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft is currently en route to investigate the low.”

Regardless of development, heavy rainfall and gusty winds are expected across portions of northeastern Mexico and Texas on Friday and Saturday.

Monitor the progress of this system, and refer to local weather forecasts.

Lakes Already Lowered in Advance of Rainmaker

In preparation for the storm, Lake Conroe has already been lowered to its seasonally adjusted target of 199 mean feet above sea level.

Level of Lake Houston has also been lowered. 

Lowering the two lakes gives us an additional buffer against flooding, but still, a rain-swollen river is no place for a 270 ton dredge tethered to hundreds of thousands of pounds of dredging pipe.

Updates on Ben’s Branch

Let’s just pray we don’t get so much rain that the ditches back up. When last we talked about ditches, the City had mistakenly sent the wrong easements to the county, so  that the county could  maintain Kingwood ditches. The City finally regrouped on the 11th. On the 12th, the City contacted Kingwood Association Management’s Ethel McCormick. McCormick is working to put the City together with the Bear Branch Trail Association and the Kings Crossing Association re: easements. More news on that when there’s news to share.

County Begins Surveying Ben’s Branch

In the meantime, Harris County is wasting no time. In expectation of the easements, they were already out surveying the ditches to determine how much silt and debris needed to be removed.

Harris County Surveying Truck near Ben’s Branch

Just east of West Lake Houston Parkway, a Harris County Flood Control Surveying Crew was seen this week trying to calculate the debris that needs to be removed from Ben’s Branch.=

Harris County Surveying Crew in Ben’s Branch just west of West Lake Houston Parkway. Crews are trying to estimate how much silt needs to be removed to restore the carrying capacity of the ditch. Note the surveyor in the far background on the island. 

Blockages like those above created during Harvey contributed to flooding in Town Center and Kings Crossing. Note the proximity of Ben’s Branch to the back of the old HEB shopping center on the northwest corner of Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway.

I asked Matt Zeve, Director of Operations for Harris County Flood Control whether they planned to use the silt from Ben’s Branch to increase the height of the levies or whether they planned to remove it. The answer: remove it.

Work on Ben’s Branch cannot begin too soon. Uncertainty concerning this important waterway restrains the retail recovery throughout the central part of Kingwood.

The old HEB store still has not been leased to a new tenant. 

Without a lead tenant in the old HEB space, leasing the smaller stores in this center is a long shot, especially when the flood risk has not yet been reduced.

Many prospective tenants are waiting on signs from the City and County that flood remediation is about to begin. The 20,000 sf Kelsey Seybold Clinic has also been vacant since Harvey and has a For Lease sign in the window.

Other high visibility retail and rental spaces also remain vacant, i.e., the Chase Bank on Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway, the new Memorial Hermann Health Care Facility, several apartment communities, and much of King’s Harbor.

Plea for Progress to Government

It will take more than deals to lure retailers and residents back to these locations; it will also take genuine progress in flood remediation – much faster progress than we have seen in the year since Harvey. People need confidence that their investments in buildout, inventory, and equipment will not be taken in the next flood. We spent a year talking about remediation; let’s get started.

Posted 9/13/2018 by Bob Rehak

380 Days since Hurricane Harvey