Before and After Harvey Images Show Impact of Sediment on West Fork Flooding

Below are two videos taken by Jim Zura of Zura Productions before and after Harvey. Together with other still images, flooding statistics and the Army Corps’ Value Engineering report, they demonstrate how radically Harvey transformed the West Fork. As you review these, keep in mind that the proposed new high-rise development in this area based its engineering on pre-Harvey assumptions.

Zura, a videographer and local drone pilot, shot this first video in 2016. River Grove Park looked pristine. Beyond it, a massive clear cut area surrounds an idyllic little lake. This is where a developer plans to build a high-rise resort around a marina. The drone then rotates to reveal a river without blockages downstream, or in front of the boat docks. In just 18 months, everything would radically change.

River Grove Before Harvey and the Sand

Hurricane Harvey brought with it massive rainfalls that washed sediment downstream, clogging the West Fork. Onshore, they reached up to five feet and stretched 450 feet inland.

Still frame from Jim’s video compared to a shot I took from a helicopter two weeks after Harvey. The angles are slightly different but they show the same location.

Result: a park that normally floods once every over year flooded six times in one year – three times in the last month alone – 12X greater than normal.

The Reason for Increased Flooding Frequency

It’s called reduced conveyance of the river. The Army Corps documented this in its Value Engineering Study. Here are some shots I took after Harvey from a helicopter. Consider them within the context of the videos above and below. You will understand why River Grove has been near-continuously inundated for a month. I wonder how the owners of luxury high-rise condos would feel about not being able to access their property for that long.

To get a feeling for how much sand was left in the river by Harvey, see how much lined both shores of the West Fork.
Sand on both side of the river stretched 450 inland after Harvey. Nearest the river, it reached 5 feet in height through this reach of the West Fork.
A giant sand bar 12 feet high and 1500 feet long was deposited in one event: Harvey. It blocked the drainage ditch that empties the western third of Kingwood. The proposed new high-rise development would also depend on this ditch.

I fail to see how the high-rise developer filling in hundreds of additional acres of floodplain with 12-feet of fill could have zero net impact. If every engineering survey ever submitted for a flood plain development were correct, the world would have no flooding problems.

River Grove after the Christmas flood. Water went down briefly then came back up during the next flood in early January. As of today, the soccer fields were still flooded. See the area that compares to the first video at the end of this one.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/8/2018

497 Days after Hurricane Harvey