Status Reports on 10 Lake Houston Area Flood Mitigation Projects

Instead of exploring one topic in depth, tonight, I’ll summarize a number of topics related to flood mitigation with just a few sentences on each.

West Fork Mouth Bar Dredging

Mouth bar dredging is going faster than expected. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock has not encountered buried trees in that region of the river as they did upstream. Of the 500,000 cubic yards being paid for by FEMA, Great Lakes had already removed about 150,000 as of last Saturday. If they were able to keep that rate, they should be closer to 200,000 cubic yards by now.

West Fork Mouth Bar with Great Lakes Dredge. Drone image courtesy of Franz Willette, BCAeronautics.

That would make them approximately 40% done. Still no word on what comes next. 500,000 cubic yards represents only about a quarter to a third of what needs to be removed to eliminate the backwater effect created by sediment build up. Neither the City, County, State, nor Federal government has yet announced plans for removing the rest. Money is available. But a “placement” permit for the spoils remains elusive.

I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Army Corps five weeks ago for the plans for this project. I think if they had any I would have gotten them by now. This doesn’t exactly involve national security, but people are acting like it does. That worries me.

Kings Harbor Dredging

Callan Marine expects to be done within 10 days and will start demobilizing. This should be welcome news for residents of Kings Lake Estates who have had to live with the noise of booster pumps since the dredging project moved into this reach of the river.

Callan Marine Dredge that has worked the Kings Harbor area for several months.

Ben’s Branch Desilt Project

HCFCD has desilted the upper portion of Bens Branch near Northpark Drive and Woodland Hills. Attention now is shifting farther south, below Kingwood Drive.

Bens Branch near North Park and Woodland Hills

Way back in April, Harris County Flood Control thought it might start work on this project by July. Think August now. The county has already bid the project and awarded the contract. The contractor will remove 77,000 cubic yards of sediment from the area near West Lake Houston Parkway. That’s about 7,700 dump-truck loads. Get ready. Removing all that could take through the end of the year. The City of Houston, though, still has not completed work on the easements that would allow the desilting project to go all the way to the West Fork.

Bens Branch between the Kingwood YMCA and Library. That little spec in the background is a HCFCD surveyor.

Here’s the latest status report from Harris County Flood Control. Currently HCFCD is obtaining the bond and insurance information from the contractor. A pre-construction meeting will take place in the near future at which HCFCD and the contractor will set the notice-to-proceed date.  Ultimately, the contractor should be on the ground working before the end of August 2019.

Three-Phase Taylor Gully De-Snag and De-Silt Projects

Think of this in three separate phases: East Fork to Mills Branch, Mills Branch to Bassingham, and Bassingham to the new construction project project across the Montgomery county line.

Between 2/12/2019 and 4/18/2019, HCFCD in-house crews completed an earthen channel desilt project and a backslope drain repair project from Bassingham Drive to Mills Branch Drive. 

Currently HCFCD in-house crews are focusing on the Montgomery County line to Bassingham.  They are desilting an earthen channel, pruning the fence line, repairing backslope drains, creating new interceptor structures and outfalls, regrading backslope swales, repairing ruts, and installing gates and signs.

Flood Control will also fix the broken concrete rubble at the downstream end of the concrete drop structure which is downstream of Mills Branch Drive. Before they leave, crews will double check the flow line of Taylor Gully from Bassingham Drive to Maple Bend Drive and remove any siltation blocking flow if needed. 

Regarding the last segment, Flood Control removed many downed trees in the natural part of Taylor Gully leading to the East Fork after Hurricane Harvey. Since then, residents have reported more trees that have fallen into the channel. Flood Control has scheduled the removal of these downed trees in Fall/Winter 2019. 

Erosion on the downstream natural portion of Taylor Gully threatens homes in Woodstream Village. Flood Control will once again de-snag this area this fall or winter. Photo Courtesy of Chris Kalman.

San Jacinto River Regional Watershed Master Drainage Plan

This study (partially funded by FEMA HMGP funds) will guide future decisions (and funding) for large flood damage reduction projects upstream of Kingwood. Think additional detention that could help offset future releases from Lake Conroe during floods. While consultants have not yet identified suitable areas for new reservoirs, they have reportedly ruled out Lake Creek because of new developments spring up in the area. The project was expected to take about 15 months and kicked off in April. Flood Control expects to have the final report by the fall of 2020. For videos and more background info on the study, click here.

As part of the project, the consultant will recalibrate hydrologic models using new Atlas 14 data from NOAA. This project could also affect additional gates for the Lake Houston Dam and maintenance dredging.

Woodridge Village Development

A judge has set a trial date in July of 2020 for all the lawsuits resulting from the May 7th flood this year. Meanwhile construction continues. Jeff Miller shot this video last week showing the status of the crucial S2 detention pond adjacent to Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest.

Video Courtesy of Jeff Miller showing the status of construction in S2, the Woodridge Village detention pond adjacent to the homes that flooded on May 7th in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest.

I have also received reports of the developer bringing in fill to raise the northern section of the property. If true, neighbors should be on high alert.

Lake Conroe Lowering by SJRA

Lake Conroe is normally at 201 feet above sea level. To create an extra buffer against floods during the peak of hurricane season (August/September), the SJRA will start gradually lowering Lake Conroe on August 1. They hope to get to 200 feet by August 15 and 199 feet by September 1. They will hold that level until October and then let the lake gradually rise back to its normal level. The National Hurricane Center expects no tropical activity anywhere in The Atlantic or Gulf during the next 5 days.

Huffman Area General Drainage Improvements

Harris County Flood Control met with community members on July 11 to discuss the status of improvements to Huffman area drainage. They are too numerous to list here. But Flood Control has a page on its web site dedicated to Huffman now. Here is the presentation from the Community Meeting.

Inundation Map of Huffman Area from Harris County Flood Control.

Based on an analysis of Harvey flooding in three watersheds (East Fork, Luce Bayou and Cedar Bayou), the flood control district is investigating:

  • Stormwater Detention Basins
  • Channel Maintenance
  • Channel Modifications
  • Voluntary Home Buyouts

The District should make final recommendations by this fall.

Montgomery County New Development and Construction Practices

Four people called me in the last two days about flooding on their properties due to construction practices on new, nearby developments. Complaints involved filling in of wetlands and natural streams; altering or blocking natural drainage; plus elevating property and regrading it to drain onto neighbor’s property.

Part of the Woodridge Village development above Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. Many other developments are starting up in MoCo that will drain into the West Fork.

Not sure what’s happening all of a sudden. This may be MoCo’s answer to urban renewal. According to victims, commissioners seem unconcerned. According to New Caney ISD reports, as many as 4,000 new homes could soon be built in this area. Main focus seems to be between Sorters and West Fork along 1314 up to highway 99. More news to follow.

Romerica High-Rise Project

This isn’t really a mitigation project. But it would require one if built. Romerica’s spokesperson has indicated they plan to re-apply for a permit once they find ways to respond to all the concerns raised during the public comment period for the Corps permit application. However, Romerica’s PR agency has not said when that may happen. Meanwhile they have taken down many of the websites about the project. One remains:

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/28/2019 with imagery from Jeff Miller, BCAeronautics, and Chris Kalman

698 Days since Hurricane Harvey