Ken Matthews lives in a one-story house on Shady Maple Drive in Elm Grove about a block below the troubled Woodridge Village development in Montgomery County. Homes on Shady Maple Drive experienced severe damage during both the May 7th and September 19th storms. That damage has been linked to this development.
“Had I Waited One More Minute…”
Between 8 and 9 o’clock a.m. on September 19th, Matthews saw water rising quickly in front of his home. He made a split-second decision to evacuate his wife and child. By the time he packed them in his car, they barely escaped. Water filled the street that quickly. He said, “Had I waited one more minute, we would not have gotten out.”
Matthews had just moved back into his house days before. They had lived with a friend for months while finishing repairs from the May 7th flood. He and his family went to the same friend’s house to wait out the September 19th storm.
The Clear-Cut Difference
Clear-cutting accelerates the rate of run-off, contributes to flooding, and increases sedimentation as you can see in this video. Virtually the entire 268-acre Woodridge site had been clearcut by mid-August when work on the site mysteriously ground to a halt. But only about about a quarter of the detention ponds had been installed before September 19th – despite a more than a month of ideal construction weather before Imelda.
Video from Jeff Miller’s security camera several blocks east shows his street filling up with clear water at the same time Matthews evacuated. However, a short while later, at exactly 10:10 a.m., a wave of chocolate brown muddy water came cascading down the street in a sudden surge. That much muck could only have come from one place: Woodridge Village. With only 25% of the detention installed, 75% of the runoff had to go somewhere else. It went into the streets of Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest.
Matthews said he did not join the lawsuit against Perry Homes subsidiaries and contractors after May 7th. However, he does plan to join the suit now. His home has just been wiped out for the second time in four months.
Even More Dirt
If you want to find more dirt on Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors, just go to the north end of Village Springs Drive next to Woodridge.
Significantly, Perry Homes has not lifted a finger to help the residents of Elm Grove. Instead it is suing them. This ranks as a new low in the annals of American corporate history.
Harris County Stormwater Rules Discourage Clearcutting Giant Sites All at Once
What do best practices in the development industry have to say about clearing such large sites all at once?
Harris County Stormwater Quality Management regulations discourage clearcutting giant sites like Woodridge Village all at once. See section 220.127.116.11, Stormwater Pollution Prevention (SWPPP) During Construction. The text states, “The clearing, grubbing and scalping (mass clearing or grading) of excessively large areas of land at one time promotes erosion and sedimentation problems. On the areas where disturbance takes place the site designer should consider staging construction [emphasis added], temporary seeding and/or temporary mulching as a technique to reduce erosion. Staging construction involves stabilizing one part of the site before disturbing another [emphasis added].“
Of course, these are Harris County regulations and Woodridge Village sits in Montgomery County. Montgomery County has no comparable regulations posted on its website as far as I can tell.
Construction Sequencing Not Addressed In Construction Plans
Section 4.2.5 of the same Harris County document addresses Construction Sequencing. This section states, “The construction drawings should clearly state the designer’s intentions and an appropriate sequence of construction should be shown on the plans. This sequence should then be the topic of a detailed discussion at the pre-construction meeting (that must include the on-site responsible construction personnel) and then enforced by an appropriate inspection program throughout the construction period.”
That didn’t happen in Montgomery County either.
Another Conflict of Interest for LJA Engineering?
LJA Engineering plans that have become public to date do not address the sequencing of construction except for Phase 1 and Phase 2. (Curiously, they started Phase 2 first.) Nor was there adequate supervision during the months before May 7th. No sediment control measures, such as silt fencing, had been installed before then.
That’s a shame. Perhaps if they did, hundreds of homes may not have flooded on September 19th.
While searching the Montgomery County site for stormwater regulations, I was reminded that LJA Engineering manages the stormwater program and reporting for Montgomery County. LJA Engineering developed the plans for Woodridge Village, yet another apparent conflict of interest. LJA Engineering’s stamps are all over the hydrology plans for this development, too.
Perry Homes Gang Still Stalling Lawsuit, But Some Hope
Meanwhile, the Perry Homes gang is still stalling the Webster-Spurlock law suit against them. Two weeks after the judge in the case heard arguments in the motion to compel discovery, she still has not made a ruling.
However, there was some movement in the case last week. Lawyers for both sides agreed to keep all documents and depositions obtained during discovery confidential. Perry’s subsidiaries and contractors may have material that would embarrass the parent company if it became public. The court documents refer to “protecting trade secrets.” That sounds like convenient cover to me. How many trade secrets can there be about bulldozing dirt?
The intent of the order seems to be to keep documents away from the watchful eyes of the media, such as ReduceFlooding.com. On the plus side, though, lawyers tell me that sometimes such agreements may be a prelude to settlement talks. If this moves the case forward, I’m all for it. The flood victims desperately need help.
Posted by Bob Rehak on October 5, 2019
767 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 16 since Imelda
The thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public interest and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.