When we think about flooding, most of us don’t think beyond the repair costs of homes. But there are more costs to communities that can remain hidden for years. Erosion, for instance, is one of the hidden costs of flooding that we rarely talk about.
You’ve heard me talk about the eroded sediment from sand mines that winds up downstream in the mouth bars of the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto.
Likewise, many of you have seen the work being done now to remove approximately 80,000 cubic yards of eroded sediment from Ben’s Branch.
We’ve all seen how such eroded sediment can back water up and raise flood levels. And we’ve all seen how much that can cost. Not just from the initial flood, but in terms of remediation.
Look At the Cost of Erosion From the Upstream Side, Too
Ditch erosion can affect homeowners in other ways, too. By threatening their property and community property. Lost property is yet another one of the hidden costs of flooding.
We’ve seen how ditch erosion destroyed riding trails in the Commons on Lake Houston.
In Deer Ridge Estates, ditch erosion is creeping inexorably toward back yard fences.
On a recent flight down the San Jacinto West Fork, I spotted erosion threatening the back yards of homes still under construction in the new Northpark Woods subdivision.
Erosion can threaten pipelines, too.
Let’s Play Hot Potato
Who is responsible for repairing the upstream erosion when it happens? In Harris County, we’re lucky, we have a flood control district that has assumed responsibility for that. But the ditch two photos above is in Montgomery County. So are the pipelines in the photo above.
Who is responsibly for repairing erosion in these cases? The County? The homeowners? The homeowner association? The developer? The sand mine? The pipelines? A flood control or drainage district? Everyone wants to assume it’s someone else’s problem. No one wants to assume responsibility.
But without someone stepping up, these homes will eventually be threatened. And with the exception noted above, few people or groups are stepping up.
Paul Crowson, a Montgomery County flood activist has posted about this subject on Facebook. Says Crowson, “The county, the flood control district, the neighborhood HOA, the POA, the City, the State, the developers, the engineers … all are passing the blame and responsibility around to each other.”
The problem exists everywhere. Crowson points to the case of Fort Bend County homeowners who are petitioning the Court there to assign responsibility for maintenance of drainage easements.
“These poor people (in the court case) have lost most of their yard, and are in danger of losing their home to the ravages of the drainage easement nightmares,” says Crowson. “Those nightmares are growing every day and will eventually swallow them and their home. Why does it matter to you? I’m thinking right now of Roman Forest, Tavola, New Caney, and Montgomery County.”
It’s Easier to Keep Up Than Catch Up
I would argue that it’s cheaper to prevent a disaster in the making than to remediate a disaster after the fact. Remember those homely homilies your parents and grandparents tried to instill in you? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A stitch in time save nine.
Congressman Dan Crenshaw says the Navy Seals have a similar saying for those who fall behind on those long training runs they take. “It’s easier to keep up than catch up.” They’re all true! And the same holds true for deferred maintenance.
When Deferred Maintenance Turns into a Disaster Area
Montgomery County does not have a flood control district. Nor does it seem especially eager to address problems, such as those in the photo above.
As we saw with the mouth bar on the West Fork that had been building up under water for decades, maintenance can be deferred for only so long.
Then a monster flood comes along like Harvey. It finds the weak points in systems…and boom. Deferred maintenance turns into a disaster area.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/28/2020 with input from Paul Crowson
913 Days after Hurricane Harvey