Perry Homes’ current contractors have excavated 3X more detention pond volume in ten weeks than the previous contractors did in virtually two years. During this past week, they finished excavating three ponds on the northern section of Woodridge Village. Together, they comprise 77% of the total detention volume for the whole site.
Excavation Done, but Finish Work Remains
That doesn’t mean they’re totally done with the ponds. Recent aerial photos show that they still have much finish work to do. That includes:
- Shaping the sides
- Creating backslope swales
- Installing pipes to funnel water from the swales into the ponds and channels
- Ensuring water can flow out of Adams Oaks in Porter on the west side of the subdivision into Taylor Gully as it previously did
- Creating concrete “pilot channels” in the center of the ponds and larger channels
- Planting grass along the sides of the slopes to reduce erosion
- Installing outflow control in several places to hold back floodwaters
- Building maintenance roads around the ponds
Elm Grove resident Jeff Miller, who monitors the progress of construction daily, says crews are already hard at work on many of those tasks.
Ponds NOT Expanded Beyond Initial Plans
Miller has compared the width and depth of ponds to the initial plans and verified that the ponds are being built to original specifications. Since the ponds were designed to meet pre-Atlas 14 rainfall requirements, that means the site will still hold 30-40% less runoff than needed to meet current regulations.
Still, surrounding residents in Porter, North Kingwood Forest and Elm Grove who flooded twice last year will find three large ponds on the northern section a welcome addition. They provide some measure of extra protection. Residents will have four times more upstream detention volume than they had during Imelda.
Racing Against Risk
With the peak of hurricane season now less than two months away, Perry Homes is in a race against risk. The company may regret the six months of virtual inactivity between the completion of pond S2 and the start of work on ponds N1, N2, and N3 in early April.
The faster pace of current construction puts pressure on Harris County and the City of Houston to complete an offer if an offer will be made. Elm Grove residents lobbied the City and County to purchase the property and build a regional flood detention facility. They center would also help protect downstream residents on the East Fork and Lake Houston.
However, at a Kingwood Town Hall Meeting in February, Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin announced that the City would not participate in a deal. He said it was the County’s responsibility.
In April, the County announced that it would consider purchasing the land if the City contributed land in lieu of cash to cover half the purchase price.
Then in May, the County increased its demands. The County now wants the City to contribute land in lieu of cash to cover half the purchase AND construction costs for creating additional detention.
County and City Clamp Down on Communications
Since then, the County has clamped down on communications regarding this subject. Rumors suggest that all parties are still trying to make a deal happen. But the County has denied all FOIA requests and referred them to the Texas Attorney General for a ruling on their denials. That often happens when negotiations are in progress, according to a knowledgeable source.
What Happens Next?
At the contractor’s current rate of progress, it’s entirely possible that contractors will complete all work on detention ponds in July.
The City and County blew through a May 15 deadline that Perry put on the deal. But a “For Sale” sign at the Woodland Hills entrance remains on the property.
With approximately $14 million dollars invested in the property, with hurricane season here, with lawsuits pending, and knowing that the amount of detention is insufficient to hold a 100-year rain, Kathy Perry must be sweating bombshells.
Ms. Perry may be hoping for a City/County offer, but she can’t be counting on one. If she were, she could have sold the dirt coming out of those detention ponds. Instead, however, she’s building up land elsewhere on the site to keep her options open and develop the site if a deal falls through.
That dirt will have to be moved again at taxpayer expense if the county builds additional detention ponds.
Pictures of Site as of 6/19/2020
Here’s what the site looked like as of 6/19/2020.
Need for Grass if Deal Not Reached Quickly
Note how the grass on the southern side of the gully has all died. That raises a question. If Perry, the City and County do not complete a purchase agreement soon, will Perry plant grass on the northern section to slow runoff. Right now, it’s all hard-packed dirt.
Planting grass over an area this large would be a big investment and might get in the way of construction if Perry decides to develop the land. But it will reduce flood and legal risks.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/20/2020
726 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 275 after Imelda