Mobilization Begins for Next Phase of Ben’s Branch Restoration

Last week, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) began mobilizing for the restoration of the Ben’s Branch drainage ditch between Kingwood Drive and Rocky Woods. The work will involve removing accumulated sediment that has diminished the conveyance capacity of the ditch.

Engineers measure conveyance in terms of “level of service.” A 100-year level of service means that a ditch will convey a 100-year rain without overflowing. The Kingwood Drainage Analysis performed last year by HCFCD revealed that sediment had reduced the conveyance of Ben’s Branch to a 2-year level of service in places. This project will restore the ditch to its original contours.

Looking north toward Rocky Woods. Most of the land between the two roads on either side of the ditch will be removed. Photo taken January 31, 2021.
Looking WSW toward intersection of Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway. Trucks will exit Ben’s Branch by the cell tower behind the old H-E-B. Note the orange walls of the new H-E-B in the upper left. Also note the new CVS still under construction in the upper right (yellow walls). Photo taken Jan. 3, 2021.
How trucks will exist the project. Looking northwest across two temporary bridges where the two parts of Ben’s Branch come together. Work will focus on the main part on the left. Photo taken Jan. 31, 2021.
Temporary crossing for trucks coming down the west side of Ben’s Branch toward the exit on the east side by by old H-E-B. Photo taken January 31, 2021.

Importance of Project

Along Ben’s Branch, as a result of flooding during Harvey:

  • Kingwood High School immediately to the west of this project flooded badly. The building suffered $67 million in damages. The school lost another $10 million in contents. Four thousand students had to be bused to another school for seven months.
  • Homes along both sides of the ditch flooded.
  • All four shopping centers in Kingwood’s Town Center flooded. Many businesses still have not returned.
  • Thirteen people died, included twelve seniors at Kingwood Village Estates. Six died from injuries sustained during evacuation and six from stress-related illnesses after returning and finding their homes destroyed.
Looking south from northern end of project. Kingwood High School in upper right.

History of Previous Ben’s Branch Projects since Harvey

Previously, HCFCD cleaned out the portion of Ben’s Branch from the YMCA on West Lake Houston Parkway north to Kingwood Drive. This is an extension of that project. HCFCD also cleaned out the portion from Northpark Drive to Kids in Action on Woodland Hills Drive. Flood Control could not obtain permission to excavate anything in the natural portion of Ben’s Branch between St. Martha’s Catholic School and Rocky Woods. However, HCFCD did clean out underbrush to let water flow faster through that area.

Scope of Current Work

For the current work between Kingwood Drive and Rocky Woods, HCFCD will start at the downstream end and work its way north. The work should take about five months. It involves removing more than 22,000 cubic yards of sediment, restoring the original banks of the ditch, and replacing a number of outfall pipes that have become blocked or damaged over time.

Once the work begins in earnest, HCFCD contractors will enter the northern side of the project at the end of Cedar Knolls and move south toward Kingwood Drive. There, they will exit the project behind the old H-E-B store. Crews will work around Kingwood High School start/stop times to reduce traffic snarls.

HCFCD considers this a maintenance project, not a capital-improvement project.

Related Projects in Kingwood

The Kingwood Drainage Analysis identified two much-needed capital improvement projects in Kingwood:

  • Expansion of the Diversion Ditch that runs from the new St. Martha Church down to Deer Ridge and River Grove Parks where it eventually enters the West Fork. The purpose of the Diversion Ditch project: to further reduce the flow of water into Ben’s Branch.
  • A project to reduce flooding along Taylor Gully. Two options have been discussed:
    • Widening and deepening Taylor Gully itself
    • Establishing a regional detention pond on the land owned by Perry Homes’ subsidiary Figure Four Partners.

HCFCD has not announced a timetable yet for either of those projects. Any work on Taylor Gully would depend on whether Harris County and the City are able to negotiate the purchase of Woodridge Village from Perry. Woodridge Village is the aborted development that twice flooded Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest Villages in 2019.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/3/2021

1253 Days since Hurricane Harvey