Follow-ups: Whatever became of…?

Below are several follow-ups in “capsule” form to 11 news items recently featured on ReduceFlooding.com.

Subsidence

Everyone of the people who made public comments at the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) meeting on Monday favored including a subsidence metric. Except for one. The person who stands to benefit the most from pumping more groundwater. There’s still time for you to register your opinion. Email: info@lonestargcd.org with the subject line “DFC Comments” no later than 11:59 p.m. on Jul. 19, 2021. See the post above for more information about the dangers of subsidence.

Forest Cove Townhomes

On May 26, I photographed Harris County Flood Control contractors starting to demolish one of the Forest Cove Townhome complexes on Marina Drive.

Complex at 960 Marina Drive as demolition began.
Photo on June 1, 2021 of where 960 Marina Drive used to be.

A week later…down to the dirt. Three more townhome complexes to go – all on Marina Drive – and soon this whole area can revert to nature. The lesson of Forest Cove: Buyouts can take years before flood mitigation can even begin. Had developers never built here, much misery and cost could have been avoided.

Bens Branch

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) has worked to restore the conveyance of Bens Branch since June, 2019, in four phases: North Park to Woodland Hills; Woodland Hills to Rocky Woods; Rocky Woods to Kingwood Drive; and Kingwood Drive to just south of West Lake Houston Parkway.

But the amazing thing about erosion and entropy is that they never stop. Having completed the two sections between Woodland Hills and Kingwood Drive, HCFCD is already back working on maintenance. Local flood-fighter Chris Block alerted HCFCD to issues created by heavy rains in May. Crews are already out removing trees that fell into the natural portion of Bens Branch due to bank erosion. And HCFCD will meet local leaders Monday to review erosion in the just-completed channel south of Rocky Woods.

Bens Branch Bank Erosion and Tree Down have heavy rains in May 2021. Such trees can catch other debris being swept downstream and create “beaver dams” that back water up and flood homes.
HCFCD Maintenance crews on Bens Branch on 6/06/21. Both photos courtesy of Richard Kahl.

Happy Anniversary…Tropical Storm Allison!

Twenty years ago today, Tropical Storm Allison dumped so much water on the Houston Area, flood maps were redrawn and the Tropical Storm Allison Recovery Project started. The storm hit the northeast quadrant of the the area inside Beltway 8 the hardest. It dumped 25 inches of rain in 12 hours over portions of Greens Bayou. Some neighborhoods there still have not recovered, according to Bob Robertson of Radio KAIR. He lived there at the time and recently returned.

NOAA rainfall map of Tropical Storm Allison in Harris County for 12 hours starting the evening of June 8 and the morning of June 9, 2001. The highest recorded total in the county was 28.3 inches.

Feasibility Study for Flood Control Dams on Spring Creek Tributaries

On Monday, I posted about an item on the Harris County Commissioner’s Court Agenda for Tuesday. The proposal was for a feasibility study for two flood control dams along Birch and Walnut Creeks. Both are tributaries of Spring Creek. Harris County Commissioners approved the inter-local agreement unanimously yesterday. Five municipal utility districts, the City of Humble, and the Texas Water Development board are also involved in this project. So…lots of dominoes to align. But yesterday was a step in the right direction.

Additional Floodgates for Lake Houston Dam

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin will hold a meeting at the Kingwood Community Center on July 8 at 6PM to discuss the status of the project. After a brief presentation, you’ll be able to meet with the engineers at small “breakout” stations to ask questions. Mark your calendar.

Woodridge Village and Taylor Gully

Harris County Flood Control District is reportedly looking at these two areas as one problem. Engineers will study combinations of a) adding floodwater detention capacity to Woodridge Village and b) additional widening or deepening Taylor Gully. Improvements in one area might be able to offset costs in another. They will look at the area from Porter all the way down to Caney Creek. Drainage from the rapidly growing White Oak Creek watershed affects part of the area, too. No date yet on recommendations.

HB2525: Dredging District

As predicted, HB2525, the bill that would have created a dredging and maintenance district for the Lake Houston Area has officially died. It passed the House. But died in the Senate’s Local Government Committee, as did the companion bill – SB 1892. File this one under “better luck next time.” The problem now is how to keep up dredging when sand mines and developments like Colony Ridge seem to send ever increasing amounts of sediment downstream.

Month after month, the confluence of the San Jacinto West Fork with Spring and Cypress Creeks looks like this. Guess which way the sand mines are.

Best Management Practices for Sand Mining

Last November, the TCEQ held a public hearing on best management practices for sand mining in the San Jacinto Watershed. Bill McCabe of the Lake Houston Area Flood Prevention Initiative and the Bayou Land Conservancy have spearheaded this issue for the area. Today, the TCEQ is holding a hearing on the rule-making. They will publish results in the Texas Register on June 25. From June 25 to July 27, TCEQ will accept public comments on the new rules. In addition, the TCEQ may also hold another public hearing on July 22.

Shortfall in Partner Contributions for Flood-Bond Projects

About $872 million in the 2018 flood bond was allocated as seed money to hopefully attract roughly $2.4 billion in partnership funds from other government agencies such as HUD, FEMA, City of Houston, and the Texas Water Development Board.

However, the Texas General Land Office (GLO) recently announced grant winners for $1.1 billion of HUD funds. Harris County Flood Control received none of that. As a result, Harris County Commissioners, HCFCD, and Harris County Budget Management have scrambled, trying to identify alternative funding sources.

The good news:

  • They have located alternative sources for most all of the $750 million initially projected shortfall.
  • No flood-bond projects have been cancelled because of funding.
  • We’re only three years into a ten year bond fund. So there’s still plenty of time to work things out.

HCFCD and the Budget Management Department will discuss their plans at the next Commissioners Court Meeting on 6/29/2021.

Patterns of Actual Flood-Mitigation Spending in Harris County

Many special interests have alleged bias in flood-mitigation spending that just don’t seem to fit what I see on the ground. So, for the past six months, I have made multiple FOIA requests, dug through HCFCD archives, and made flights over several bayous. I’m learning the facts re: actual historical spending on capital improvement projects. Where has the money actually gone? I have published five posts so far on Halls, Greens and Brays Bayou.

Those three watersheds alone have received 43% of all capital spending since 2000 – even though they comprise just 18% of the county’s square miles and 30% of the population. That’s a far cry from the “nothing” alleged by some special-interest groups. Stay tuned for more posts on this subject. Rhetoric just doesn’t fit reality.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/9/2021

1370 Days after Hurricane Harvey