Widening of Hunting Bayou, one of the poorest and most flood-damaged watersheds in the county, is kicking into high gear.
Annual Rate of Spending Almost Quadruples since Harvey
According to data obtained as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Harris County Flood Control District and its partners (mainly the Army Corps and City of Houston), spent $44 million on flood mitigation in the Hunting Bayou watershed between 1/1/2000 and Hurricane Harvey.
That averaged $2.4 million per year for those 18 years. However, in the 4 years since Harvey, HCFCD has spent $37 million – more than $9 million per year.
Here’s a breakdown.
Focus of Current Construction Activities
The upstream portion of Hunting Bayou parallels the south side of Loop 610 for most of its length. Where North Loop 610 turns south, Hunting cuts under it between McCarty and Wallisville Roads. From there it continues east. It then turns southeast at San Pedro Street and eventually joins Buffalo Bayou and the Ship Channel.
Poor, Industrial, Flat, Flood Prone
The Hunting Bayou watershed has the second highest percentage of low-to-moderate income (LMI) residents in the county (69%) after Halls Bayou (71%) immediately to the north.
Hunting also is heavily industrialized with rail yards, tank farms, manufacturing, and shipping companies. The highest points of land are the railroad tracks. Within the red box above, you can see how they affect the flood plain.
After driving around the neighborhoods along Hunting Bayou for an entire day, it appears that the worst storm damage is in the red box above. Many homes are boarded up and abandoned in this area. Others have been elevated. Some have been renovated and are waiting for the next flood.
Current Construction Photos of Bayou Widening Efforts
HCFCD bayou-widening efforts focus on this area right now. They extend from US59 on the west to approximately Wayside Drive on the east. Bayou widening may be an understatement. HCFCD appears to be creating a long series of connected detention basins, some more than 450 feet wide and several city blocks long that narrow at bridges.
This should help drain water from nearby neighborhoods during heavy storms. See pictures below all taken on Sunday, 12/19/2021. They generally trend from west to east, starting at US59 and heading downstream.
Funding Flows to Damage
Altogether, the current excavation work stretches 3.33 miles.
In the last five major storms (Allison, Tax Day, Memorial Day, Harvey, Imelda), 15,763 structures have flooded along Hunting Bayou. That ranks 7th among all Harris County Watersheds. But one must remember, that Hunting, comprises only 31 square miles. That ranks it 19th in size out of 23 watersheds. The damage per square mile ranked #2 (508.5 structures).
Another reason spending has accelerated here is political policy – namely the Equity Prioritization Framework implemented a year after the flood bond passed.
As with other watersheds, such as Halls, Greens, Brays and White Oak, it’s virtually impossible to grasp the scope of construction from the ground. That’s one reason why people in these watersheds complain they get no help from HCFCD when they are.
To learn more about this and other flood-mitigation projects in the Hunting Bayou watershed, visit this HCFCD page and click on the projects in the left hand column.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/19, 2021
1573 Days since Hurricane Harvey