Contractors have begun clearing more than 1,100 acres owned by CH-B Kingland, LLC, north of the newly opened Grand Parkway. Construction plans obtained from Harris County Flood Control District via a FOIA request indicate the developer will build single-family residences. But the documents also indicate that engineers are using pre- not post-Harvey floodplain maps and data. That could be tragic news for unknowledgeable home buyers as well as homeowners already in the area. I have interviewed people near here whose homes flooded twice in the last five years.
While the current maps date back to Tropical Storm Allison, they are still official. But why?
Background on Land and Developer
To date, the plans include four sections of a subdivision called “The Trails.” According to a drainage impact analysis submitted to obtain permits, The Trails will be part of a larger development called Kingland West.
Kingland West was once part of 8,000 acres owned by CH-B Kingland along the then-undeveloped northeastern section of the Grand Parkway. But CH-B Kingland sold 4,000 acres to neighboring Colony Ridge in 2016.
The remaining 4,000 acres span three counties: Montgomery, Harris and Liberty. According to Appraisal District maps in the three counties, CH-B Kingland still owns acreage on both sides of the Grand Parkway. The opening of Segment H of the Grand Parkway will likely help the value of CH-B’s remaining land skyrocket – despite the fact that wetlands pockmark the land.
A group called Castle Hill Partners appears on construction plans. Castle Hill Partners (CHP) is a private investment firm specializing in commercial development. The company provides turnkey investment, construction, loan servicing and property management services.
Effect on Flooding
Of Montgomery, Harris, and Liberty counties, Harris has the most stringent flood regulations. And according to a source close to the engineering company (Jones & Carter), Harris refused to permit the plans unless the engineering company followed Harris’ standards in all three counties. That part is good. The summary of floodwater detention below shows that the developer meets Harris County standards.
The bad news: based on the engineer’s assurances, HCFCD did not check and verify all the engineer’s calculations.
Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan
Here is a summary of their Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan. It declares, in writing, that all outfall structures will be constructed in accordance with Harris County standards. The Plan also describes measures contractors should use to prevent sediment from escaping the site.
Using Old Sand Pit for Detention Basin
The developer apparently plans to use an old sand pit for floodwater detention. Compare the location on the map in the previous link with the satellite image below.
When I last photographed these pits in June 2020, they had mostly dry bottoms. But the image above shows they now have wet bottoms. I hope there’s enough room in the ponds to hold the required amount of floodwater.
Contractors will make more room for floodwater with additional excavation adjacent to the ponds. Here’s where the engineers plan to move fill from and to in Phase 1. But there’s still a big problem – the size of floodplains on the maps being used.
Built to Pre-Harvey, Pre-Colony-Ridge Floodplain Standards
As regular readers know, NOAA developed new rainfall probability statistics after Harvey. In the northern part of Harris County, they’re about 40% higher than pre-Harvey.
See the disclaimer in the screen capture below. It appears in small type on virtually every page of the construction plans.
Rosemary Fain and her husband who live just blocks south and east of Kingland West might disagree with that statement about “rare occasions.” Despite being farther from the East Fork than every Kingland West home will be, the Fains flooded twice recently from the East Fork, once during Harvey and again during Imelda. Water rose so high that it bridged out of the East Fork Watershed and started flowing into Luce Bayou – miles to the east!
I saw no reference to current floodplains or recent floods in the plans.
However, more than outdated rainfall-probability statistics affect flooding in this area. Just ask the people of Plum Grove, many of whom never flooded before Colony Ridge.
The sad fact is that the massive 20,000-acre Colony Ridge development in Liberty County, immediately east and north of Kingland, has increased and accelerated drainage. Colony Ridge has ALSO made the 2007 flood maps woefully out of date; the development started after the the old maps’ release – around 2012. Their out-of-control drainage blew out FM1010 less than 2 miles north of Kingland.
So why hasn’t MAAPnext released the new maps yet? They’re reportedly complete. More on that in a future post.
Posted by Bob Rehak on July 29, 2022
1795 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.