I-69 repairs

Concerns Over Proposed Cypress Creek Flood Tunnel Outfall Location

The Kings Forest Community Association (KFCA) board has expressed concerns about the outfall location for the proposed Cypress Creek flood tunnel. Phase 2 of the tunnel study showed two potential outfalls in the Humble/Kingwood Area: one immediately upstream from the I-69 bridge, the other farther downstream near River Grove Park.

KFCA does not oppose the tunnel. But it does want assurances from the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) that it will have NO adverse impact on:

  • The community’s flood risk
  • Potential damage to homes and businesses
  • Oilfield infrastructure
  • Water quality in Lake Houston
  • Bridges

Further, KFCA requested that “no adverse impact” be demonstrated with the latest flood data compiled after Harvey and that the data be based on mitigation improvements already in place, not planned efforts that could fall through for funding or political reasons.

KFCA concerns have to do with flood peaks shifted by both a tunnel and upstream development that could cause altered peaks to coincide and heighten flooding even more.

Feet Above Flood Stage Highest at US59 And West Fork

HCFCD has a long-standing policy of not supporting flood-mitigation projects for one area that would make flooding worse in another. But the KFCA board fears that the location of the outfall could make flooding worse in the Humble/Kingwood Area.

Said the board, “The tunnel would add stormwater to Lake Houston at a location that experienced the highest flooding in northern Harris County and had some of the heaviest damage as a result.”

worst first
Chart showing feet above flood stage at 33 gages for misc. locations in Harris County during Harvey.

Potential Damage to Homes/Businesses

The heat map below shows cumulative flood damage since 1978. The Humble, Kingwood, Huffman area appears to have sustained even more damaged than Cypress Creek to the west.

Proximity to Humble Salt Dome/Oilfield Infrastructure

Additionally, the outfall location(s) contain hundreds of active and abandoned oil-and-gas wells around and over the Humble salt dome. The map below, from the Railroad Commission of Texas, shows their locations and density. The proposed Cypress Creek Tunnel would have to snake its way through these if it goes beyond US59. 

Active (green) and abandoned (white) wells over and around the Humble Salt Dome. Source: Railroad Commission of Texas.

The 240,000 Cubic Feet Per Second shooting through this area during Harvey destroyed wells, tanks and pipes, exposing the public to pollution. The photos below illustrate damage to the Noxxe lease in Forest Cove near the West Fork.

Noxxe
Photo taken June 2020.

Water Quality

The photo below shows pollution in Lake Houston from flood-damaged oil field assets.

Oil on water by abandoned Noxxe lease in Forest Cove

It took the Railroad Commission 4.5 years to clean up this mess after the operator declared bankruptcy. Yet the proposed Cypress Creek tunnel would outfall into the headwaters of Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for two million people.

Bridges

The Union Pacific Railroad Bridge had to be replaced after Harvey, affecting rail traffic for years. Reconstruction took until April 2020.

The I-69 Southbound Bridge was out of commission for 11 months due to scouring of the bridge supports. This caused detours and massive delays for tens of thousands. Repairs cost TxDoT $20 million. 

I-69 repairs
TxDoT repairs to the I-69 bridge cost $20 million.

The West Lake Houston Parkway bridge also required extensive repairs after Harvey.

The Request: Demonstrate No Adverse Impact Using Latest Data Before Proceeding

The Kings Forest letter said, “While we are sensitive to the flooding issues along Cypress Creek, we believe that letting a Cypress Creek flood tunnel outfall at this location is not wise. It could lead to further damage and potential environmental/health dangers.”

The letter ended with a plea for HCFCD to demonstrate “no adverse impact” before proceeding with Phase 3 of the tunnel study and again at some future point if the Phase 3 study recommends construction of the flood tunnel.

“We also request that your “no adverse impact” evaluation reflect actual, current conditions,” said the directors. “Please DON’T base the evaluation on planned mitigation measures, which might not happen for political reasons.” 

“Also, please DON’T base the evaluation on outdated conveyance data for the San Jacinto West Fork,” they continued. “Montgomery County is the second-fastest growing county in the region. It allows new subdivisions to use hydrologic timing surveys to avoid building floodwater detention basins. In 2019, Harris County Engineering and Flood Control proposed eliminating that practice, but MoCo Commissioners voted no. As a result, the Humble/Kingwood area faces constantly increasing flood risk from thousands of upstream acres being developed without sufficient mitigation.” 

Those new developments shift flood peaks in a way that could potentially coincide with an altered peak from Cypress Creek.

See the full letter here.

To review HCFCD’s flood tunnel studies and leave a public comment, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/23/22

1851 Days since Hurricane Harvey

In the interest of transparency, I should disclose that I am a member of the KFCA board.