Excavation of second Northpark Detention Basin

Excavation of Second Northpark Detention Basin Well Underway

Since last week’s post about the Northpark expansion project, contractors have made significant progress on the two stormwater detention basins at US59. Contractors are forming concrete retaining walls for both ponds. They have excavated the north pond down to the water table. And, in the south pond, contractors are mounding dirt in three locations for removal and temporary storage.

The ponds are designed to provide storage capacity for excess stormwater that might otherwise flood this crucial intersection. The intersection will provide the final link in the only all-weather evacuation route in Kingwood for 78,000 residents. During Hurricane Harvey, floodwaters blocked both Hamblen Road and Kingwood Drive.

Photos Taken on 2/16/24

I took the following photos at noon on Friday, 2/16/24..

South Pond
Looking NW across the south pond at Northpark and US59. Transplanted trees in foreground.

Contractors are temporarily storying the dirt at the Eagle sand mine on Sorters-McClellan Road. They will later retrieve it to fill in the road bed above the box culverts that are replacing the center ditch down Northpark.

From opposite direction, you can see three mounds of dirt awaiting relocation and the first concrete wall by grass.
Ground level shot shows height of pile.
North Pond

Contractors began working on the north pond first, so it is further along. However, excavation is not yet complete. They will do it in two stages. For now, they’ve excavated down to the water table. When pond liners arrive (any day now), contractors will begin the second phase and excavate even deeper.

Looking NNW at north pond. Note wet areas. They indicate level of water table.

The pipe you see lined up in the photo below will help carry excess stormwater in the ponds to Ditch One which parallels Northpark on the north. From there, it will follow gravity to Bens Branch and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch which will carry it to Lake Houston.

Looking SE at retaining wall for what will become the focal point of the North pond.
Looking S from over north pond at another retaining wall around a grove of trees.
When complete, the ponds should look like this.

CenterPoint Almost Finished Burying New Gas Line

CenterPoint had one westbound lane blocked off at noon today where it was burying a new gas line outside of the City’s easement. Reportedly, the utility is close to finished with the relocation effort. It is replacing one line that used to go down the center ditch with two, one on each side of the expanded roadbed.

As Ralph De Leon, the project manager for the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ 10 said, “It’s one thing for a company to say they’ll handle something. It’s another for them to show up with giant boring machines to make it happen.” De Leon was happy with the progress they were making.

Still No News from Entergy

Entergy had until the close of business today to respond to the City of Houston’s demand for a plan to relocate its electrical services along Northpark. Project coordinators asked Entergy to move its lines in 2020. But the company has not moved anything to date.

It’s not clear at press time, whether Entergy met the City’s deadline. More next week when I learn more from City Hall.

For More Information

For more information about the project including construction plans, visit the project pages of the LHRA/Tirz 10 website. Or see these posts on ReduceFlooding:

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/16/2024

2362 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.

966 acres from Tranquility Ranch will enjoy a conservation easement

Bayou Land Conservancy Protects Another 966 Acres in Lake Creek Watershed

Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC) has announced a conservation easement on 966 acres of critical Lake Creek property in Montgomery County. The property is just northeast of Magnolia on Tranquility Ranch, which is owned by Nathan and Lindy Ingram. BLC started working with the Ingrams in 2015.

The conservation easement is across Lake Creek from the 7,000-acre Cook’s Branch preserve owned by the Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation. The proximity of the two large properties will benefit wildlife by maintaining the “carrying capacity” of the land.

Lake Creek flows diagonally through this satellite image from Google Earth. Note how new developments are gobbling up the natural (green) area in the middle where the conservation easement is.

The 966 acres permanently preserved at Tranquility Ranch help meet BLC’s long-term conservation goals and contribute to the environmental health of the region.

The preserve will function as a wetland and stream mitigation bank, known as the West Montgomery Mitigation Bank. It has credits available to developers seeking to offset impacts in this rapidly growing area.

Wild area along Lake Creek where it flows through Tranquility Ranch.

Featuring a mix of hardwood and pine forest, Tranquility Ranch consists of over 400 acres of existing wetland habitat, 20 acres of streams & ponds, and 13,000 linear feet (2.5 miles) of stream frontage on Lake Creek.

In addition to high quality existing habitat, over 90 acres of wetlands and 300 acres of flooded forests will be improved and restored on the land.

Bottomland hardwoods provide habitat for wildlife.

The 966-acre preserve is part of a larger 1200-acre property that hosts a special event venue called The Wyldes at Tranquility Ranch. It hosts retreats, weddings, and other events.

Benefits to People and Wildlife

Jill Boullion, Executive Director of Bayou Land Conservancy, said, “This conservation agreement makes a significant stride towards BLC’s conservation goals to preserve land in the Lake Houston watershed.”

“We’re grateful to landowner Nathan Ingram and his care and protection of this special place,” said Boullion.

“This land will provide positive impacts in the region for generations to come.”

Jill Boullion, Exec. Director, BLC

Preservation of Tranquility Ranch will provide many community benefits. They include flood control, water-quality improvements for drinking water and recreation, and wildlife habitat. The preserve also is an important nesting, wintering, and migratory stop-over site for many bird species, including owls, raptors, and songbirds.

Importance of Lake Creek Preservation to Downstream Flood Protection

Leaving natural areas natural won’t reduce flooding per se. But it will keep flooding from getting worse.

It will also reduce flood damage by ensuring generous setbacks from areas that flood.

Wetlands are nature’s sponges. They retain runoff that might otherwise quickly add to flood peaks downstream. They also clean water.

Bayou City Waterkeeper ranks the wetlands along Lake Creek as one of the five most critical wetland areas in the Houston Region.

For those who may not know where Lake Creek is, it enters the San Jacinto West Fork just south of Conroe, about 9 miles south of the Lake Conroe Dam. See the big green area in the upper left.

watershed map of the San Jacinto
Watershed map courtesy of San Jacinto Regional Water Authority.

From this map, we can see that rainfall from seven watersheds flows under the US59 bridge. Comparing peak flow data from them during the January 2024 flood, we can see that Lake Creek had the highest discharge rate. See below. USGS graphs are arranged in order from highest to lowest, except for the last, which reflects rain falling in all seven watersheds.

Lake Creek peaked at 20,800 cubic feet per second (CFS)
Lake Conroe peaked at 19,100 CFS.
Spring Creek peaked at 9,810 CFS.
Cypress Creek peaked at 6,580 CFS.
Willow Creek peaked at 842 CFS.
Little Cypress peaked at 780 CFS.

All of the streams above flow under the US59 bridge.

USGS registered a peak of 40,400 cubic feet per second at the 59 Bridge.

Note: the first six peaks do not total up to the last because streams peaked at different times.

Of course, these numbers partially reflect uneven rainfall distribution during the January event. And rainfall totals in the Lake Creek watershed were among the highest in the area.

The discharge rates above also reflect watershed size. According to Table 2 in the San Jacinto Regional Watershed Master Drainage Plan:

  • Spring Creek drains 392 sq. mi.
  • Lake Creek drains 330 sq. mi.
  • Cypress Creek drains 266 square miles (sq. mi.)
  • Little Cypress drains 52 sq. mi.
  • Willow drains 52 sq. mi.

Looking solely at watershed size shows that even if the rainfall distribution had been uniform, Lake Creek would have contributed a major percentage of the overall flow.

And that – in a sentence – is why Lake Houston Area residents should care about conservation along Lake Creek, especially considering that the watershed is developing so quickly!

Conservation Easement Will Protect Land in Perpetuity

BLC conducted an extensive audit of natural resources including wetlands and wildlife on the Ingram property before the conservation agreement was put in place. No matter who the owner is, the easement will run with the land and protect the land in perpetuity. The audit will provide a baseline for future comparison.

Ingram reportedly had offers to buy the land from sand miners and developers but chose to conserve it instead. Said Boullion, “I commend him because obviously it’s not cheap to own and hold that much land in a natural state. So, he looked for a way to monetize his property while conserving the land and benefiting the community. He is one of the most conservation-minded people I know.”

The conservation easement held by BLC will let Ingram sell wetland-mitigation credits through the West Montgomery Mitigation Bank. He will sell them to developers who have no other choice but to disturb wetlands while developing the rest of their property.

For more about how the wetland credits work in Texas, see this page from Texas A&M.

The Army Corps controls and permits the process. But non-profit groups, such as the Bayou Land Conservancy, play a major role in it.

About Bayou Land Conservancy

BLC is one of the leading conservation groups in the Houston region. It preserves land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife. BLC is a nationally accredited, community-sponsored land preservation organization working to permanently protect land, with a focus on the streams that feed Lake Houston, an important source of drinking water for millions of people.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/25/24

2361 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Temperature and Precipitation departure from normal for Jan 2024 in Texas

January 2024 Weather Much Cooler, Wetter than Normal in Houston Area

According to Dr. Mark Wentzel, a hydrologist in the Surface Water Division at the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), January 2024 weather was much cooler and wetter than normal in the Houston area, but the same was not true across the state.

Wentzel issues monthly reports that summarize weather, rainfall (or lack thereof), and water supplies across Texas. His latest report, issued today, covers conditions from the end of December 2023 to the end of January 2024.

Key Stats

According to Wentzel, January was cooler than normal for most of Texas and wetter than normal for about half the state.

At the end of January, 23 percent of the state was in drought, down 16 percentage points since the end of December and the lowest percentage since June 2023.

Statewide, storage in our water supply reservoirs is about 73 percent of capacity, up almost four percentage points since the end of December, but still almost 10 percentage points below normal for the time of year.

Wentzel expects conditions to continue improving over the next few months. But he also says, we have a long way to go to be drought-free statewide.

Summary of key points for Jan. ’24, from TWDB video by Dr. Mark Wentzel

Houston Area Was 2 to 4 Degrees F Cooler, 150-300% Wetter Than Normal

Wentzel provided these two maps from NOAA. They show temperature and precipitation variations statewide relative to what is considered normal for January.

Source: TWDB

From a water supply perspective, reds, oranges, and yellows mean trouble on both maps. The Houston area was 2 to 4 degrees F cooler than normal and 150% to 300% wetter. However, parts of West Texas were above normal for temperature and below normal for precipitation – the opposite of SE Texas.

Overall, January temperatures were well below normal for most of the state. In fact…

January 2024 was the coldest January for Texas since 2007 and the second coldest since 1988.

Dr. Mark Wentzel, Hydrologist TWDB

Precipitation in January was above average for about half the state.

Overall, we had the wettest January since 2007 and the 10th wettest since 1895.

Dr. Mark Wentzel, Hydrologist TWDB

Even so, all of West Texas and parts of the Panhandle, Central Texas, and the lower Rio Grande Valley were drier than normal.

Drought Becomes Less Severe

Cooler and wetter conditions than average for large areas of the state led to improved drought conditions in the last month.

From US Drought Monitor

This Drought Monitor map shows conditions as of January 30. Twenty-three percent of the state is in drought with the tan, orange, and red colors, down 16 percentage points from the end of December.

That’s the smallest percentage of the state impacted by drought since June 2023 and the fourth consecutive month that drought has decreased.

Water Supply Up, But Still Below Normal

January also brought welcome relief to some of Texas’ water supply reservoirs. During the month of January, statewide supplies increased by almost four percentage points, the largest increase in a single month since October 2018.

Most of that increase came in the northeast quarter of the state, where most reservoirs are now back to normal for this time of year.

However, statewide, supplies are about 10 percentage points below normal for the time of year. And conditions are much worse in the south and west.

Drought Forecast Through End of April

What can we expect over the next few months? Here’s the latest seasonal drought outlook from the National Weather Service for conditions through the end of April.

NOAA’s drought predictions for entire country

El Niño conditions, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the eastern Equatorial Pacific, are in place and expected to moderate temperatures. They will also add moisture to Texas for the rest of the winter.

Unfortunately, improvements aren’t expected to be enough to reduce drought in West Texas or eliminate drought in Central and East Texas.

Looking a little farther out, May and June are typically two of the wettest months for Texas, regardless of El Niño status, giving us a chance for additional improvements before the full onset of summer, says Wentzel

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/14/24 based on information from Dr. Mark Wentzel – Hydrologist, TWDB

2360 Days since Hurricane Harvey