Houston Public Work’s Emergency Operations and District E staff are working with the Solid Waste Management Department to identify locations and the scope of debris pickup needed. But in case they miss something…
Report the need for residential debris pickup by calling (713) 837-0311. Make sure you report the issue as “STORM DEBRIS.”
And if you see any trees blocking roadways or if any street lights need to be reset again, call Houston 311 or (713) 837-0311.
Crews began debris pickup Tuesday.
Residents should separate piles when placing debris at the curb.
Please keep roadways clear, so crews can maneuver in and around affected areas more easily.
Have contractors haul off materials from their repairs.
Numbers to Call, How to Follow Up
Please continue to utilize Houston 311 to make your initial report for “storm debris” and follow up by sending your service request number to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Storm Debris” in the subject line. This will let the District E office track cases to make sure they are handled expeditiously.
Should you have any questions please contact the District E office by emailing email@example.com or call (832) 393-3008.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/12/22 Based on Information Provided by District E
1597 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/20220111-IMG_1076.jpg?fit=1200%2C900&ssl=19001200adminadmin2022-01-12 11:35:042022-01-12 11:35:07City Starts Tornado Debris Pickup, How to Help
I have made two major changes to ReduceFlooding.com by adding a new page dedicated to “Funding” and removing the “High Rise” page from the menu.
High-Rise Issue No Longer Topical, Funding Is
Funding is a hot topic at the moment and the high-rise battle is over…at least for now. Even though I removed the high-rise page from the menu, I did not delete it. Historical researchers can still find it by searching for “High Rise.” If the topic becomes active in the future, I will restore it to the menu again.
The Funding page is broken into two parts. The left contains a summary of the equity debate and how it has evolved in the last three years. It also contains links to the volumes of data obtained from Harris County via Freedom-of-Information-Act requests, as well as statistical analysis of the data. The right part contains links to every related post published since the equity debate started.
Collecting all information related to funding in one place should make it easy for people to find information about their watersheds and where their money is going.
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.
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Of the ten concerns listed in a letter to the permit applicant, only one had to do with flooding. And that came from Harris County Flood Control, not the City. Nine other concerns had to do with street spacing and layouts or labelling.
Half of Land in Floodway
Half of the land lies in the floodway of the West Fork. The other half lies in the hundred-year floodplain. The development would be built on the same property that Romerica tried to get approved last year. The company wanted to build a series of high rises and 5,000 condominiums. That proposal drew a record 770 letters of protest to the Army Corps. Despite all that…
The Planning Commission document indicates that the City Engineer had no comments on the proposal.
Only Harris County Flood Control Raises Serious Objections
Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) recommended deferral of any approvals until the master drainage plan for the development is reviewed. HCFCD also said, “This area has historically been prone to flooding with numerous home buyouts immediately to the west. The Flood Control District, City of Houston, Montgomery County, and San Jacinto River Authority are working on a planning study to reduce flood risk in this area.”
Part of that plan will include new flood surveys. They will likely show the floodway expanding to take in an even greater percentage of Romerica’s property.
Gear Up for Another Lengthy Fight
It should not take the developer much time to address City’s concerns. It’s unclear at this time whether the City will heed the HCFCD’s concerns.
As a result, this controversy could wind up back in the hands of the Army Corps and/or the US Fish and Wildlife Service again. Last year, the Fish and Wildlife Service wrote an uncharacteristically frank recommendation to the Corps, urging the Corps to deny Romerica’s permit. Their reasoning had to do with the value of wetlands on the property and the presence of American Bald Eagles, a protected species.
In the meantime, the developer may realize that it still faces an uphill struggle even with City approval. Perhaps they will come to their senses and sell this land to a group or groups that wish to preserve it as green space for flood control and recreation.
As if to underscore the value of that proposition, the Bayou City Initiative today announced a virtual meeting to discuss the difficulty of mass evacuations and sheltering during the hurricane season as the COVID crisis continues. Remember that most of this land was under 20+ feet of water during Harvey.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/5/2020
980 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/20191104-RJR_4025-2.jpg?fit=1200%2C800&ssl=18001200adminadmin2020-05-05 18:27:402020-05-05 18:46:04Planning Commission Concerns About Romerica Land Seem More Procedural than Flood-Related
In a meeting today, the Houston Planning Commission deferred automatic approval of the general plan for Orchard Seeded Ranches by taking the item off the consent agenda. The Commission then asked the developer to consult with the City Engineer; the Planning and Development Department; and Harris County Flood Control before bringing further requests back to the Commission.
Taking the item off today’s consent agenda should send a strong signal to the developer that rough waters lie ahead. Any proposal will likely be debated publicly when/if the developer returns.
For orientation, the developed area in the middle is the Barrington. The line down the west side is Woodland Hills Drive. And the river at the bottom is the West Fork.
Filing a “general plan” like this is the first step in developing property. The developer has not yet submitted detailed plats showing construction details.
Virtually Entire Development in Floodway or Floodplain
About half of the Orchard Seeded Ranches lies in the floodway of the San Jacinto West Fork. FEMA defines floodways as the main current of a river during a flood. In the map below, that includes everything beneath the red line.
Virtually all of the purple area above the red line lies in the floodplain. FEMA defines a floodplain as “storage” for water during a flood. That means water covers the land without moving rapidly.
I created the map above by combining the area to be developed with the FEMA flood map below.
Wetlands Issues Also Abound
Every part of the proposed development contains wetlands to some extent.
US Fish and Wildlife documented another eagle’s nest on the developer’s property. And the Balcom family, which lives near the western edge of the developer’s property, regularly photographs eagles from their balcony.
What’s in a Name
The name sounds as if the development would be lower density than the 50-story high-rises previously planned. But you never know. In the development business, names often have more evocative than literal significance. Look at the Houston Heights. Bridgeland (on the prairie). Mount Houston. You get the idea.
Whatever the development is, when and if the developer returns to the Planning Commission, we should not forget that:
When floodplain maps are redrawn using Atlas-14 data, that floodway will likely expand significantly.
A Less Risky, Less Costly Alternative
All of these factors will increase the risk and cost of any development.
The safest, sanest course for the developer – before putting more money at risk –would be to meet with community representatives about:
Purchasing this land
Putting a conservation easement on it
Letting it revert to nature and turning it into park land
Harris County Flood Control District has $175 million allocated in the flood bond for partnership projects with “Municipalities, Authorities, and Other Districts in Harris County.” See item Z100-00-00-MUNI.
That money could help purchase such property and turn it into green space forever. KSA, the Lake Houston Chamber, civic leaders and residents should get behind that idea. Judging by the response to Romerica’s last offering, it’s clear that residents would much rather see this area turned into parks than see the San Jacinto turn it into blight.
While photographing the West Fork from a helicopter Thursday, I saw something large from the corner of my eye. I looked up and was treated to a magnificent sight – a bald eagle in flight … right beside us. I quickly zoomed my lens out to 300mm and snagged this air-to-air shot.
We were in the vicinity of the Romerica property just downstream from River Grove Park. You may remember a year ago that two developers from Mexico wanted to build 500-foot high-rises right next to the river. The community rose up in protest. One of the biggest concerns: the effect on bald eagles nesting in the area.
The number of protest letters set an Army Corps record. Due to the large number of responses, SWCA, Romerica’s environmental consultant, requested a suspension of the permit. Instead, the Army Corps withdrew the application without prejudice and invited Romerica to resubmit a new application at a later date.
Status: Start Over
SWCA expressed concern about starting the process over again. But according to Janet Botello, because of the large number of comments and the fact that much of the survey work will need to be redone, a new public notice and another public review are almost a certainty.
I finally received a return phone call from Leah Manlove Howard of Manlove Marketing and Communications. Ms. Howard acts as Romerica’s spokesperson. She said that Romerica and its team of consultants were meeting this week to determine whether they wanted to climb that mountain again. I do not yet have an answer to that question.
People familiar with Corps processes tell me that the Corps rarely rejects an application outright. However, regulations can and do occasionally make it so hard to receive approval that applicants give up. Romerica is the fourth or fifth developer to try to develop this land. It has been sold and resold numerous times, but never developed, in part, because of the history of flooding and difficulty of permitting.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/16/2019
626 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/IMG_0134.jpg?fit=960%2C1280&ssl=11280960adminadmin2019-05-16 22:28:132019-05-16 22:33:23Full Text of SWCA’s Request for Romerica Extension and Army Corps’ Withdrawal of High-Rise Permit Application
The applicant understated the likely impact on waters and wetlands resulting from fill material, raised buildings, infrastructure development and construction activities. They called the applicant’s proposal “misleading.”
USFWS expressed concerns about:
Bird strikes and mortalities associated with the high-rise buildings
The loss of highly functioning forested wetlands
Significant reduction in biological functions, particularly those related to fish and wildlife habitat
Water quality issues
A marina district built entirely within the floodway
The absence of appropriate stormwater management
Failure to fully disclose impacts on wetlands and surrounding properties
Inconsistencies in access road descriptions
Failure to fully disclose the project’s footprint impacts
Failure to provide an analysis of practicable alternatives to the proposed wetland and stream fill
Failure to demonstrate that the project meets the requirements of the EPA’s CWA 404(b)(1) guidelines
An incomplete compensatory mitigation plan
Improper assessment of the high level of functions of the onsite aquatic resources and surrounding upland habitats
An inadequate bald eagle survey
Disturbance and loss of bald eagle habitat.
Conclusion and Recommendation of USFWS
The USFWS recommended “permit denial due to the application’s deficiencies.”
I’m happy that a government agency validated the concerns of residents, especially the numerous deficiencies that became so glaringly obvious during the public comment period. Example: when I asked one of the engineers at the March 18th public meeting where all the fill would be put, he couldn’t tell me. It seemed like a simple, but important question. Turns out it was.
Jill Boullion, Executive Director of the Bayou Land Conservancy said, “The Bayou Land Conservancy is gratified that US Fish & Wildlife service has confirmed our opinion that the Romerica project site is ecologically rich and diverse. It is, in its natural state, already providing the community immeasurable services. We believe the highest good for the community is to preserve this valuable resource, not develop it.”
Romerica’s spokesperson, Leah Howard Manlove, contacted me earlier this week to say that the Romerica team would meet next week to discuss their options and a plan of action. At this point, Romerica has two options: answer all the questions and concerns raised during the public comment period or quietly let the project die.
Posted by Bob Rehak on May 10, 2019
619 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy and are protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/DSC06408.jpg?fit=2031%2C1648&ssl=116482031adminadmin2019-05-10 16:07:302019-05-10 19:51:28U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Urged Corps to Deny Romerica Permit
This morning, local videographer Jim Zura took his drone down to River Grove Park and photographed the Romerica property flooding for the seventh time in 14 months. It proves that there’s a developer born every minute!
The history of this land involves half a dozen different developers, each with big dreams, determined to get rich in that promised land between buying low and selling high. Ultimately, though, they end up selling to another starry-eyed developer after reality sets in.
Investing $5 billion in a floodway that carries 240,000 cubic feet per second! That’s Brooklyn-Bridge smart. Expecting 15,000 condo buyers to wade into the wacky dream with you? It would be easier to sell high rises at the end of an airport runway.
Might be time to cut your losses, Mr. Haddad. Just sayin’. All those high priced consultants will be happy to keep selling you hope as long as you’re paying them.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/8/19
617 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post are my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Screen-Shot-2019-05-08-at-9.54.33-PM-copy.jpg?fit=1500%2C870&ssl=18701500adminadmin2019-05-08 21:59:412019-05-08 22:11:20There’s a Developer Born Every Minute!
After receiving 727 public comments, Kingwood Marina developer, Romerica Investments, LLC, asked Corps regulators on April 24, to “temporarily suspend an Individual Permit Application (SWG-2016-00384).”
Romercia’s environmental consultants said in a letter to Corps regulators, they made the request based on the large volume of comments provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on March 28.
The request acknowledged, “It will take several months to conduct the surveys and studies needed to respond fully to these comments.”
Rehak: “Romerica requested a suspension of their permit application. The Army Corps withdrew it. What’s the difference? Is there any legal significance?”
Botello: “The correct wording in this case is “withdrawal.” There IS a legal difference. There is a provision within our regulations for suspending a permit. But that only occurs when a permit has actually been issued. In this case, the permit was not issued; there was only an application. We never made a final decision. So the pending application was withdrawn.”
Another Public Comment Period Likely
Rehak: “If they reapply, would there be another public comment period during the evaluation of new application?”
Botello: “I am comfortable in saying that there probably will be another public comment period based on the number of public interest factors and concerns that were raised and potential changes that could occur. But we won’t know for sure until we get the revised packet of information.”
Rehak: “How frequently does this happen?”
Botello: “It’s common. If a significant number of comments are raised during the public comment period and applicants aren’t prepared to address them within 30 days, we withdraw it. Then they go back and try to answer the concerns that were raised or revise their plans. Conversely, if they can answer and fully address concerns within 30 days, we keep evaluating the permit and we go ahead with the next step. If not, we withdraw it and give them time on their own to address the public concerns.”
Next Steps If Romerica Reapplies
Rehak: “What will be the next steps if Romerica reapplies?”
Botello: “First, we will evaluate the new submittal internally for a review of the Corps’ concerns. Then we will draft a public notice for public review – to gather public concerns. Then typically, we gather up the comments and concerns raised after that 30-day period, and forward them again to the applicant. They will have to respond within 30 days and then we will gather their responses and determine what steps are appropriate.”
Where We Are At
Romerica has not returned phone calls to discuss their intentions. If other agencies had concerns as serious as the TCEQ’s, this project could die quietly. If Romerica reapplies, which they have said they will do, the developer will likely have to significantly revise plans, and start over with a lengthy permitting process including a new public comment period.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/6/2019
615 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/HighRiseHell.jpg?fit=1500%2C936&ssl=19361500adminadmin2019-05-06 16:40:492019-05-06 16:41:17Interview with Corps’ Chief of Evaluation: What’s Next for Romerica?
In a letter dated April 24, SWCA, Romerica’s environmental consultant, requested a “suspension” of the permit application. They said they needed more time to answer issues raised in 727 letters of protest. SWCA also said they would have to conduct additional surveys and field work requiring more than the 30 days allowed for them to respond. The official deadline for filing responses was April 27.
Withdrawal “Without Prejudice”
Instead of suspending the permit, the Corps “withdrew it without prejudice.” The Corps invited SWCA and Romerica to reapply at some future time when they had completed answers to the issues raised by concerned residents and environmental groups.
Leah Howard of Manlove Marketing and Communications, Romerica’s official point of contact for the application, was not available for comment at press time. However, a third party who talked to her earlier in the day said that their team wanted “to do a good and complete job with citizens’ questions, and that 30 days just wasn’t enough time.”
Another third party source quoted her as saying, “Due to Harvey, Romerica will complete several new studies and surveys for due diligence which will shed more light on the larger issue Lake Houston faces. After completion of the necessary work, Romerica and the USACE will reactivate the permit and more information will be provided at that time.”
Issues Still to Be Clarified
It is unclear at this time whether a new application would obligate Romerica to go through an additional public comment period. However the letter sent from the Corps to the developer states, “Resultant project modifications may require additional coordination.”