Trammell Crow Contractors Still Pumping Silty Stormwater into Street

The persistent after-hours pumping of silty stormwater from the Trammell Crow construction site into the street drains has been reported to Harris County Engineering for several months now. Despite warnings, the practice continues. The danger: accumulated silt in drain pipes and the river can reduce their conveyance, back water up in heavy rains, and lead to flooding.

One small development won’t be catastrophic. But the cumulative impact of hundreds could be.

For all those reasons, construction permits come with instructions to use things that retain and filter silty water such as berms, sediment basins and semi-permeable fencing.

Repeat Offender

In January 2024, contractors began clearing Phase II of an apartment complex on West Lake Houston Parkway without any of these safeguards. Because the complex lies just outside the City limits, Harris County Engineering is responsible for inspections.

They have visited the site numerous times and cautioned contractors about discharges of silty stormwater. At different times, the contractors installed silt fences and erected berms. They also built sediment basins and channeled excess stormwater to them.

On April 10th, the area received approximately 2 inches of rain. And yesterday, April 11, the contractors were pumping water back into the street THROUGH A PILE OF MUD. After quitting time. When inspectors wouldn’t be around. Again!!!

Caught on Camera

Michelle Chavez, a nearby resident, caught the action on camera.

39 second video by Michelle Chavez showing extent and source of pumping

Chavez also took several still photos.

Silty stormwater being pumped through open gate washing out driveway
Note mud on right being washed into street.
Pumping took place near sunset, around 8PM when County inspectors were unlikely to be present.
They appeared to be pumping water from unfinished, underground storm drains, but pumped it through mud. Photo by BR taken around 7PM on 4/11/24.

At least one local resident concerned about flooding reported the pumping to Harris County Engineering. He was told that Engineering would send an inspector out.

Sending Wrong Message: Will Sixth Time be the Charm?

This is the sixth story I have posted about stormwater-control issues at this construction site. See the previous five.

One wonders when the county will level a stiff fine or shut down this site. At this point the Harris County Engineering Department also has its reputation on the line. Tolerating such behavior sends a message to other developers that may be unsafe in the long run.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/12/24

2418 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.

April 10th Storm Dumps 12-17 Inches in 12 Hours East of Houston

The April 10th storm that swept through Houston during the early morning hours dumped amazing amounts of rainfall just east of here.

A report received today from Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner says that the April 10th storm dumped 12-17 inches of rain in a 12 hour period in a swatch across East Texas. The result: widespread, catastrophic flooding in parts of Newton, Jasper, Hardin, and Tyler Counties.

A peak total of 17.68 inches was recorded near Kirbyville, TX. Lindner characterized the totals as “insanely high.” In fact, NOAA’s Atlas 14 rainfall chart for Kirbyville lists a 12-hour/17-inch rainfall as a 1000-year event.

NOAA’s Atlas 14 Rainfall Probability Statistics for Kirbyville, TX area.

Late yesterday morning, Weather.com reported that a Disaster Declaration had been issued for Jasper County, Texas. Officials there said that multiple people were rescued from both homes and vehicles due to flooding in the area. “The city of Kirbyville remains underwater.”

April 10th Storm Rivaled Tax Day Storm

The squall line which started near the Rio Grande around 9:30 pm Monday evening traveled some 800 miles reaching the FL panhandle producing wind damage and tornadoes along much of the path.

According to Lindner, “This should serve as a reminder that when the flash flood ingredients are in place around here, it can rain, and rain a lot, in a very short period of time.”

Some 12-hour rainfall totals were near those of the April 2016 (Tax Day) Storm. It is worth noting that yesterday’s event took place at nearly the same time of year.

The flash flooding developed along a stalled low-level convergence boundary. An influx of tropical moisture and repeat cell training anchored on the boundary for much of the night fed the high totals.

“This was a classic meso-scale flash-flood event common along the Gulf coast,” said Lindner.

High resolution computer models suggested the heaviest rainfall would occur over central Louisiana. So this caught many forecasters off guard.

Tornadoes, Too

The April 10th storm also produced several tornados including one that briefly touched down south of the Katy Freeway inside of SH99.

EF-1 tornado with maximum wind speeds of 90mph touched down around 2:45 am just west of Mason Rd south of Kingsland. It tracked generally eastward toward Fry Rd.

Damage along the east side of Mason Rd was consistent with low-end EF-1 rating. It included lifting and movement of vehicles in a parking lot, the complete failure and collapse of a Tire Shop, blow-out of windows, and failure of roofing on a nearby strip center.

The storm also lofted a commercial AC unit on the top of the strip center and dumped it in the parking lot.

Wind damage continued eastward along and south of Cimarron Pkwy toward Fry Rd.

The wind snapped and uprooted numerous trees through this area and blew down several fences. A corridor of damage continued eastward, but there was little evidence of a full fledged tornado at that point.

Winds estimates in the residential areas between Mason and Fry Rd were on the order of 65-75mph – an EF-0 rating.

Lindner says that these types of tornadoes are common along the leading edge of intense squall lines. Bows or “kinks” develop in the line, enhancing low-level rotation, which results in quick, short-lived, weak tornados. 

The path lasted 1.7 miles and width ranged from 300 to 400 yards.

The maximum intensity reached EF-1 (90mph) on east side of Mason Road.

Maximum Winds

High winds were reported in numerous places through the Houston/Galveston area.

  • 62 MPH at Hooks Airport in Tomball
  • 55-59 MPH in Galveston, Pearland, Palacios and Fulshear
  • 65 MPH in Dickinson
  • 71 MPH in San Leon
  • 72 MPH at an oil platform offshore High Island

Lake Houston Area

The Harris County Flood Warning System recorded:

  • 1.96 inches at US59 and the West Fork.
  • 2.16 inches at West Lake Houston Parkway and the West Fork.
  • 3.00 inches in Huffman
  • 4.92 inches farther east along Luce Bayou at 321.

Notice the trend as you move farther east?

All things considered, the Lake Houston Area lucked out. We got enough rain to green up the grass, but not so much that people flooded.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/11/2024

2418 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Hallett Breach Sends Hundreds of Millions of Gallons of Wastewater Downstream

Google Earth shows a massive breach in the southernmost pond of the Hallett San Jacinto West Fork mine in a satellite image dated February 19, 2024.

Google Earth image from 2/19/2024. Breach circled in red.

Here’s how the same area looked today from a drone.

Hallett Breach. Looking WNW from over San Jacinto West Fork on 4/10/24.

And here’s how it looked from a boat just hours earlier.

River-level shot shows height of shoreline. But river level was up because of rain last night.

A Harris County Flood Control Gage at Highway 99, slightly upstream from this location, showed the river level was up approximately 9 feet when I took the drone photo above this afternoon.

That puts the river-level photo, taken by a resident who prefers to remain anonymous, in a whole new light. The amount of water that escaped from the pond went from near the top of the bank (which you can see) to approximately another 9 feet lower (which you can’t see in these photos).

Breach Open for More than Two Months

Photographing this area is difficult. It is impossible to reach by public roads. And it’s at the edge of my drone’s range.

However, I do have photos that show it happened sometime between January 28 and February 5, 2024.

One drone photo shows the dike intact on January 28. A second, on February 5, shows the breach.

Color of Pond Changes After Breach

The color of the pond is dramatically different in the two photos. Before the January 28 photo and the January floods, the pond was an ghostly off-white color. By February 5, it returned to a more natural brown color.

How Much Wastewater Entered the River?

Google Earth shows the pond measures approximately 182 acres. The difference between the vegetation line around the pond and today’s water level appears to be about 6 feet. But as we saw above, the river was up about 9 feet nearby. If you add another 9 feet to the 6-foot estimate, it’s conceivable that the pond level dropped as much as 15 feet after the breach when floodwaters receded.

But let’s say, to be conservative, that it only dropped 10 feet. That would mean that 1,820 acre feet of wastewater entered the San Jacinto West Fork and made its way downstream to the source of drinking water for two million people – Lake Houston. That equals 593 million gallons – more than half a billion!

Back in 2019, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality cited the LMI Moorhead mine (upstream from Hallett) for the unauthorized discharge of 56 million gallons of white goop into the San Jacinto West Fork. It literally turned the West Fork white.

If my estimates for the Hallett breach are correct, it exceeds the LMI breech by 10X.

Estimating Escaped Sediment More Difficult

I documented at least three other leaks from other Hallett ponds during the January flood. No telling how much sediment escaped from this pond and the others.

I also documented huge amounts of sand suddenly appearing downstream.

A side-scanning sonar survey shows that the West Fork is now only 1-2 feet deep near River Grove Park. The Army Corps dredged that area in December 2018 and Kayden Industries dredged it again in 2020.

And let’s not forget the new City of Houston dredging program. It will remove another 800,000 cubic yards of accumulated sediment between Kings Point and FM1960.

To be fair, some of that sediment could have originated from river-bank erosion, other mines, upstream developments under construction, and even smaller tributaries.

Perhaps Hallett would like to chip in what they feel is their fair share for dredging. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t. Only time and the courts will tell.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/10/2024

2416 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.

City Begins Tree Lane Bridge Repairs

This morning, City of Houston contractors began clearing access points for the Tree Lane Bridge repairs in Kingwood next to Bear Branch Elementary where more than 600 students attend classes.

The City announced the kickoff of the project on February 21, 2024, but work actually started today.

Photo on 4/9/2024. Step one: lumberjacks clearing access for Tree Lane bridge repair work.

Extent of Damage

This is actually the second round of repairs. The City made some rudimentary efforts in 2020 that ultimately proved ineffective. Four years later, erosion under the bridge is more extensive now than then.

I took all the pictures below on 4/7/24.

Tree Lane Bridge before start of Round 2 repairs. Collapse of East retaining wall.

The forensic report blames the damage on “failure of riprap.” Riprap is boulders placed in the stream designed to reduce erosion by slowing the flow of water, breaking it up, and providing a protective barrier.

However, the forensic analysis indicates that water flow in Bens Branch undermined the rip rap.

Soil beneath riprap can be eroded if the rock was just placed on top without any buffer between the layers such as a geotextile fabric or smaller riprap (crushed stone).

In this case, erosion removed more than a foot of soil behind the concrete walls, under the base, and under the existing riprap.

Tree Lane Bridge Before Start of Round 2 Repairs
Tree Lane Bridge before start of Round 2 repairs. Downcutting under bridge.

You can see from the exposed utilities that the creek has downcut. This downcutting extends several hundred feet upstream of the bridge. And that’s part of the problem. It allowed water to get behind and under the existing channel linings.

Headward erosion downstream on west side and exposed utilities.

Construction plans call for:

  • Removing all the existing material under the bridge and on the sides of the banks
  • Installing a new concrete channel (bottom and sides) that will maintain the flow line of the stream.
  • Repairing outfalls.

The engineer’s report claims the proposed U-shaped channel will hold the current side slopes of the bridge and allow for the drop in the flow line.

For More Information

See the Report of Findings, construction plans, and the City’s official Engage Houston web page.

For pictures of how the bridge looked after the last round of repairs, see this post from 3/31/2020.

For pictures of a flood responsible for much of the damage, see this post from 1/29/23.

A Silver Lining

The damage to the Tree Lane bridge has been so rapid, that it occurred twice within the time many Bear Branch students attended the adjacent elementary school. Perhaps it will inspire curiosity about flooding among some of these students, spur them to pursue engineering careers, and perhaps prevent such dangers in the future.

Safety Precaution

The City hopes to complete the Tree Lane bridge project sometime this summer, weather permitting. Please observe traffic warning signs, cones and flags for the duration. And keep curious children away from heavy equipment which will be maneuvering in tight spaces with limited visibility.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/9/2024 with help from Chris Bloch of the Bear Branch Trail Association

2415 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Northpark Entergy Saga: New Power Poles Slowly Going Up

In the latest episode of the Northpark Entergy saga, last week, Entergy finally began erecting new power poles outside of the Northpark Drive expansion right of way. While this is a huge improvement after four years of no Entergy activity, don’t get too excited.

In its quest to help develop an all weather evacuation route for 78,000 people, Entergy managed to erect four poles in five days. And there’s no sign of progress near Entergy’s transformer by the Exxon station at US59 either.

In other Northpark news:

  • The extra northbound turn lanes at 59 seem to be complete almost all the way back to Chick-Fil-A.
  • At Russell Palmer and Northpark, the crossover closure will take longer than expected.
  • Construction of the four decorative planting areas in the two stormwater retention-basins at US59 is now complete and contractors have filled in dirt behind the retaining walls.

See photos and details below.

Last of four decorative landscaping areas (right) is now complete and backfilled.
Entergy … La La, La La La!

On 4/2, I reported that Entergy had delivered new power poles to Northpark in preparation for moving their lines out of the City right of way.

Five days later and four years after first being notified, Entergy appears to have erected a grand total of four poles while others remain scattered on the ground.

The four Entergy power poles erected along Northpark during the week of April 1, 2024

Here’s what two look like from the ground.

See new poles on the right. Entergy has not yet placed equipment on any poles, nor has it relocated wires.

Meanwhile, many of the poles they delivered to the job site last week remain scattered on the ground.

Looking E. Northpark Drive (on right). UP Railroad Tracks out of frame on the bottom.

Moving the poles back will make room to construct turn lanes from Northpark onto Loop 494.

As I photographed Entergy’s underwhelming progress, I was reminded of what American ingenuity can achieve when companies put their shoulders into projects.

For instance, the transcontinental railroad took six years to build. Even more impressive is what the companies could achieve in a day…without modern equipment.

The Union Pacific once laid eight miles of track in a single day. Stung by the competition, “the Central Pacific concocted a plan to lay 10 miles in a day. Eight tracklayers put down 3,520 rails, while other workers laid 25,800 ties and drove 28,160 spikes in a single day.”

Compare that to Entergy’s four poles in four years. I guess that’s what happens when you give companies a monopoly in an area.

On February 6, the City of Houston gave Entergy an ultimatum to have the project completed by March 8. Tomorrow will be April 8.

Entergy appears to have put its A Team on the project. Speaking of A Teams, it only took three years to invent the atomic bomb, test it, deliver it, and conclude World War II.

But of course, Entergy is dealing with electricity and there are safety issues involved.

Entergy transformer at US59 still unmoved.

The Entergy transformer will require some study. To inspire public confidence, Entergy reportedly is putting its top engineers on the project.

Northbound Turn Lanes onto US59

On a happier note, traffic is now using new northbound turn lanes at US59, temporarily eliminating a huge bottleneck…until new pavement will go down for the existing lanes.

Looking W from 59 toward 494. North is left.

A new schedule posted by the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority shows that most work in the next month will focus on underground utilities. Those include water lines, storm drains, and box culverts on both sides of the street.

According to the schedule, Harper Bothers Construction will also install the giant reinforced box culverts in the median of Northpark toward 59 for the rest of the month.

Before pavement goes farther east, more underground work is needed. Note culvert lined up in front of businesses.

Russell Palmer Crossover Work Delayed

The work near the Russell Palmer intersection must be taking longer than expected. Originally it was supposed to be finished by tomorrow morning at 5AM. But the new schedule shows it being completed by next Friday, 4/12/24.

A flashing sign along Northpark this morning warmed motorists to expect daily lane closures. However, there were none this morning. And contrary to earlier announcements, motorists were making it through the intersection.

For More Information

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

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/7/24

2413 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.

Colorado State Predicts “Extremely Active” 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Colorado State University, which has one of the best reputations in seasonal hurricane forecasting, predicted on April 4 that the 2024 Atlantic Season will be “extremely active.” Compared to the average for 30 years from 1991 to 2020, the metrics suggest tropical activity could increase by 50% or more. Below are some of CSU’s key predictions.

MetricCSU April Forecast for 2024Average for 1991-2020 % Increase
Named Storms2314.453%
Hurricanes117.253%
Major Hurricanes53.256%
Accumulated Cyclone Energy*1257371%
*West of 60 degrees longitude (Caribbean, Gulf, Western Atlantic, US East Coast)

2023 had 20 named Atlantic storms. That ranked fourth for the most-named storms in a year since 1950. If CSU predictions are accurate, this year will be even worse.

Basis for Forecast: Warm Waters, Less Wind Shear

According to CSU, when waters in the eastern and central tropical and subtropical Atlantic are much warmer than normal in the spring, it tends to weaken winds blowing across the tropical Atlantic. These conditions will likely lead to a continuation of well above-average water temperatures.

And a very warm Atlantic favors an above-average season, since a hurricane’s fuel source is warm ocean water. In addition, a warm Atlantic leads to lower atmospheric pressure and a more unstable atmosphere. Both conditions favor hurricanes.

The graph below from NOAA shows just how much warmer than normal sea surface temperatures were yesterday.

As of yesterday, sea surface temperatures around the world averaged 1 to 4 degrees centigrade higher than normal for this time of year. Four degrees centigrade equals 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Confidence Level

Given the combined signals favorable to hurricane formation, CSU has higher-than-normal confidence for an April outlook that the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season will be very active.

This is the highest prediction for hurricanes that CSU has ever issued with their April outlook. 

CSU

The CSU team will issue additional forecast updates on June 11, July 9 and Aug. 6.

New Metric More Accurate

“Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) generated west of 60 degrees west” is a new metric, introduced by CSU this year. It correlates better with landfalling storms in the Atlantic basin than basin-wide ACE. That’s because virtually all hurricane-prone landmasses in the Atlantic Ocean are located west of 60 degrees west.

Landfall Predictions

The CSU report also includes the probability of a major hurricane making landfall:

  • 62% for the entire U.S. coastline (average from 1880–2020 is 43%).
  • 34% for the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida peninsula (average from 1880–2020 is 21%).
  • 42% for the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville (average from 1880–2020 is 27%).
  • 66% for the Caribbean (average from 1880–2020 is 47%).

Data wonks can read CSU’s full 44-page report here.

Consistent with Other Seasonal Forecasts

Forecasters on both sides of the Atlantic have predicted an extremely active hurricane season since January. Adjectives have ranged from “supercharged” to “grim” and “blockbuster.”

The National Hurricane Center usually issues its seasonal outlook a little later in the season.

As always, researchers caution coastal residents to take proper precautions. It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season for you.

For more information about climate, hurricanes, and hurricane preparation, visit the National Hurricane Center.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/5/24

2411 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Crenshaw Secures Funding for 10 Lake Houston Area Projects

Congressman Dan Crenshaw has helped secure Federal funding that supports 10 Lake Houston Area projects. Crenshaw submitted requests for the earmarks in 2023. After review by several different congressional committees, some of the earmark requests were modified and some sailed through for the full amounts.

The table below shows requested and approved amounts.

ProjectOriginally RequestedFinally Approved
Walnut Lane Bridge over Kingwood Diversion Ditch$4 million$4 million
New Caney Active Shooter Defense Training Facility$2.3 million$1.65 million
San Jac River Wastewater System$1.8$1.83 million
Goose Creek Channel Conveyance Improvements$8 million$1.75 million
Taylor Gulley Channel Conveyance Improvements$8 million$1.75 million
Ford Road Improvements$12 million$7 million
MoCo Bridge Project$900 thousand$720 thousand
Tamina Economic Development Project$3 million$3 million
FM1488 Street Rehab and Drainage Improvements$1.12$1.12 million
Highlands, Huffman, Crosby Roadway/Drainage Improvements$3.6 million$3.6 million
           Total$44.72 million$26.42 million

Crenshaw Success Rate

According to sources familiar with the process, Crenshaw is one of the few if not the only representatives to secure funding for all projects he has submitted in the last three years.

Reportedly, this is because Crenshaw restricts his requests to projects that save lives and/or money in the long term. Said another way, the requests he submits justify the expenditures. They are usually for infrastructure and save the government money by preventing future flood damage.

Dan Crenshaw (center) reviewing flood damage along Harris/MoCo line.
Crenshaw in black shirt visiting with Elm Grove flood victims in 2019 near Taylor Gully.

For descriptions of all 10 earmarks requested by Crenshaw, see below.

Project Descriptions

Kingwood Diversion Channel – Walnut Lane Bridge Project

Recipient: City of Houston

Purpose: The project includes the widening and reconstruction of Walnut Lane Bridge in Kingwood. This bridge, in its current configuration, will restrict flood flows unless widened to accommodate the future expansion of the Kingwood Diversion Channel currently being designed by the Harris County Flood Control District. The purpose of the overall project is to route drainage from Montgomery County to Lake Houston and reduce flood damage to residents of Kingwood along Bens Branch. The funding is needed to construct improvements needed to facilitate the expansion of the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and rebuild the Walnut Lane Bridge.

Active Shooter Defense Training Facility

Recipient: Montgomery County 

Purpose: Purpose: To assist with the operations of our regional active shooter rapid response training facility by purchasing training supplies/aids, equiping graduates with medical response supplies, and ballistic equipment for actual threats. To date, graduates include 1,600 law enforcement personnel, fire and EMS first responders. 

San Jacinto River Wastewater System Replacement Project

Recipient: Army Corps of Engineers

Purpose: To increase the reliability of the San Jacinto River Authority Woodlands Division wastewater conveyance system and repair damage from recent storms. List stations were damaged by flooding during Hurricane Harvey and have yet to be repaired. Both on-site lift stations, the control building, and the emergency generator were flooded and need to be replaced. This request would fund the demolition of the existing structure and build new systems. 

Goose Creek Channel Conveyance Improvements and Stormwater Detention Project

Recipient: Harris County Flood Control District

Purpose:  This project is designed to reduce flood risk within the Goose Creek Watershed by creating a detention basin and improving stormwater conveyance. The project is estimated to remove approximately 28 acres of inundated land, up to 77 structures, and 1.44 miles of inundated roadways from the 100-year event. Preventing flooding will avoid the need for more costly recovery efforts after flooding events.

Taylor Gully Flood Mitigation Project

Recipient: Harris County Flood Control District

Purpose: To reduce flood risk in the Kingwood area.  This area experienced widespread flooding from recent storm events, including Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda.  This project will create a detention basin and improve stormwater conveyance to minimize flood risks. Engineering studies show that completion of this project will result in substantial reductions in flooding along Taylor Gully.  The studies show that this project will remove the 100-year floodplain from more than 276 structures and 115 acres of flood area.

Goose Creek Channel Conveyance Improvements and Stormwater Detention Project

Recipient: Harris County Flood Control District

Purpose:  This project is designed to reduce flood risk within the Goose Creek Watershed by creating a detention basin and improving stormwater conveyance. The project is estimated to remove approximately 28 acres of inundated land, up to 77 structures, and 1.44 miles of inundated roadways from the 100-year event. Preventing flooding will avoid the need for more costly recovery efforts after flooding events.

Ford Road Improvement Project 

Recipient: Montgomery County 

Purpose: Support Ford Road improvements from US 59 in Montgomery County to the Harris County line. The current road is undersized and serves as one of only three evacuation routes for the Kingwood area. All three routes have drainage issues and Ford Road is only a two-lane road. The proposed project would make Ford Road a four-lane road, improve local drainage, and improve driver and pedestrian safety in the corridor.

Montgomery County Bridge Project 

Recipient: Montgomery County 

Purpose: Provide funding for five rural wooden bridges in Montgomery County that are past their design life and need to be replaced. The bridges were not built to current criteria and increase the risk of flooding by backing up water during large storms. One bridge serves as the only way in and out of a subdivision presenting a safety hazard. The funding request is for engineering, surveying, and permitting services to develop construction plans to replace five bridges.

Tamina Economic Development Planning Project

Recipient: Montgomery County

Purpose: The Tamina area is not served by modern street and stormwater management systems. The streets are in disrepair and the area drains very poorly, creating an elevated risk of flooding. The first phase of economic development planning, which this request would support, is to complete detailed engineering and environmental studies, provide new driveways and culverts, and re-grade all of the ditches to allow them to drain. 

FM1488 Area Street Rehabilitation and Drainage Improvement Project 

Recipient: City of Conroe

Purpose: The project will fund roadway resurfacing, drainage improvements, and storm sewer upgrades of roadways connecting to FM1488 near IH-45 (southern part of Conroe). The City of Conroe has experienced severe weather and rainfall which causes considerable wear and tear on the roads and drainage network. The project will benefit residential areas, including the Arella Forrest at Woodland Senior Living Center and Stillwater neighborhood. It will also improve access to the WG Jones State Forest, which serves a community located in a Historically Disadvantaged Community Tract. 

Highland / Huffman / Crosby Roadway & Drainage Improvement 

Recipient: Harris County, Texas

Purpose: Reconstruction of multiple poorly paved roads in subdivisions throughout the Highlands, Crosby, and Huffman areas of northeast Harris County. Existing gravel roads and inadequate drainage will be replaced with asphalt pavement, driveway culverts, and roadside ditches that will greatly improve residents’ quality of life. The projects will also improve accessibility for law enforcement and emergency services, reduce flood risk, and bring the local infrastructure to a standard acceptable for long-term County maintenance. 

Reason for Some Cutbacks

Earmarks come out of a specific percentage of each committee’s overall budget. The more requests that representatives submit, the less money there is to go around. And congressmen have no control over what others submit.

Overall, Congressman Crenshaw did very well. Many of these projects would not be going forward without his assistance.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/4/24

2410 Days since Hurricane Harvey

New Entergy Power Poles Finally Arrive On Northpark

I got a tip last night that new Entergy power poles finally arrived. Today, I photographed the long-awaited equipment. The poles are not up yet. Nothing is connected to them. Most are just lying in the dirt.

In the quest to build an all-weather evacuation route for 78,000 Kingwood residents, readers may remember that the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ-10 has sparred with Entergy for four years. Entergy’s power lines need to be moved out of a City-owned easement to accommodate the expansion of Northpark Drive.

I have confirmed that the poles belong to Entergy. Entergy also claims that they will begin erecting the poles in the next few days, weather permitting.

My source did not provide an estimated date for completion. Nor did the source discuss plans for moving Entergy’s transformer near the Exxon station at US59.

But still, this is progress.

Making Way for Surface Turn Lanes

The existing Entergy power poles need to move back to make way for two surface turn lanes that will parallel the bridge over the UP railroad tracks at Loop 494.

One of the two new westbound turn lanes will let traffic turn left onto 494 and the other will let it turn right. This is a TXDoT requirement.

As you can see from the overhead clutter, this is not going to be a simple job.
Entergy has dropped new poles every few feet for several blocks down Northpark.
Entergy power poles back beyond the orange stakes on the left.

The City of Houston issued Entergy an ultimatum to have its equipment out of the way by March 8. March 8 came and went without a sign of Entergy along Northpark. Now, almost a month later, we finally have some movement that could avert a costly legal battle that had the potential to shut the expansion project down.

This is good news. The presence of the power lines in the right of way has delayed construction considerably and forced contractors to take tasks out of sequence.

Union Pacific access issues have already been worked out. So, hopefully, construction should move faster now.

Elsewhere Along Northpark

Northbound turn lanes at 59 have reached their full width and are growing longer.

Outbound traffic was confined to one lane today, causing considerable delays.
Note freshly poured concrete being finished.

As soon as the new turn lanes are complete, traffic in the old lanes will be rerouted to them. Then contractors will repave the old lanes. That process should take three months according to LHRA. Westbound traffic should expect delays.

LHRA encourages commuters to take alternative routes.  For the next phase of work, the contractor will install new storm sewer pipes and inlets along with the new concrete roadway.

Russell Palmer Intersection Closed This Weekend

Farther east, contractors have already removed a pole mounted traffic signal at the Northpark/Russell Palmer Intersection. This weekend, they will rip up the intersection to extend the box culverts in the median. The crossover will close from 9pm Friday night, April 5, to 5am Monday morning, April 8, to make way for construction.

Looking W toward US59 across Russell Palmer along Northpark. The crossover will be ripped up this weekend to extend the culverts.

Traffic was backed up for more than a mile in each direction this afternoon because of multiple lane closures as you can see above.

Construction is never easy. Pack your patience. Plan on delays. And search for alternative routes for the duration.

For More Information

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

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/2/24

2408 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.

City Mobilizing for More West Fork Dredging

Mobilization for the next phase of San Jacinto West Fork dredging is underway. The City of Houston and its contractor DRC (a subsidiary of Callan Marine) are already staging equipment in two places on the West Fork.

The program, funded by FEMA, will remove an estimated 800,000 cubic yards of silt and sediment between the original location of the West Fork Mouth Bar and FM1960. The contractor will use primarily hydraulic dredging and the program will take approximately two years, according to District E City Council Member Fred Flickinger.

West Fork Dredging Project Dates Back to Dave Martin Era

Flickinger credits his predecessor, former Council Member Dave Martin, and Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello’s tireless efforts in protesting the initial amount proposed for dredging by FEMA back in 2019. FEMA’s initial proposal, based on a four-page, table-top study produced by the Army Corps, called for dredging 283,000 cubic yards.

Martin strongly disagreed with the Corps’ report and appealed it while the City produced its own 94-page technical report. It showed a much higher volume deposited by Harvey. Remember: Harvey funds could not be used to address sediment deposited before Harvey. The City report produced by Tetra Tech relied extensively on core samples. Tetra Tech proved that Harvey laid down the sand in the mouth bar and that the dredging volume should be closer to a million cubic yards.

In August 2020, FEMA and the Corps finally concurred with the City, after extensive discussions and a massive assist from U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw. Crenshaw and others had been pushing FEMA for years for the additional dredging.

Current Status

The new West Fork dredging program should be ready to go within weeks. DRC is currently bringing in the equipment that they will need.

DRC plans to use primarily hydraulic dredging. They will attack the area between where the mouth bar was (south of Scenic Shores in Kings Point) and the FM1960 Bridge. See map below.

Map from City study showing area of focus.
Hydraulic dredge being assembled at old Army Corps mobilization site south of Forest Cove pool. Photo taken 4/1/24.
DRC is also starting to stockpile mechanical dredging equipment such as these pontoons on Berry Madden’s property south of River Grove Park (top center).

This is good news. The new West Fork dredging will help ensure that water doesn’t back up like it did before. It’s not a guarantee against flooding. Dredging is only one part of a multi-faceted mitigation program that also includes more upstream detention and new floodgates on the Lake Houston dam. More news on those topics to follow.

Posted by Bob Rehak

2407 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Wildly Divergent Colony Ridge Population Estimates Pose Planning Problems

Colony Ridge, the controversial Latino development in Liberty county, has grown at least 50% larger than Manhattan in about a decade. How many people live there? No one knows for sure. Colony Ridge population estimates vary widely. And that has ominous implications for planners.

Most of Colony Ridge falls within Census tract 7003.02. The Census Bureau estimates that, in 2023, 13,573 people lived there, even though Colony Ridge occupies only about two thirds of the census tract.

Based on that, one might conclude that the Census Bureau believes about 10,000 people live in Colony Ridge. But the local school district estimates 80,000 people live there. Who’s right? And why does it matter?

What’s at Stake

A precise answer is important for many reasons: Congressional representation for Texas is at stake. So is planning for water supply, schools, traffic, law enforcement, flood mitigation, and more. Yet precise answers are elusive.

Why the Wide Variation?

Last year, I interviewed Congressman Brian Babin’s chief of staff. Babin represents Colony Ridge in Congress.

Babin’s chief told me about the problems that Census takers had in Colony Ridge back in 2020. To summarize, as many as two, three, or even four families often live together in one home. And often, they don’t want to be counted. Reportedly, many fear discovery and deportation because they entered the U.S. illegally. So they are under-reported.

In an interview with Blaze Media, Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader was asked if he has any idea how many Colony Ridge residents are here illegally. Rader replied (at 26:23 into the video), “… the majority of the people out there are illegal aliens.”

Rader’s observation is consistent with U.S. Border Patrol reports of record-high migrant encounters – more than a quarter million in last December alone at the Mexican border.

Yet the Census Bureau estimates that only about 50 people per year move to ALL of Liberty County as a result of international immigration and Colony Ridge is reputedly the largest, fastest growing colonia in the country.

Estimates contradict each other.

Who to Believe?

On the low end, in round numbers, the Census Bureau believes about 10,000 people live in Colony Ridge. On the high end, based on enrollment, the Cleveland ISD superintendent believes about 80,000 live there.

At 29:45 into the Blaze video, Cleveland ISD Superintendent Stephen McCanless says, “What we’re finding down there (in Colony Ridge) is that you have multiple families living in one house with four, five, six and sometimes seven children in one house.” At 28:14, McCanless says “District enrollment is usually 10% of your total community population. That tells me that we should have about 80,000 people living there.”

While the superintendent has an actual head count, he’s counting children, not adults. The Pew Foundation found that Hispanics are far more likely than Whites to have large families with four or more children today. That’s one possible source of error when comparing to historic, largely White norms.

The superintendent is also not counting Colony Ridge children whose parents enroll them in Montgomery County schools not far away. According to anecdotal reports, that number could be substantial.

John Harris, the developer, splits the difference between the Census Bureau and the ISD. He estimates the current population of Colony Ridge at approximately 35,000 at 3:22 into the Blaze video. But Harris is basing his estimate on “lots sold,” not residents per lot.

Deeply Flawed Population Estimates Will Affect Planning

Conclusion: all these contradictory population estimates have flaws. And that makes planning an exercise in guesswork. Let’s take the example of water. It’s necessary to sustain life, yet planning large scale water projects can take decades. Most take up to 50 years.

If Colony Ridge grew by 80,000 people in roughly 10 years, will there be enough water in the aquifers to support a quarter million in another 20 years? If not, where will the water come from?

I talked to one long-term resident of neighboring Plum Grove whose well ran dry recently. She and her neighbor both had to drill their wells lower.

If Colony Ridge does grow to a quarter million people, it would rank near the ten largest cities in Texas.

At that point, the fight for water rights would pit Liberty County’s traditional farm-based population against newcomers, more than half of whom by the Sheriff’s estimate are illegal aliens. I don’t see that battle ending well…for anyone.

Missing Documents: Skirting State and County Water Regulations

To avoid surprises like this, Liberty County requires proof of a 30-year water supply before it approves plats. See Section 8.2 of Liberty County Subdivision Regulations. So does the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas.

Yet when Maria Acevedo, a former landowner in Colony Ridge, requested such proof, neither Liberty County, the TCEQ, nor PUC could supply it. That’s scary.

It took decades to plan and build the Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project and even longer for the Northeast Water Purification Plant. Together, they cost $2.3 billion.

Can an area where at least 30% of the population lives below the poverty line afford that investment? Colony Ridge has already shown that its corner-cutting business model can’t afford to meet Liberty County fire hydrant and drainage regulations.

The issue is sustainability. As aquifers deplete, land subsides. And Colony Ridge already has flooding problems.

Subsidence can make that worse by creating a bowl in the landscape that reduces the gradient of streams. That slows down floodwaters and makes them peak higher, faster – especially when surrounding development has insufficient stormwater detention like Colony Ridge.

It’s time to do some mid-course correction while there’s still time.

For more information about Colony Ridge, see this list of previous posts.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/31/24 with thanks to Michael Shrader for his research on population

2406 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.