Tag Archive for: Bayou Land Conservancy

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

FEMA Publishes Nature-Based Solution Guides, Advice

FEMA has published two flood-mitigation guides on nature-based solutions showing how communities can develop projects with multiple benefits.

Both are titled “Building Community Resilience with Nature-Based Solutions.” But one focuses on “Strategies for Success.” The other focuses on “A Guide for Local Communities.” Together, they build a case for integrating green and gray solutions to improve resilience.

While geared toward policy makers, planners and flood-mitigation professionals, they will also help community leaders, activists, students and anyone interested in weaving green solutions into flood mitigation, whether on the watershed, community or household level.

These are not technical guides. They focus on high-level benefits and are packed with helpful examples and case studies. The writing is clear, compelling and easy to understand.

“Strategies for Success” Summarized

Strategies for Success is organized around five major themes.

  • Building strong partnerships
  • Engaging the whole community
  • Matching project size with desired goals and benefits.
  • Maximizing benefits.
  • Designing for the future.

If you wonder what the term “nature-based solutions” includes, see pages 17-22. They complement gray (engineered) solutions in many ways in many environments.

At the watershed scale, they can include:

  • Land conservation
  • Greenways
  • Wetland restoration and protection
  • Stormwater parks
  • Floodplain restoration
  • Fire management
  • Bike trails
  • Setback levees
  • Habitate management

At the neighborhood or site scale, they include:

  • Rain gardens
  • Vegetated swales
  • Green roofs
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Permeable pavement
  • Tree canopy
  • Tree trenches
  • Green streets
  • Urban greenspace

In coastal areas, they include:

  • Wetlands
  • Oyster reefs
  • Dunes
  • Waterfront parks
  • Living shorelines
  • Coral reef
  • Sand trapping

The section about maximizing benefits will help leaders sell such projects to their communities. It contains helpful tips that improve value and case studies that dramatize it.

The guides also come with links to additional resources.

“Guide for Local Communities” Summarized

This guide begins by reprising many of the same solutions mentioned above. Then it quickly moves into three main sections:

Building the business case for nature-based solutions summaries their potential cost savings and non-monetary benefits. They include:

  • Hazard mitigation benefits in a variety of situations/locations
  • Community co-benefits, such as ecosystem services, economic benefits, and social benefits
  • Community cost savings, such as avoided flood losses, reduced stormwater management costs, reduced drinking water treatment costs.

Planning and Policy Making covers:

  • Land-use planning
  • Hazard mitigation planning
  • Stormwater management
  • Transportation planning
  • Open-space planning

Implementation includes:

  • Boosting public investment
  • Financing through grants and low interest loans
  • How to incentivize private investment
  • Federal funding opportunities

Key takeaways include:

Communities that invest in nature-based approaches can save money, lives, and property in the long-term AND improve quality of life in the short term. Other key takeaways are:

  1. The biggest selling point for nature-based solutions is the many ways they can improve a community’s quality of life and make it more attractive to new residents and businesses.
  2. Diverse partners must collaborate.
  3. Scaling up will require communities to align public and private investments.
  4. Many types of grant programs can be leveraged for funding.

I’ll add one more: It’s easier to build these into communities as they are developing rather than retrofit them after the fact.

Local Examples

Regardless, the right combination of green solutions can make a valuable supplement to flood mitigation in every community.

The 5,000 acre Lake Houston Park provides recreational amenities and flood protection to surrounding areas.

Many great examples of a nature-based solutions surround us locally. Look at Lake Houston Park; Kingwood and The Woodlands which have greenbelts and bike trails along creeks; the Spring Creek Greenway; and the Bayou Land Conservancy’s Arrowwood Preserve.

Recreational asset and flood-mitigation project.

Parks like Kingwood’s East End make more great examples. East End preserves wetlands, accommodates tens of thousands of visitors each year, and provides valuable habitat for wildlife.

Interested in getting more projects like this started near you? As a starting point, please share these brochures with leaders in your community. And support local groups seeking to preserve green spaces such as the Bayou Land Conservancy.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/23/23

2046 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Bayou Land Conservancy Ribbon Cutting on Spring Creek

On Friday, 10/13/2023, Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC) staff and board members met with supporters and legislators for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at BLC’s new Arrowwood Preserve on Spring Creek in Tomball west of 249.

BLC’s Arrowwood Preserve is in the floodplain of Spring Creek just north of Lone Star College – Tomball.

Land Donated by Two Sand Miners in 2020

The occasion: dedication of a new outdoor classroom for environmental education. Years of work that began with the donation of 117 acres to the Bayou Land Conservancy in 2020 culminated yesterday. Two sand miners, Don Poarch and Joe Swinbank, owners of Sprint Sand & Clay, donated the ecologically diverse land across Spring Creek from Lone Star College-Tomball.

The preserve takes its name, Arrowwood, from a 6-8 foot shrub that’s a member of the Honeysuckle family. The preserve marks the western extent of the plant’s natural range.

Since acquisition of the land, BLC staff, volunteers and supporters have developed a management plan, blazed trails, erected boardwalks, and built the new outdoor classroom.

BLC developed the open-air classroom in partnership with William & Madeleine Welder Smith Foundation; The Ralph H. and Ruth J. McCullough Foundation; and Plains All-American Pipeline Company.

An Ecological Gem Now an Outdoor College

The photos below show some of the quiet, natural beauty of the Arrowwood Preserve.

Arrowwood is 117 acres of wetlands also populated by hardwoods and some pines.

Spring Creek cuts through the Arrowwood Preserve.
View looking south from above the new outdoor classroom.
Looking East. The preserve extends to SH249, left to right in the middle.
Jill Boullion, Executive Director of the BLC, cuts the ribbon to honor years of hard work by staff, board members and supporters. New outdoor classroom in background.
After the ribbon cutting, attendees explored the beauty of wilderness in the city.

The land will connect to the Spring Creek Greenway which extends all the way southeast to US59.

Value of Nature in Flood Mitigation

It’s hard to put an exact dollar figure on the value of such a preserve. Traditional benefit/cost ratios used in flood-mitigation projects quantify the benefits of massive engineering/construction projects against the cost of avoided damages.

But this land is still natural. So damage to structures is not a consideration. The value of damages avoided would depend on how many people with bad judgement might choose to build on land that goes deep under water during frequent floods. At 249, Spring Creek floodwaters rose 11.4 feet above flood stage during Harvey. That equals 27.5 feet above the normal elevation!

Need for New Formula to Weigh Prevention Against Correction

But there’s another way to look at this: the value of prevention compared to the cost of correction. Our parents all taught us that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The current mapped floodplains around and in Arrowwood look like this.

From FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer. Striped area = floodway of Spring Creek. Aqua = 1% annual chance of flooding. Tan = .02% annual chance.

Keep in mind that the map above was drawn in 2014 – before Harvey. FEMA has not yet released new post-Harvey flood maps. The floodplains will reportedly expand by 50% to 100%.

So, protecting this land from development will save money several ways. It will eliminate or reduce the:

  • Injuries and lives lost.
  • Cost of flood repairs.
  • Disruption to people’s lives after a flood.
  • Wasted construction dollars in unsafe areas that could have built safe homes on higher ground.
  • Buyouts after repetitive flooding.
  • Loss of home values.
  • Lawsuits.
  • Urban decay.
  • Taxpayer subsidies for the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Cost of engineering and environmental studies designed to determine how to fix the problems.
  • Construction costs to build flood-mitigation measures, such as stormwater detention basins and channel widening
  • The need for expensive bulkheads and dikes to control river migration.
  • Higher tax rates to pay for many of the costs above.

Then, balance all those uncertainties and negatives against the positives of preservation.

Forests also slow down floodwaters by creating friction. This reduces severity of damage and gives people downstream more time to evacuate if necessary.

Clearly, determining the value of preservation demands a different kind of formula that considers different costs and different benefits.

Perhaps the next generation of future homeowners and leaders from Lone Star College will learn such things at BLC’s new outdoor classroom on Spring Creek and change the world for the better. I hope so.

Support Bayou Land Conservancy

This is an area that should stay natural forever. And with the help of the Bayou Land Conservancy, it will. BLC is an organization making a huge difference in a quiet way. It deserves the support of each and every one of us.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/14/23

2237 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Mitigation for Clearcutting: Two Ways It Could Work Cost Effectively

For decades, we have had wetland mitigation banks. If you want to fill in wetlands, you need to preserve wetlands somewhere else. But what about those vast swaths of ecologically less valuable forest that still play valuable roles in flood reduction? Developers routinely mow them down for new starter homes, apartment complexes, strip centers, RV parks and the like. Should there be mitigation for clearcutting, too?

Imagine how much more attractive, healthier, and flood-resilient communities could become if all developers:

  • Planted a young tree for every old tree they cut, or…
  • Donated trees to community groups, or…
  • Preserved floodplains on their perimeters with conservation easements, or…
  • Committed to replanting trees on their own developments as homes are built.

Here’s why that’s important and two ways it could work without turning into a huge cost burden for developers and without onerous regulation.

Role of Trees in Flood Reduction

Trees do more than increase the value of homes. They also play many roles in flood reduction. For instance, they:

  • Soak up rain and transpire it back into the atmosphere at a slow rate.
  • Slow runoff during storms, reducing the time of concentration and flood peaks.
  • Reduce the velocity of floodwaters.
  • Bind soil and reduce the rate of erosion.

That erosion eventually reaches streams and can reduce their conveyance. In extreme cases, eroded sediment can even block streams and back floodwaters up into homes.

How Clearcutting Can Increase Flood Risk

Clearcutting on the other had accelerates runoff. As runoff gets to streams faster, it carries more exposed sediment. That sediment can reduce the conveyance of streams, partially block them, back floodwater up, and necessitate dredging programs which can take years and cost tens of millions of dollars.

Clearcutting makes more money for developers. But it also can also foist cleanup, repair, and mitigation costs off on neighbors and the public sector as we saw with Woodridge Village.

Notice the stark contrast in each photo below between the mature canopy of trees surrounding each newly clearcut development.

Clearcut Woodridge Village flooded hundreds of homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest that had never flooded before, not even during Harvey. Photo from 9/11/2020.
New High Street apartment complex by Trammell Crowe, south of San Jacinto River West Fork on West Lake Houston Parkway.
Royal Pines at north end of West Lake Houston Parkway.
First part of a 3738-acre new development in Huffman called St. Tropez.
Two new Splendora Developments
Two new Splendora developments along FM2090.

One of the primary draws of SE Texas is the gorgeous, lush forests. Yet high-density development is gradually destroying the very thing that attracts people. So should there be some sort of mitigation for clearcutting?

A Modest Proposal

Most companies make charitable donations of some sort. If you’re a developer, why not make them in a way that builds goodwill with neighbors, supports community values, makes everyone safer, and creates a tax deduction?

Contrast the systemic, mechanized deforestation above with the underfunded efforts of volunteer and charitable groups trying to plant trees and preserve forests. Perhaps the first group could help the second…and help themselves at the same time.

The lumber revenue from one mature loblolly pine could plant ten more.

And the tax breaks from a conservation easement can easily turn difficult-to-develop floodplain land into revenue-producing land.

Let’s look at examples of each.

Trees for Kingwood

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s most recent newsletter contained a short article about a new group called “Trees For Kingwood.”

Martin says, “Over the last 5 decades, Kingwood has lost more than ten thousand trees due to disease, storms, and drought.”

And I would point out that that doesn’t even include new developments that practice clearcutting.

Mayor Pro Tem Martin (front row, center) joined leaders of seven Kingwood Community Associations that contributed funds to support the first planting event of Trees for Kingwood. “This is a good thing for the neighborhood and wonderful for the community,” said Martin.

Trees for Kingwood needs both volunteers and financial support to achieve its mission. 

  • Volunteers to help plant and care for new trees.
  • Financial support to purchase trees.

Charitable contributions can be made to the KSA Parks Foundation for the Trees for Kingwood effort. For more information please visit  treesforkingwood.org or email treesforkingwood@gmail.com.

Bayou Land Conservancy

Another worthy group is the Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC). Since 1996, BLC has preserved land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife. BLC’s focus area includes the Lake Houston Watershed, which is 4,000 square miles. The group has preserved 14,000 acres and has identified another 100,000 worthy of protection. The tax benefits of a conservation easement can help developers profit from flood-prone land that would be difficult and expensive to safely develop.

To put 14,000 acres in perspective, that’s the size of Kingwood.

Bottom Line

By supporting such groups, developers can help restore and protect the forests that attract people to this region. They can also help mitigate their development practices and reduce costs by harnessing the power of volunteers.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/3/22

1922 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.

Bayou Land Conservancy Raises Concerns About SJRA Sand Trap Proposal

The Bayou Land Conservancy has added its voice to those raising concerns about the SJRA’s sand trap proposal for the San Jacinto River watershed. The pilot project began out of a desire to reduce sediment buildup in the mouth bar of the West Fork. But it has morphed into something very different – a trench through a sand bar more than 12 miles upstream.

In March 2022, the SJRA published its long-awaited proposal on sediment removal and sand trap development along with a brief summary. It now seeks public comment through April 29, 2022.

Location of recommended sediment trap outside Hallett mine
Sand bar on West Fork San Jacinto that would be used for pilot project outside Hallett mine. Note that the height of the freshly deposited sand is engulfing several medium sized trees. This location is downstream from several other large mines. Picture taken shortly after Harvey.

BLC’s General Concerns with Study

I posted my concerns on 3/27/22. Yesterday, the Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC) sent me a copy of its letter. It reflected some of the same concerns I had.

  • The study did not address what should be the main goal of sediment removal: excessive deposition in the area of the mouth bar downstream of US 59.
  • Managing mouth bar sediment deposition, and related flooding, should be kept at the forefront as this project moves forward.
  • Sand mining in the floodplain of the San Jacinto West Fork between 1995 and 2017 virtually quadrupled. More than 30% of the river’s flood plain is now being mined. That’s a huge problem that requires other types of solutions to reduce sedimentation from mines, such as improved Best Management Practices.

The group also suggested a need for greater oversight of sand mining by state regulators. It feels an inconsistency exists between in-stream mining via sand traps and the TCEQ’s newly adopted BMPs for sand mining.

BLC’s Specific Concerns re: Recommendation

BLC then went on to discuss the specific recommendation – rock-lined trenches through sand bars outside of sand mines. They listed three concerns:

  1. River migration and erosion: Changes in river course, including erosion and deposition of sediment, are naturally occurring processes. Installation of hardscape or mechanical features within the flowing part of the river will have an impact on this natural process and could lead to increased erosion in the area surrounding the facility, increased sediment transport downstream, and destabilization of the stream to the detriment of the surrounding and downstream communities.”
  2. Water quality: 85% of the drinking water needs of the Houston metropolitan region are met by Lake Houston, at the receiving end of the San Jacinto River. Instead of occasional turbidity increase during dredging of the mouth bar, sand trapping could create a long-term elevation in turbidity leading to increased water treatment costs for the entire region, transferring the cost to the public from private interests. Additionally, the riverbed contains chemical components that may need to be addressed in water treatment at additional public expense.”
  3. Accountability: the governing legislation created by HB1824 does not address the question of accountability should the private interest in the sediment trap fail to protect the public’s interest or go out of business without remediating the in-stream mining facility.”

More Study Recommended Before Implementation

BLC also recommended that two of the study’s recommendations deserve to be prioritized and expanded to provide as much accurate data as possible before sand-traps get further consideration:

  1. “Evaluate total annual sediment load transported to Lake Houston, including the area downstream of proposed sediment traps, and compare to anticipated trapped sediment loads.”
  2. “Perform further geomorphic assessment to address potential downstream instabilities due to removing sediment and to determine appropriate sediment removal volumes.”

BLC went on to encourage SJRA to extensively study the holistic sediment story of the upper San Jacinto River watershed. Previous studies point to Spring and Cypress Creeks as major contributors of sediment. BLC wants the sediment loads in those creeks studied as well as the areas downstream of the proposed sand traps.

The group continued, “A science-based, peer-reviewed, methodology of assessing the sediment budget of the watershed is imperative before assuming that removing sediment from any single location on the river will have a positive impact on mouth bar deposition. … Without a basis for understanding the sediment budget for the West Fork, it’s impossible to evaluate (or approve) this project.”

Rivers in Texas Are Public Property

BLC also pointed out that even though HB1824 exempted SJRA and Harris County Flood Control District from any requirement to obtain a permit, pay a fee, or purchase the material taken, in Texas the contents of a river belong to the citizens of the state. “Therefore we all have an interest in the results of this in-stream mining proposal,” said the group’s letter.

The letter concluded, “BLC recommends that extensive further study be undertaken to determine if in-stream mining, i.e. sand traps, will accomplish the stated goal of providing a long-term solution for managing the mouth bar deposition, without creating further instability to the river system and negative impacts to the surrounding and downstream communities.

Here is their full letter.

The Bayou Land Conservancy, one of the leading environmental groups in the Lake Houston watershed, preserves land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife.

How Taking Sediment Out of a River Can Increase Erosion

Non-technical people may have trouble understanding how taking sediment out of a river can increase erosion. Basically, if you take too much out (more than the natural baseline of dissolved sediment), it can create a “hungry water” effect. Many academics have documented the hungry water effect. It’s especially noticeable downstream of dams, which are notorious for trapping sediment. Rivers with excess sediment transport capacity tend to erode their banks and streamed to compensate.

To Register Your Opinion

To register your opinions, pro or con, with the SJRA, email  floodmanagementdivision@sjra.net no later than April 29, 2022.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/9/2022 based on a Bayou Land Conservancy letter to SJRA

1684 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.

Spring Creek Greenway Threatened by New Development

One of the most popular natural attractions in the north Houston area is the Spring Creek Greenway. But between mile marker 8 and 8.5, a large new development called Breckenridge East has cut across the trail, leaving a massive scar through the forest to accommodate its drainage.

Nature Interrupted

Since 1979, Harris County Precinct 4 commissioners have added to the beautiful trail system between I-69 and I-45. The Spring Creek Greenway currently connects and protects approximately 7,000 acres of forest in Harris County, preserving this ecological gem as a mecca for ecotourism, education, and outdoor recreation.

But yesterday, a reader and cyclist, Ken Matthews, alerted me to an issue.

Photo by Ken Matthews on 10/31/2021. Taken from Spring Creek Greenway looking toward new development.
NE portion of development from the air. Oval indicates where it cuts across greenway. Spring Creek cuts through top of frame from left to right.

Role of Forests in Flood Prevention

According to Harris County Precinct 4 and Harris County Flood Control District:

  • Forests buffer against flooding by absorbing rainfall in their canopies and in the soil.
  • Trees act as natural water filters and significantly slow the movement of storm water, which lowers runoff, soil erosion, and flooding.
  • From an economic viewpoint, communities that use this important function of trees and canopy cover may spend less money on other flood control methods.

Infiltration rates for forested areas are 10-15 times greater than for equivalent areas of turf and grass.

Harris County Flood Control District

Recipe for Runoff

In the shot above, you can see the beginning of what looks like a large detention pond. But as we saw with Woodridge Village flooding in 2019, putting in the detention ponds AFTER the land has been cleared can be a recipe for runaway runoff during big storms.

Lush forest replaced by vast expanse of sterile nothingness.
Entire development. A local resident told me that during Harvey, water came up to Cypresswood Drive in the lower left. That put this entire area underwater.
Breckenridge East is in far upper left. Another development a little more than a block away is also cutting into the forest. Cypresswood Drive in foreground.
Looking NW from second development across Planet Ford Stadium toward Breckenridge East, one can see a whole series of developments starting to encroach on the Spring Creek floodplain and greenway.

Support Bayou Land Conservancy

The Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC) plays a vital role in protecting and maintaining the Spring Creek Greenway, which is the longest, contiguous, urban forested corridor in the country.

When finished, the Greenway will ultimately:

  • Stretch over 40 miles,
  • Reach from Highway 249 in Tomball east to US 59 in Kingwood, and 
  • Cover more than 12,000 acres. 

Please support the Bayou Land Conservancy. They preserve land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife. Not to mention future generations.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/1/2021 with thanks to Harris County Precinct 4, Bayou Land Conservancy and Ken Matthews

1425 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.

Save the Date: National Public Lands Day Volunteer Event on September 25

Established in 1994 and held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, National Public Lands Day is traditionally the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort. It provides all lovers of the environment an opportunity to show appreciation for precious natural resources through volunteer opportunities. 

Join the Bayou Land Conservancy and REI in Conserving Public Land

This year, National Public Lands Day falls on Saturday September 25. The theme is “More Ways to Connect to Nature,” and there are many ways to connect in this area. I highly recommend joining the Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC) – a local, environmental non-profit – at the Lake Houston Wilderness Park. BLC specializes in preserving land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife.

The BLC and volunteers will partner with REI for the day to help spruce up the park and get a guided tour from park naturalists. Refreshments will be provided, but they recommend bringing your own water in a reusable container and a snack. If you’ve never been to Lake Houston Wilderness Park, it’s a big, tranquil place filled with wetlands and dense forests. In fact, it’s the largest urban nature park in America – almost 5,000 acres – and like stepping back in time.

To see some of this gorgeous park, and the difference it makes in the San Jacinto East Fork Watershed (compared to the West Fork), see this post I developed in 2018 about the importance of riparian vegetation in reducing erosion.

Riparian vegetation in Lake Houston Park helps prevent erosion, sustain wildlife, and reduce flooding.
Shoreline of Lake Houston Park. Fall colors light up the landscape as well as people’s faces.
Looking NW across the vastness of unspoiled Lake Houston Park. Photo taken Jan. 1, 2021

Directly Benefitting the Lake Houston Headwaters and Reducing Flooding

The focus of work at the Lake Houston Wilderness Park on the 25th will directly benefit the Gully Branch-Peach Creek watershed, right in Kingwood’s backyard plus, Porter’s, New Caney’s and Huffman’s!

With 2.5 months left in hurricane season, take time to help preserve nature and reduce flooding in a natural ,cost-free way. More conserved lands mean more safe places for water to go without endangering our communities.

How to Register, Learn More

Please join BLC in conserving land on National Public Lands Day on the 25th of September! With 5,000 acres, there’s plenty of room for social distancing in a healthy environment.

For more information on the day’s events and how to register, visit BLC’s website at Bayouland.org/national-public-lands-day.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/8/2021

1471 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Headwaters to Baywaters: A Story of Urban Resilience

Several area conservation groups are working with the Houston Area Research Center (HARC) to protect land along riparian corridors and educate people about the importance of that. A stunningly beautiful new website called Headwaters to Baywaters explains how protecting riparian habitat helps protect people from flooding, improve water quality, and produce other benefits far in excess of the dollars invested.

New Website Uses Novel Technique

The Headwaters to Baywaters website also uses a novel graphic technique to dramatize the connectedness of waterways and people. Scrolling down one long page takes you on a visually lush journey from Headwaters to Baywaters. It starts far upstream where trickles of water coalesce into small streams and then moves all the way down to Galveston Bay with intermediate stops along the way.

As you scroll, little dialog boxes pop up that present you with tidbits of information that pertain to things you are seeing at that stage in your journey.

It’s informative and impactful. Make sure to share it with everyone in your family. It dramatizes the importance of prevention over correction. Preserving land along rivers and streams is far less costly and time-consuming than trying to correct the problems later if we lose them.

About the Headwaters to Baywaters Initiative

The Headwaters to Baywaters Initiative works to connect regional bayous and Galveston Bay through planning to identify:

  • High quality, riparian habitats with the potential to contribute to water quality improvements
  • Restoration and enhancement of riparian lands adjacent to targeted priority areas
  • Acquisition of land and designation of conservation easements on priority areas for riparian corridor protection.

It is part of the 8-County Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan (RCP), facilitated by Houston Wilderness. 

Headwaters to Baywaters Partners

The Headwaters to Baywaters Initiative includes the following partners:

Bayou Land Conservancy has been at the forefront of land preservation in the Houston region for 25 years, with the mission of preserving land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife. For further information visit www.bayoulandconservancy.org and learn about its strategic conservation plan.

Buffalo Bayou Partnership is the non-profit organization revitalizing and transforming Buffalo Bayou, Houston’s most significant natural resource. For further information visit www.buffalobayou.org

The Galveston Bay Foundation’s mission is to preserve, protect and enhance the natural resources of the Galveston Bay estuarine system and its tributaries for present users and for posterity. For further information visit www.galvbay.org.

Houston Audubon Society’s mission is to advance the conservation of birds and positively impact their supporting environments. For further information visit www.houstonaudubon.org

Katy Prairie Conservancy is a nationally accredited 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to protect coastal prairie, wetlands, and agriculture in southeast Texas for people and wildlife. For further information visit www.katyprairie.org

About HARC

Founded in 1982 by George P. Mitchell, HARC is a nonprofit research hub providing independent analysis on energy, air, and water issues to people seeking scientific answers. For further information visit www.HARCresearch.org.  

Please Help Support This Initiative

These are all great organizations worthy of the support of everyone in the region. The Bayou Land Conservancy has a special focus on the north Houston region. If you want to learn more in person, join the BLC on one of its educational nature walks.

I often focus on the problems of flood mitigation. Supporting this initiative is an easy way to get involved in preventing those problems.

lDr. Stephanie Glenn, HARC’s Program Director for Water and Hydrology is leading this partnership effort.

Posted by Bob Rehak on May 11, 2021

1351 Days since Hurricane Harvey

HGAC Honors Bayou Land Conservancy with Award for Strategic Conservation Plan

Since 1996, Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC) has been a land and water conservation leader. In 2019, BLC developed a Strategic Conservation Plan to continue that tradition for the next twenty years. This plan identified lands with the greatest positive impact on flood control, water quality, and wildlife habitat in the region. 

About the HGAC Awards

H-GAC selected the Plan for recognition in its annual Parks and Natural Areas Award Program, which began in 2006 to highlight best practices and innovative approaches to parks planning and implementation.

H-GAC honors projects in the categories of Projects Over $500,000, Projects Under $500,000, Planning Process, and Policy Tools. BLC received special recognition in the Planning Category. Projects recognized by this awards program are selected by a panel of expert judges and industry professionals.

Photo courtesy of Bayou Land Conservancy

About Bayou Land Conservancy

Bayou Land Conservancy’s mission is to preserve land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife. They envision a protected network of green spaces that connect people and nature. Although a small organization, BLC aims to have a large impact on land conservation, stewardship, and community engagement. Strategic planning is critical to achieving these goals.

Becky Martinez, BLC Conservation Director, explains, “We developed a strategic conservation plan to better prioritize our land conservation projects. The plan is a great tool to direct BLC’s community supported conservation projects. Though Houston feels very urban, there are many beautiful and beneficial natural places around us.”

The goals of the SCP were to identify and describe important areas for BLC to protect and create a plan of action toward their conservation.

Having reviewed the entire plan, I must say that the rigor and discipline used by BLC matches the organization’s dedication and enthusiasm. There’s a reason BLC has thrived for more than 25 years while other groups have come and gone. BLC currently preserves more than 14,000 acres across six counties from Houston to Huntsville.

The Hundred Thousand Acre Opportunity

BLC’s land preservation improves the quality of life for over five million people living in the greater Houston area. The strategic conservation plan identified approximately 100,000 acres of very high priority lands where preservation will have the greatest positive impact on flood resiliency, water quality, and wildlife habitat.

“When floodplains are left in their natural state or undeveloped, they can mitigate flooding by absorbing stormwater before it can inundate houses and businesses,” said Martinez. “Natural corridors along streams also filter runoff and rainwater, safeguarding our drinking water supply. By strategically focusing on these areas, BLC is able to maximize the benefits of land preservation and increase the community’s feeling of safety.”

The SCP also prioritizes land ideal for recreation and environmental education opportunities adjacent to existing parks and other protected spaces and trails.

But without the support of conservation-minded people, a plan is just a plan. Help put it into action. Support the Bayou Land Conservancy.

In the 1247 Days since Hurricane Harvey, I’ve posted hundreds of articles about threats to sensitive areas that could help reduce flooding. Here’s an easy way to help preserve those areas and enjoy them at the same time.

Learn More

Bayou Land Conservancy and other winners will be honored during an online celebration at 9 a.m. February 5, 2021. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEsfuqvrT4pHdK8RmnQPh01-XzROD0yEY98

For more information about The Strategic Conservation Plan visit https://www.bayoulandconservancy.org/strategic-conservation-plan. Or click here to review the entire plan.

For more information about H-GAC’s Parks and Natural Area Awards, visit http://www.h-gac.com/parks-and-natural-areas/awards.aspx

Posted by Bob Rehak on January 27, 2021

1247 Days since Hurricane Harvey

You’re Invited: Bayou Land Conservancy Virtual Gala Tonight, Keynote Speaker Ben Masters

The Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC) preserves land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife.

Bayou Land Conservancy Achievements

With the support of individuals and corporations, BLC now protects 14,000 acres at 60 preserves in the Houston region. They focus on 4,000 square miles which includes the Lake Houston Watershed. And they log thousands of volunteer hours every year. This group stands tall among the many worthy conservation groups in Houston.

If you haven’t met BLC yet, tonight you will have a chance to see what they do from the comfort of your own laptop.

Event Details

From 6-7 pm, you can:

There’s no cost to attend. BLC simply wants to encourage you learn more about their efforts to preserve land.

Register for and view the event here. Donations to the Bayou Land Conservancy are welcome, but optional.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/13/2020

1172 Days since Hurricane Harvey