Tag Archive for: Ben’s Branch

Tree Lane Bridge over Ben’s Branch Damaged…Again

Recent heavy rains and high-density upstream development on Ben’s Branch in Montgomery County have increasingly placed pressure on the aging Ben’s Branch Bridge over Tree Lane. The bridge is immediately adjacent to Bear Branch Elementary School in Kingwood and its 638 students.

The City of Houston repaired the bridge less than three years ago in March 2020. But…

5-Year Rain Leaves Bridge Worse Than Before Repairs

I took the photo below on 1/24/23 when Kingwood experienced a five year rain according to the gage at US59.

Photo taken on 1/24/2023 after 3.6 inches of rain in 2 hours.

I went back today to see what it looked like after the water went down.

After another 1.5 inch rain on 1/29/23. Note how the concrete fragment is pinching off street drainage for Bear Branch Village.

The issue, in my opinion, has to do with more and more water jetting through the narrow opening of the bridge. The turbulence has undermined concrete armoring on the banks that protects bridge supports. It has also carved out a huge area in the stream just south of the bridge.

Photo taken on Tuesday 1/24/23 as jetting erodes area south of bridge.

Exacerbated by Upstream Issues

The Preserve At Woodridge, upstream on Ben’s Branch offers 13 homes to the acre. It’s one of several high-density developments recently built along Ben’s Branch and its tributaries.
Detention pond south of St. Martha Catholic Church owned by MUD. Looking S. Water flows R to L. Note how outlet is bigger than inlet.

The detention pond above on Ben’s Branch had its outlet wall blown out during Harvey 5.5 years ago and has not been fixed since.

An aging bridge. More water coming downstream. Insufficient mitigation. Eroding banks. 638 children. A perfect storm, so to speak. Let’s hope the City can expedite the repairs.

You encourage what you tolerate.

It’s time for people to speak up.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/29/23

1979 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.

Impervious Cover Percentage Raises Downstream Concerns

The Preserve at Woodridge based its detention basin calculations on 65% impervious cover. But photos taken on 11/26/22, a full year after they cleared the land, suggest the impervious-cover percentage may have been dramatically understated.

That affects the amount and speed of runoff. And that raises concerns for downstream residents along Ben’s Branch, many of whom have flooded in recent years, in part because of dense upstream developments like this one.

Looking straight down reveals little dirt between the densely packed rental homes and the concrete surrounding them.

Taken 11/26/22

I continue to be amazed at how the developer claims that one third of this dense, concrete bungle is NOT “impervious cover.” And lest you think I selectively cropped the photo above to exaggerate the percentage of concrete, the shot below shows virtually the entire development.

Taken 11/26/22. Area on right still does not have sidewalks.

Pushing the Limits

At my age, I don’t like the idea of carrying groceries blocks from my car to my house – which I would potentially have to do here.

Nevertheless, to give credit where credit is due, it appears that this developer has a flair for pushing limits. Just look at the development’s website. They offer “unmatched amenities” like vinyl flooring.

And some homes are 660 square feet. Much smaller and you would expect the residents to wear orange jumpsuits.

But still, this new concept in luxury living has its rewards:

  • No stairs to climb like in apartments.
  • An extra wall between you and your neighbor’s stereo.
  • On-street parking, just like Manhattan.
  • 147 parking spaces for 131 homes.
  • Plenty of nearby food-trucks.
  • A “Scream Park” and fireworks stand within walking distance.
  • No leaves to rake.
  • Your own toilet.

This is way better than life in a frat house. The stainless steel refrigerators are definitely a step up from Igloo coolers.

The only thing missing is a pet run that can accommodate a Chihuahua and Cocker Spaniel at the same time.

But seriously, this developer claims to have identified a niche between sleeping bags and starter homes. Perhaps the company will pioneer a new market and this will be the future of Montgomery County. To see their construction plans, click here.

Will Detention Basin Hold Enough?

I just hope their detention pond is big enough in case their impervious-cover calculations are off.

Preserve at Woodridge detention basin is built to pre-Atlas 14 rainfall rates. It appears partially fenced in so that residents can’t walk around it.

Montgomery County’s Subdivision Rules and Regulations specify that outfall ditches, such as the one in the photo above only need to carry a 25 year rain. (See page 9.) With that in mind, it seems that this detention pond would fill up quickly from ditch overflow in a 25-year rain and provide little detention benefit during 50- or 100-year rains. And that’s no joke.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/28/2022

1918 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 Starting to Excavate Bottlenecks Under Kingwood Drive

For more than a year, HCFCD has excavated Ben’s Branch in four different phases. However, significant sediment remained under the Kingwood Drive Bridge. That’s property owned and maintained by the City of Houston. And now they are excavating that to eliminate a bottleneck. Such bottlenecks can back water up, damaging homes and businesses.

Photographs by Stan Sarman on 8/24/2021. Taken along Ben’s Branch looking north toward Kingwood Drive.
The excavation also affected the area between the two halves of Kingwood Drive.
Sediment will drain and dry before being removed from the banks.

According to Sarman, who talked with the construction manager, after the crew completes work here, it will remove sediment from the bottleneck at the Kingwood Diversion Ditch next to the fire station on Kingwood Drive.

These are little things that make a big difference to people who previously flooded. And there were plenty of them along Ben’s Branch, especially in the Town Center Area. Some businesses still haven’t recovered. The shopping center north of these photos is still largely vacant thanks to catastrophic flooding during Harvey and a ditch whose conveyance was severely reduced, in part, by bottlenecks like this one.

Thanks go to Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin and his staff at the District E council office.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/24/2021 with photos from Stan Sarman

1456 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Today, We Passed the Record for All-Time Wettest May By a Wide Margin

At least if you go by the gage at my house. With six days left in the month, the Lake Houston Area has already broken the record for the all time wettest May. The official gage, of course, is at Bush Intercontinental Airport, but the NWS doesn’t release monthly data until the month is over.

This afternoon, my back yard rain gage recorded 17.24 inches for May. The previous record was 14.39 inches set in 1970. (See chart below.) That’s a 20% increase! With more rain on the way tonight and later this week.

From National Weather Service.

Effect on Area Streets

We also recorded 4.11 inches this afternoon in a four-hour period. That’s pushing the limits of storm drains. And predictably, people reported street flooding all over the area.

Ford Road in Porter on 5/24/2021 after 4 inches of rain in 4 hours. Photo courtesy of Nicole Black-Rudolph. Ford Road is one of the main evacuation routes from Kingwood when Northpark and Kingwood Drives are cut off by high water. Now upstream development is flooding it too.
Photo of street flooding in Atascocita, courtesy of Jennifer Zorn. Atascocita received more than 7 inches of rain in a 3-4 hour period.according to television news reports tonight. That qualifies as approximately a 50-year rain.
The City’s long-running sewer repair project in Kingwood Lakes has created a dam across the main lake, artificially raising the water level. Photo courtesy of Anna Mitchell.

Flash Flood Watch Till 9PM

A flash flood watch remains in effect for the Houston area until 9pm tonight. The four inches that fells this afternoon in about 4 hours rates as about a 5-year rain. Last weeks 5.5 inches in a little more than 3 hours was a 10-year rain. No wonder we’ve had the wettest May!

It’s important to remember that these statistics are averages. Just because you get a ten-year rain one week does NOT mean you are immune to another for 9.99 more years.

Effect of Five-Year Rain on Bens Branch

Before the recent rehabilitation project on Ben’s Branch, parts of this channel were down to a two-year level of service. Below, you can see how it handled a 5-year rain today. Room to spare. Quite an improvement for a maintenance project!

Looking downstream over Bens Branch toward Kingwood Town Center. Photo taken 5.24.21.
Looking downstream toward Lake Houston along Ben’s Branch.
Where Ben’s Branch crosses under Kingwood Drive, the City has yet to work out some kinks. Harris County Flood Control District does not maintain under City bridges. In fairness to the City, the Bens Branch rehab project was completed just last month.

Overall, ditches and streams in Kingwood seem to be within their banks.

Wider-Area Stream and Lake Report

However, warning signs are popping up all around the Lake Houston Area.

Harris County Flood Warning System 5.24.21 at 7PM.

At this hour, Lake Conroe seems under control. Luckily, the highest rainfall totals in the Lake Conroe area today were less than one inch.

But Lake Houston is approaching two feet above normal despite constant releases by the Coast Water Authority.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/24/21 with thanks to Nicole Black-Rudolph and Jennifer Zorn.

1364 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Mobilization Begins for Next Phase of Ben’s Branch Restoration

Last week, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) began mobilizing for the restoration of the Ben’s Branch drainage ditch between Kingwood Drive and Rocky Woods. The work will involve removing accumulated sediment that has diminished the conveyance capacity of the ditch.

Engineers measure conveyance in terms of “level of service.” A 100-year level of service means that a ditch will convey a 100-year rain without overflowing. The Kingwood Drainage Analysis performed last year by HCFCD revealed that sediment had reduced the conveyance of Ben’s Branch to a 2-year level of service in places. This project will restore the ditch to its original contours.

Looking north toward Rocky Woods. Most of the land between the two roads on either side of the ditch will be removed. Photo taken January 31, 2021.
Looking WSW toward intersection of Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway. Trucks will exit Ben’s Branch by the cell tower behind the old H-E-B. Note the orange walls of the new H-E-B in the upper left. Also note the new CVS still under construction in the upper right (yellow walls). Photo taken Jan. 3, 2021.
How trucks will exist the project. Looking northwest across two temporary bridges where the two parts of Ben’s Branch come together. Work will focus on the main part on the left. Photo taken Jan. 31, 2021.
Temporary crossing for trucks coming down the west side of Ben’s Branch toward the exit on the east side by by old H-E-B. Photo taken January 31, 2021.

Importance of Project

Along Ben’s Branch, as a result of flooding during Harvey:

  • Kingwood High School immediately to the west of this project flooded badly. The building suffered $67 million in damages. The school lost another $10 million in contents. Four thousand students had to be bused to another school for seven months.
  • Homes along both sides of the ditch flooded.
  • All four shopping centers in Kingwood’s Town Center flooded. Many businesses still have not returned.
  • Thirteen people died, included twelve seniors at Kingwood Village Estates. Six died from injuries sustained during evacuation and six from stress-related illnesses after returning and finding their homes destroyed.
Looking south from northern end of project. Kingwood High School in upper right.

History of Previous Ben’s Branch Projects since Harvey

Previously, HCFCD cleaned out the portion of Ben’s Branch from the YMCA on West Lake Houston Parkway north to Kingwood Drive. This is an extension of that project. HCFCD also cleaned out the portion from Northpark Drive to Kids in Action on Woodland Hills Drive. Flood Control could not obtain permission to excavate anything in the natural portion of Ben’s Branch between St. Martha’s Catholic School and Rocky Woods. However, HCFCD did clean out underbrush to let water flow faster through that area.

Scope of Current Work

For the current work between Kingwood Drive and Rocky Woods, HCFCD will start at the downstream end and work its way north. The work should take about five months. It involves removing more than 22,000 cubic yards of sediment, restoring the original banks of the ditch, and replacing a number of outfall pipes that have become blocked or damaged over time.

Once the work begins in earnest, HCFCD contractors will enter the northern side of the project at the end of Cedar Knolls and move south toward Kingwood Drive. There, they will exit the project behind the old H-E-B store. Crews will work around Kingwood High School start/stop times to reduce traffic snarls.

HCFCD considers this a maintenance project, not a capital-improvement project.

Related Projects in Kingwood

The Kingwood Drainage Analysis identified two much-needed capital improvement projects in Kingwood:

  • Expansion of the Diversion Ditch that runs from the new St. Martha Church down to Deer Ridge and River Grove Parks where it eventually enters the West Fork. The purpose of the Diversion Ditch project: to further reduce the flow of water into Ben’s Branch.
  • A project to reduce flooding along Taylor Gully. Two options have been discussed:
    • Widening and deepening Taylor Gully itself
    • Establishing a regional detention pond on the land owned by Perry Homes’ subsidiary Figure Four Partners.

HCFCD has not announced a timetable yet for either of those projects. Any work on Taylor Gully would depend on whether Harris County and the City are able to negotiate the purchase of Woodridge Village from Perry. Woodridge Village is the aborted development that twice flooded Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest Villages in 2019.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/3/2021

1253 Days since Hurricane Harvey

HCFCD Will Begin More Work on Ben’s Branch Starting January 19

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) will begin repairing the next section of Ben’s Branch on January 19. The repairs will take place in the channel between Kingwood Drive and the natural portion of Ben’s Branch at the end of Rocky Woods Drive.

Project limits for next phase of Ben’s Branch clean out. Kingwood High School in lower center of frame.

Project Purpose

Jose Predraza of Stuart Consulting is coordinating the project. He said, “The purpose of this project is to restore the conveyance of Ben’s Branch. It has been reduced over the years due to erosion and sedimentation. The project will include implementing erosion repairs, repairing side slope failures, repairing or replacing outfalls, rectifying flow lines, and removing excess sediment.”

Contractors will remove approximately 22,000 cubic yards of sediment deposited by floods over the years.

Continual cycles of deposition and erosion have clogged, deformed and narrowed the creek.

The Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis showed that Ben’s Branch had been reduced to a 2-year level of service in places. That means, it will flood in a 2-year rain.

The analysis did not specify whether this was one of those places, but outside the natural portion of the stream, this is currently the most constricted part. Other parts of the channel have already been restored, i.e., from Woodland Hills Drive to Northpark Drive and south of Kingwood Drive to the YMCA.

Red lines represent approximate outlines of original high banks near Rocky Woods. Area between red lines has filled with sediment and then the creek has eroded down through it again repeatedly. Photo 1/8/2021.

“Erosion repairs include the placement of fill material, placement of 3”x5” granular fill, and the placement of grade #1 riprap,” continued Pedraza. “Channel cross sections will be reconstructed with a maximum 5:1 (H:V) slope where necessary. This project will be conducted wholly within the existing channel right-of-way.”


Pedraza estimates construction will last 145 days – not quite five months. If weather cooperates, contractors should complete the work in early June.

The project originally was scheduled to start in October 2020. But several delays occurred.

  • Initially, rain delayed completion of the survey.
  • Then, geotechnical investigations led to additional design time.
  • Finally, getting approval to cross CenterPoint’s power-line easement took additional time.

Access Routes

Trucks do not have enough room to turn around within the work area, so one-way traffic will be the rule. Trucks will enter the work area by coming up Woods Estates Drive to Cedar Knolls and entering the greenbelt from there. They will then follow the Centerpoint easement to the work area. Finally, they will exit by going south toward Kingwood Drive, cutting across the ditch, and coming out behind the old H-E-B.

Contractors will then haul the excavated dirt to nearby TCEQ-approved landfill sites outside of the .02% annual chance (500-year) flood plain.

Daily schedules are being coordinated with Kingwood High School start/stop times to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety.

Benefitting Residents, Schools and Businesses

When complete, the creek will be able to handle much more water than before without coming out of its banks…as much as it could when Friendswood originally excavated it.

This will be a vast improvement, especially for those who live near the creek in Kings Forest and Bear Branch, many of whom flooded during Harvey.

The work should reduce the flood risk for Kingwood High School also. The school first flooded in 1994. During Harvey, the building flooded to the second floor. It suffered $67 million dollars in damages and lost another $10 million in contents. The Humble ISD had to close Kingwood High for seven months and bus kids to another high school where they alternated “shifts” with the students from that high school.

Kingwood High also flooded during Imelda, but had less damage.

Finally, the work will also benefit the shopping center on the northwest corner of Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway. Every store in the center flooded badly during Harvey. Many businesses still have not returned. The center nearly flooded again during Imelda. Water flowed through the parking lot and was inches from coming into stores.

Paths along the high banks represent the original edges of the channel. Everything between them has filled in over time, reducing conveyance. Photo 1/8/2021.


The Ben’s Branch project will be funded through the HCFCD maintenance budget and a grant from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/9/2021

1229 Days since Hurricane Harvey

HCFCD Recommends Expanding Diversion Ditch as First Priority in Kingwood

At the Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis meeting tonight, HCFCD recommended that expansion of the Kingwood Diversion Ditch should be the community’s highest priority.

The Diversion Ditch project would help address several potential problems. Expanding it would remove 62 structures from inundation areas and another 586 structures would benefit from improved local drainage. In addition, the project:

  • Can divert floodwater from Ben’s Branch, which will be a much more complicated project, taking more time.
  • Has a 300-foot right-of-way, of which only half is being used
  • Has bridges that already span the entire 300 feet.
  • Will help carry floodwaters from rapidly growing south Montgomery County.

History of Diversion Ditch

In the early days of Kingwood, Friendswood Development Company built the Diversion Ditch to reduce water flowing into Ben’s Branch. But since then, upstream development and larger rains have stressed the capacity of both Ben’s Branch AND the Diversion Ditch. Engineers estimate that peak flows have doubled since 1985.

Most of Ben’s Branch is Natural Channel

Ben’s Branch cuts diagonally through the heart of Kingwood. See red lines below. More than half its length – between Woodland Hills and Rocky Woods Drive is natural channel. Widening it will be complicated and take much time.

Red Line indicates approximate path of Ben’s Branch through Kingwood.

Ben’s Branch Now at 2-Year Level of Service

However, areas on both sides of Ben’s Branch are threatened by flooding as you can see in the image below from FEMA’s Flood Hazard Viewer.

Ben’s Branch once had a 100-year level of service, meaning it had enough carrying capacity to prevent homes from flooding in everything but a 100-year rain. Models based on new Atlas-14 rainfall probability frequencies indicate that the channel’s capacity is now down to a 2-year level of service. That means it will flood in minor rains, exactly as St. Martha School did last year.

Worse yet, Ben’s Branch has decreased to a 2-year level of service throughout its length.

HCFCD Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis
Source: Fema’s Flood Hazard Layer Viewer. Cross-hatched equals floodway, aqua = 100 year floodplain, brown = 500-year floodplain. Floodplains shown above are based on pre-Atlas-14 rainfall probability statistics. An Atlas-14 hundred-year rain is about 30-40% higher than the old hundred-year rain.

When flood maps are updated based on Atlas-14 statistics, those floodplains will likely expand…unless we do something to handle more floodwater before then.

However, Ben’s Branch will not move to preliminary engineering right away.

How to Protect Against Bigger Rains and More Upstream Development

The Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis sought to understand what we need to do to restore a 100-year level of service to all ditches and streams based on Atlas 14. Of the 19 ditches and streams studied, nine need improvement. The level of service for some, including Ben’s Branch, has been reduced to 2 years.

Expanding the Diversion Ditch is the fastest way to take pressure off of Ben’s Branch.

The Diversion Ditch intersects Ben’s Branch at the new St. Martha Church. It then flows south to Deer Ridge Park and then winds through River Grove Park. See the white line below.

Kingwood Diversion ditch (white line) intersects Ben’s Branch near the new St. Martha Church.

Expansion Capacity Already Built into Diversion Ditch

Engineers foresaw the day when Kingwood would need more drainage capacity due to upstream development in Montgomery County. They built the Kingwood Diversion Ditch to handle the extra stormwater. They also made the bridges over the diversion ditch wider than they needed at the time. Finally, they dedicated a flood easement on both sides of the ditch that was wider than they needed, so they could expand the ditch later without encroaching on neighboring properties. Here’s how it looks from the air.

Looking north across Northpark Drive toward Bens Branch, which cuts diagonally from left to right through the middle of the frame. Note the ample clearance under the bridge and the wide shoulders of the ditch. St. Martha Church is in the upper left.
Looking south toward Kingwood Drive at the Diversion Ditch. King’s Mill is on right in foreground.

Both Kings Mill and Kings Manor now drain into the Diversion Ditch. But they came long AFTER Diversion Ditch construction. Other new upstream developments that drain into the Diversion Ditch and Ben’s Branch include Brooklyn Trails and Woodridge Forest, both in Montgomery County.

As a result, the Diversion Ditch itself has decreased to a 2- to a 25-year level of service in places. However, it still offers a 100-year level of service in others.

Looking NE toward Deer Ridge Park from over Hamblen Road. A corner of Deer Ridge Estates is on the left. The diversion ditch cuts in front of the park (upper left to lower right) and goes into an area largely undeveloped on its way to the river (out of frame to the right).

Impact on River Grove Park

Once the Diversion Ditch passes through the area shown in the photo above, it enters wetlands and winds through River Grove Park. Two questions arise. How do we protect, from additional flow:

  • The park?
  • People downstream on the West Fork?

The first question is simple: split the flow in two. Take part through the undeveloped area west of the park. See the green below.

Green Line represents one possible route for diversion of the diversion ditch.

The second question is more complicated. We need a retention basin to hold the extra stormwater until the peak of any flood passes on the West Fork. But where? The closer you get to the river, the lower the elevation. Because of that, the basin could fill with floodwater from the river before it fills with floodwater from upstream. Fortunately, some large tracts of land exist on higher ground that could be purchased. HCFCD estimates the need at 1248 acre-feet. Preliminary engineering should start soon to address these issues.

Upstream Development Not Addressed by Analysis

Unfortunately the Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis did not address upstream development issues in Montgomery County. That was beyond the scope of work. Regardless, such issues must be addressed somehow, someday soon. Otherwise, even the improvements we invest in today could soon be overwhelmed by additional floodwaters.

In that sense, these channel improvements represent a stopgap measure. The real solution lies in making everyone in the region realize that we are all in this together.

Additional Resources

If you missed the presentation, you can view it on YouTube.

Here is a PDF that contains the District’s summary of the Kingwood Study. It includes a spreadsheet comparing the improvements plus data sheets on the nine recommended projects.

The ten remaining channels/streams already offer a 100-year level of service. Therefore, no improvements are needed. HCFCD felt Taylor Gully should be the next priority after the Diversion Ditch. But the possible purchase of Woodridge Village may require re-thinking project requirements. Specifically, if Woodridge turns into a giant detention basin, the channel may not need as much deepening or widening.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/20/2020

1148 Days since Hurricane Harvey

HCFCD to Begin Next Phase of Ben’s Branch Clean Out in October

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and its contractors met today with representatives of Kings Forest, the Bear Branch Trail Association and Kingwood Service Association to discuss the next phase of the Ben’s Branch clean out. On the south, the project lies entirely within the Creekwood Nature Area between Kingwood High School and the old H-E-B shopping center. Rocky Woods Drive forms the northern extent of the project. This will extend northward the work already completed south of Kingwood Drive.

Project extent outlined in red. Kingwood High School is at bottom center; Town Center on right; Kings Forest on left and Bear Branch at top of frame.

Maintenance Objective: Restore Conveyance

The objective: to restore conveyance of Ben’s Branch and reduce potential for flooding in Kings Forest, Bear Branch, the Kingwood High School, and Kingwood Town Center.

The ground these men are standing on is all deposited sediment that needs removal to restore conveyance. The original channel bank is the higher slope behind them. The other side has a similar problem.

Sediment has restricted the flow of the channel gradually during the last three decades. It now contributes to flooding.

Tucked into the tree line on either side of Bens Branch, you can see the maintenance roads that formed the top of the original banks.

During Harvey, many homes on both sides of the stream flooded. Many also flooded again during Imelda.

Walking along the creek today, the first thing one notices is a craggy channel with sides that seem to have slumped into the stream. Flood control surveys, however, show that is not the case. The channel filled with sediment. Then the stream eroded down again through the accumulated sediment.

Continual cycles of deposition and erosion have clogged, deformed and narrowed the creek.

Approximately 15,000 Cubic Yards of Sediment To Be Removed

Getting the channel back to its original state will require removal of approximately 15,000 cubic yards of sediment. However, engineers have not yet determined the exact number.

The scope of work will include replacement of damaged drain pipes that carry water to the ditch.

The job is still in its planning stages. Actual dirt work should begin sometime in October.

Funded with Help from USDA NRCS

A grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will help HCFCD fund the project. Contractors will haul the excavated dirt to nearby TCEQ-approved landfill sites outside of the .02% annual chance (500-year) flood plain.

Looking north. The project will NOT extend into the natural portion of Ben’s Branch at the top of the frame, near Rocky Woods Drive. It will affect only the man-made portion of the channel.

Downstream, the project will stop at Kingwood Drive. Note below how the channel under the Kingwood Drive bridge is virtually twice as large as the channel in the foreground.

Looking south over Ben’s Branch toward Kingwood Drive and the portion of Ben’s Branch restored earlier this year. Note how constricted the channel in the foreground is.

When complete, this project should make the channel north of Kingwood Drive as wide as it is south of Kingwood Drive. It’s all about getting the channel back to its designed carrying capacity.

An exact timetable for the project is not yet available, but it will take several months.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/4/2020

1102 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Ben’s Branch Update: Channel Wide Open, HCFCD Hydromulching Banks

Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) work on Ben’s Branch has been one of the bright spots in flood mitigation since Hurricane Harvey. The channel is now wide open, bulldozers are neatening up the banks, and crews are hydromulching this morning.

What Is Hydromulch?

Hydromulch (or hydraulic mulch seeding, hydro-mulching, hydraseeding) is a planting process that uses a slurry of seed, mulch, and fertilizer. It is often used as an erosion control technique on construction sites, as an alternative to dry seed. The “gel” accelerates the growth of grass by providing enough moisture and nutrients for the seeds to germinate even in dry weather.

Progress Photos

Paul Campbell of Towncenter Apartments caught this shot outside his apartment this morning.

Hydromulching the banks of Ben’s Branch on 4/25/2020. Photo courtesy of Paul Campbell.
Looking northwest over Ben’s Branch toward YMCA soccer fields (upper left). This and photos below taken 4/21/2020.
Looking west up Ben’s Branch toward Kingwood Greens and Kingwood Country Club Forest Course across West Lake Houston Parkway. YMCA soccer fields in upper left.
Reverse shot of the wide-open Ben’s Branch Channel looking east toward YMCA across West Lake Houston Parkway.

Hydromulching is usually the last step in channel repairs. Planting grass reduces erosion. Without it, rain would simply carry silt back into the channel.

Like New Again

Many thanks to the hard-working folks of the Harris County Flood Control district and their contractors.

In the last year, they have removed approximately 80,000 cubic yards of silt from the area between Kingwood Drive and the YMCA. Despite setbacks during Tropical Storm Imelda. Conveyance should now be restored to what it was in the mid-1990s.

Ben’s Branch hasn’t looked this good in decades. And residents will be much safer from flooding in future storms.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/25/2020 with thanks to Paul Campbell and HCFCD

970 Days After Hurricane Harvey

Getaway During Lockdown: Cruise Down Ben’s Branch in Josh Alberson’s Jet Boat

When I saw this meme, it made me realize that people feel walls closing in on them from the virus lockdown.

So take a quick getaway. Cruise down Ben’s Branch with Josh Alberson in his jet boat. Jetboats have a very shallow draft, so they can get into areas too shallow for propeller-driven boats.

First Video Shows HCFCD Excavation Work Up Close

Josh sent in two videos. One shows the area where Harris County flood control is currently excavating the last of almost 80,000 cubic yards of sediment. In this video, Josh’s boat moves slowly so as not to create wakes that endanger workers.

As he moves under the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge, you can see an excavator stacking wet soil on the shore where it will drain before trucks haul it away.

Video courtesy of Josh Alberson

Said Beth Walters of Harris County Flood Control, “The material placed along the south bank of Ben’s Branch is drying out. It will be disposed of offsite. The south bank of the bayou will remain in the same location. This is a maintenance project to restore the channel.”

Second Video: High Speed to Lake Houston

The second video is more exciting. It makes you want to go out and buy a jet boat and explore the river and its tributaries.

As Josh moves past the YMCA and approaches the Deerwood Club, he pulls the throttles out all the way to Lake Houston.

Says Josh, “The Mouth Bar really extends all the way to shore. From the visible island to the park in the Cove, it is all only 2 ft or so deep. While Ben’s Branch may be up to 6 ft deep, it dumps out into a 2 ft deep flat.”

Video courtesy of Josh Alberson

But that’s City property and another project for another day.

Plans for Area South of Kingwood Drive

These videos do not show Ben’s Branch immediately south of Kingwood Drive to the Kingwood Library. Many readers ask about the aesthetics of that reach. Even though the construction has moved past that area, it still looks ragged.

Said Walters, “The contractor will be required to dress up the site so that turf grass establishment can occur. Contractors typically dress up the site and complete all final grading just before moving off site. Once dressed, HCFCD’s vegetation team will place turf grass placed upon it. The final condition of the entire project site will be as it was before, with turf grass on all of the earthen berms and banks.”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/8/2020 with thanks to Josh Alberson, Beth Walters and HCFCD

953 Days since Hurricane Harvey