Tag Archive for: Centerpoint

Excavation of Northpark Detention Basins Starts

Excavation of the decorative ponds that will double as Northpark detention basins at US59 began this week.

Contractors will stockpile the dirt in two places for now: behind Duncan Donuts and at a sand mine on Sorters-McClellan Road several blocks to the west. Contractors will use the dirt later to level the road surface and build access ramps for the bridge over the Union-Pacific Railroad tracks.

In other Northpark-expansion news this week, Entergy still has not started moving its utility poles and transformer.

However, CenterPoint has almost finished relocating its gas line under the road’s center drainage ditch to the south side of the road. CenterPoint also surveyed the north side of the street to place a second line there.

Finally, the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA) is close to finalizing a drainage agreement with the Union-Pacific Railroad. For more details, see below.

Beginning of Entry Pond Excavation

Contractors will excavate the entry ponds/detention basins in several stages. For now, they will excavate down to the water table. Later, they will excavate below the water table, pumping water into new storm sewers as they dig.

Then they will place a liner at the bottom of each pond.

Finally, the ponds will be filled to the level of the storm sewers with a combination of well- and rainwater. But that will come much later.

The distance between the top of water in the ponds and the surface of the ground will retain stormwater to help prevent flooding of the intersection during heavy rains.

The photos below were all taken on 1/13/2024.

Looking at beginning of excavation of north pond. US59 and feeder on left, Northpark on right.
Looking west toward US59 bridge. These contractors appear to be defining the margins of the pond. Note stakes.
Excavated dirt on right waiting for shipment to a stockpile. Note storm drain on left and the wet earth that indicates proximity to water table.

Bens Branch, which crosses under 59 farther north, often overflows and backs up toward the Northpark intersection. The pipe above will carry water into the pond instead, thus reducing flood risk.

Start of one stockpile behind Duncan Donuts and Public Storage.

Where the Dirt Will Go

The stockpiled dirt will eventually be used to level the roadway over box culverts (when installation is complete) and also to build up ramps for the bridge over the railroad tracks.

When contractors finish placing box culverts, the stockpiled dirt will help level the center of the roadway, which will contain two additional lanes of traffic – one going each direction.

The bed must be raised to the level of the manhole shown above.
Looking west toward 59. Power lines belong to Entergy. They must be moved back to approximately where the fire hydrant is now. Yellow/green flags indicate route of new CenterPoint gas line.

Moving the utility poles back will create room for turn lanes next to the bridge over the rail tracks. The turn lanes must be at ground level for traffic turning north or south onto Loop 494.

Project managers first asked Entergy to move its power lines 2020. The utility still has taken no action. Ditto for the transformer below located near the Exxon station at 59.

Entergy transformer in red circle must also be moved back to make way for additional turn lanes.

An Entergy consultant claimed the company needed 50 weeks to move the transformer above.

The City is reportedly considering legal action against Entergy because of construction delays.

Meanwhile, Entergy continues to promote its social responsibility, even as it holds up construction of the only all-weather evacuation route for 78,000 people.

Railroad Agreement Should Be Resolved by End of January

In the good-news department, the last remaining issue with UP will hopefully be resolved within a couple weeks, according to project manager Ralph De Leon. The Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority sought permission to tunnel stormwater under the UP tracks to Ditch One. The railroad company required no more than a quarter-inch displacement of the tracks. Engineers figured out way to do it by splitting the flow from one pipe through two smaller pipes.

The Agreement covers both the aerial easement over UP’s tracks for the bridge and the railroad’s acceptance of the Construction Plans. The stormwater drainage pipes under the tracks held up UP’s final approval of the plans. Now that that has been resolved, UPRR is ready to accept the plans.  

Approval by the City will occur in the form of an Ordinance adopted by City Council.

The City of Houston contributed $15.4 million to the Northpark Project. Here is the contract between the City and Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority.

For More Information

De Leon said, “Once the UP agreement is signed, and CenterPoint and Entergy relocate their utilities, we can start building roads. Residents should then see a significant increase in in construction activity.”

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

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/13/24

2328 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Northpark Tree Moving Starts; Pond Excavation Next

The Northpark Drive expansion project understandably slowed during the holidays. But Northpark tree moving started in earnest this week. Contractors have returned and started moving trees to clear the areas where two detention ponds will be excavated at 59.

In other news:

  • Concrete culvert is being stockpiled to carry stormwater from the ponds to the Kingwood Diversion Ditch via Ditch One behind the businesses on the north side of Northpark.
  • TXDoT has found a hazardous waste site for oil-contaminated dirt discovered during clearing for the north pond. Relocation of the waste should be complete by the end of January, if not sooner.
  • CenterPoint is almost finished moving its gas line that used to run down the center of Northpark. That will allow resumption of culvert placement in the center ditch.
  • Entergy is still delaying parts of the project by refusing to move its electric lines and transformers unless the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority pays them $1.4 million. The amount originally demanded – $711,000 – mysteriously doubled during the holidays.

To learn more about each of these items, see below.

Moving Day Arrives for Trees

Before excavation can begin on the two stormwater detention ponds at US59, numerous trees must be transplanted.

This week, Northpark tree moving began in earnest on the south side of Northpark. Trees are being moved from the center of the entry to the periphery to form a green backdrop that says “Kingwood.” They will frame a decorative pond that doubles as a stormwater detention basin.

The giant machine shown below scoops out dirt and places it to the side. Then it scoops out a tree and drops it into the hole.

To see the complete sequence, view this post from an earlier press conference.
This shot shows the beginnings of the tree backdrop around what will become a pond.

But the job isn’t done yet. More trees remain. Heavy rain earlier this week is still slowing transplantation.

Looking south across Northpark. Wide shot shows where pond will go and trees yet to be transplanted.

Contaminated Soil Being Relocated

Before Thanksgiving, contractors struck oil in the soil on the north side of Northpark at 59. Someone dumped it years or even decades ago. To prevent further leeching into the groundwater, contractors excavated and isolated it with plastic sheeting.

Since then, TXDoT located a suitable permanent site for the contaminated soil and contractor will soon begin moving it.

Looking south toward Northpark over the contaminated soil.

All contaminated soil should be removed by end of January at the latest, according to Ralph De Leon, project manager.

The ponds on both sides of Northpark will keep the US59 intersection from flooding during heavy rains, helping to ensure that the new all-weather evacuation route for 70,000 people remains passable during extreme storms.

More Box Culvert Stockpiled to Reroute Drainage

Excess water from the ponds will be routed east toward the Kingwood Diversion Ditch instead of north along 59 toward Bens Branch – a shorter route.

Why? During heavy rains drainage to Bens Branch where it crosses under 59 can back up all the way to the Northpark intersection. Re-routing it will avoid flooding along the vital 59 corridor AND Northpark without adding to the burden on the Diversion Ditch.

Culvert stockpiled between railroad tracks and Ditch One.
Northpark Drive drainage improvements
Alternate route for stormwater from entry ponds to Kingwood Diversion Ditch and/or Bens Branch.

CenterPoint Gas Line Relocation

As of this afternoon, CenterPoint had reached Russell-Palmer Road with its new gas line. It is moving the line from the median to make room for 6×8 foot concrete box culverts. The culverts will allow the Redevelopment Authority to create two new lanes inside the old lanes, rather than outside, which would be more expensive because of the need for property acquisition.

When the last quarter mile is finished to the diversion ditch, culvert placement in the ditch will resume. It was temporarily halted earlier when contractors discovered serveral conflicts with the gas line; it was higher than expected. That interfered with a consistent gradient for the drainage.

Entergy Conflict Resolution

Before Christmas, the Redevelopment Authority had agreed to pay Entergy $711,000 to move a transformer and some power lines. After Christmas, Entergy doubled the price to $1.4 million. It’s one more setback in a years-long struggle with the corporate giant. More news to follow when and if a resolution becomes clear. (Editorial comment: Entergy does not seem to share 70,000 Kingwood residents’ sense of urgency about the need for an all-weather evacuation route.)

For More Information

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

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/4/2024

2319 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.

New Design for Northpark Entry, Construction Schedule Update

Harper Brothers Construction has encountered another unexpected problem in the Northpark Drive expansion project. While attempting to place 5’x7′ culvert in the median, it uncovered a water line much closer to the surface than it should have been. While developing a solution with the City of Houston, crews will continue to focus on other areas of the project so as not to create excessive delays.

Those areas include:

  • A new water main near 494 and the UP railroad tracks
  • Clearing land for the new Northpark entry to Kingwood at 59.

For background detail and photos, see below.

Pics of Water-Line Conflict

This week, Harper Brothers discovered a water main where it should not have been. The contractor proposed water-line workarounds to the City, but the City has not yet agreed to a solution. The issue has to do with a water main running under Northpark to the new Parkwood Baptist Church east of Russell-Palmer. See the pictures below, courtesy of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA).

Surprise water line under Northpark
Workers discover a surprise. Water line under Northpark not where it was supposed to be.
Surprise water line under Northpark
Water line should have been buried several feet deeper.
Surprise water line under Northpark
One workaround could require burying a parallel line deep enough to allow placement of culvert over the top of it.

Harper Brothers Construction suggested another workaround – splicing in a U-shaped pipe that would leave enough room for the culvert it is burying in the median.

But until the City and LHRA agree on a solution Harper Brothers may have to skip past the obstruction and then go back at a later date to fill in the gap.

Second New Water Main Farther West

In the meantime, crews have already started prepping for placement of another water line that parallels Northpark closer to Loop 494. See picture below near Public Storage.

Looking SE. Note area being cleared in foreground for new water main and feeder roads next to bridge.

While Northpark will expand inward for most of its length, the feeder road next to the new bridge over 494 and the railroad tracks will expand outward. And because the City doesn’t like to run water mains under a roadway, contractors must also relocate this water main. It’s a much bigger job because it feeds numerous businesses, not just one church.

LHRA actually had to purchase additional land for this portion of the project – enough to accommodate a two-lane feeder road on each side of the bridge.

In the photo above, you can see Harper Brothers prepping land for the new water main and feeder lanes.

Plans for New Entry

The contractor will also soon start clearing the triangular area on the north side of Northpark at 59. Note construction materials stockpiled in the foreground of the photo below. Most, but not all of this area, will become a decorative pond that’s actually a stormwater detention basin in disguise. The pond will hold approximately 11 acre feet of stormwater in the space between the top of the permanent water level and ground level.

A second pond on the south side of Northpark will provide a similar amount of stormwater storage to compensate for the increase in impervious cover caused by road widening.

But not all the trees will go away. TxDoT requires that any trees removed must be replaced with trees of an identical diameter.

Site of first detention pond. Pond will be framed by trees that remain between Northpark and shopping center on right.
Some trees will be relocated to the open area currently behind the grove.

Other trees will be relocated nearby, for instance, around the south pond which is more sparsely populated with trees.

South pond will have more room for transplanted trees around it.

In addition, the ponds when complete will have sidewalks and landscaping around them. TxDoT, LHRA and the Kingwood Service Association worked collaboratively on the designs for two years. A well will serve the area and feed an irrigation system to help ensure new plantings survive and thrive.

Here’s what the finished ponds and landscaping should look like.

North pond (the first) shown on the left.

For the full entry landscaping plans, click here.

To see a video rendering of the ponds, click here and then click on the video in the lower right.

Clearing was to have begun on Tuesday morning after Labor Day. However, that may be delayed now. Late on Friday afternoon several logistical issues involved with relocating the trees became apparent.

CenterPoint Promises to Stake Out Problems Week of 9/3/23

Last week, we talked about 11 conflicts with CenterPoint along the Northpark Drive expansion project. CenterPoint has promised LHRA that it will send crews to “stake out” the problems next week. That is the first step in resolving conflicts.

Some of the CenterPoint conflicts that have culvert placement stalled.

It’s always something in construction! Stay tuned for next week’s exciting episode of “As Northpark Expands.”

For a look ahead at the next three weeks of construction activity, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/2/23

2195 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 10 days before the peak of hurricane season

CenterPoint Delays Force Change in Plans on Northpark Drive Expansion

CenterPoint delays have forced a change in Northpark Drive expansion plans.

Contractors working on the Northpark Drive expansion project in Kingwood have installed culvert as far west as they can until CenterPoint begins eliminating 11 conflicts. According to Ralph De Leon, Northpark project manager for the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA), CenterPoint was to have begun eliminating the conflicts on August 1. Four weeks later, CenterPoint hasn’t yet started.

Center Ditch Work Paused; Two New Areas of Focus

The CenterPoint delay is forcing LHRA contractors to change their plans. Specifically:

  • Work in the drainage ditch between east and westbound lanes will pause temporarily.
  • Contractors will move their crews west and begin working on:
    • Expansion of Ditch One that will parallel Northpark to the north.
    • Stormwater retention basins at the corner of Northpark and I-69.

Contractors have already prepositioned equipment and materials for the Ditch One portion of the project behind Duncan Donuts and the stormwater retention basins at I-69. However, as of Sunday morning, 8/27/23, work has not yet begun on either area.

Northpark Drive drainage improvements
Overview showing route of supplementary drainage (Ditch One) from I-69 to to Diversion Ditch and Ben’s Branch.

Photos Taken Sunday August 27, 2023

The pictures below show where contractors will now focus until CenterPoint mobilizes.

Workers have begun pre-positioning equipment and materials behind Duncan Donuts next to Public Storage to begin working on Ditch One.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20230827-DJI_0373-copy-1024x682.jpg
Ditch One will carry stormwater north (left) of Northpark from the wet-bottom retention ponds that will be built at I-69.
Looking west along Northpark. Both groves of trees in the foreground will become stormwater retention basins.

Stormwater retention basins will accommodate the extra runoff from the expanded roadway. Culvert under the roadway will connect the two basins and let them drain toward the east into Ditch One.

Looking east at north grove in foreground. Note culvert and pipe being prepositioned inside tree line.

When finished, the twin ponds should resemble the entry ponds at Kingwood Drive.

Where Work Will Pause Temporarily

Meanwhile, farther east, work on replacing the drainage ditch with 5’x7′ culvert has paused.

Looking west along Northpark. Drainage work in the center ditch has paused at JiffyLube until CenterPoint resolves its conflicts.
Looking back east. The 5’x7′ box culverts have already been buried. Eventually two new lanes of traffic will go over them, one in each direction.

LHRA Posts Revised Schedule

LHRA has already posted a revised schedule on its website with a three-week lookahead so that you can plan your schedule to avoid construction.

LHRA has also posted construction drawings; drainage studies; and photos and videos that show the progress of work.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/27/23

2189 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Centerpoint Utility Corridor Flooding Below RV Resort

Since development of the Laurel Springs RV Resort started last October, the Centerpoint easement below the development has turned into a small lake. It’s not clear at this point what caused the lake to develop. Several theories come time mind: increased runoff; sediment blocking drains; heavy January rains; poorly drained soils; illegal discharges; or some combination of the above. Regardless, this raises the most common question I encounter these days. “What happens when a developer builds its land up and sends water onto my property?”

Before Development

Here’s how the Centerpoint easement looked on October 25 last year when contractors started clearing land. Note the power lines in the small corridor left of the bigger one for railroad tracks. Also notice the tiny little ponds in the distance toward Hamblen Road at the top of the frame.

Looking SSE along the utility corridor and railroad tracks to the west of the RV resort shortly after clearing started on October 25, 2021.
In the month before that picture was taken, the gage at the 59 bridge recorded 6.68 inches of rain. Source: Harris County Flood Warning System.

According to Weather.gov, the 30 year average for October is 5.46 inches. So we got a little more than an inch above normal. Yet the corridor had only tiny amounts of ponding water.

January Photo Shows Ponds Expanding

On January 9, we had a large rainfall event and a photo that day shows the ponds expanded.

After heavy rains on 1/9/2022. Note small stream of water running down middle of utility corridor and two large ponds.

But also note how the larger pond in the distance stops well short of Hamblen Road in top right of frame.

We had 7.88 inches in January, more than 5″ of which fell on January 8th and 9th. Source: Harris County Flood Warning System.

February Rainfall One Third of Normal, But Ponds Continue to Grow

But since January 8/9, we’ve had very little rain. Nevertheless, the ponds have expanded into what one resident called a “lake” that blocked her hike down the utility corridor. See below.

Looking S toward Hamblen Road at top of frame. Pond now extends almost all the way to Hamblen.

The amazing thing is that the “lake” grew despite very little rain in February. As the chart below shows, we got 1 inch which is one third of the monthly average of 2.97 inches. Moreover, we got no significant rain for the 7 weeks before I took the picture above.

Gage at 59/West Fork San Jacinto shows 1 inch of rain for whole month of February. Source: Harris County Flood Warning System.

Yet the lake now stretches almost all the way to Hamblen! It’s getting bigger! So where’s the water coming from?

Water Not Coming West, East or South

It didn’t come from west of the railroad tracks. Union Pacific elevated those several feet above ground level.

Laurel Springs Lane has storm sewers that would have intercepted water from the east.

And water doesn’t usually flow uphill, so it didn’t come from the south either.

Much of it probably came from the north and the detention pond below which the developers drained into Edgewater Park on January 29.

stormwater runoff discharge
Contractors drained detention pond into Edgewater Park on January 29.

Prior to that, they also pumped water over the wall of the pond.

Laurel Springs RV Resort
Laurel Springs RV Resort pumping stormwater into Edgewater Park on 1/18/2022.
Contractors laying pipe under wall of detention pond to send stormwater into Edgewater Park
Then on January 31, contractors even tried to lay pipe through the wall of the detention pond to create a permanent conduit for stormwater into Edgewater Park.

Addition of Fill

They’re also bringing in fill to build up the RV Resort higher than the property around them. As they do so, they have been pushing standing water toward the utility corridor.

Looking west toward Centerpoint corridor just beyond tree line. Photo taken 2/10/22.

Lake Expands on One-Third Average Rainfall!

The bottom line is this.

Standing water in the Centerpoint utility corridor has increased as rainfall has fallen well below normal.

When you look around, there’s only one place this water could have come from.

I don’t want to beat this horse to death. But I get emails every day from people across northern Harris and southern Montgomery Counties. They worry about comparable issues. In essence, the emails say something like this: “A developer is building up land and flooding my property.”

I can understand the desire to build up land to avoid flooding on your own property. But we need to agree on ways to avoid flooding neighbors in the process. The answer probably lies in:

  • Higher detention pond requirements – The pond on this property holds half the current requirement.
  • Better construction practices and training, i.e., sloping all land toward detention ponds.
  • Meaningful inspections and penalties by authorities.
  • Publication of the penalties.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/28/2022

1644 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.

Don’t Let Your Guard Down Yet: “Winter Version of Hurricane Harvey”

A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect along and north of US 59 through tonight

Cold temperatures – especially at night – will continue to result in infrastructure and human hardships

Another hard freeze is likely Friday morning

Abbott Dubs Storm “The Winter Version of Harvey”

Governor Greg Abbott is calling this “the winter version of Hurricane Harvey.” Back in 2017, Harvey ravaged various parts of Texas for five days. This series of storms will last just as long and affect even more people. Here’s what to expect for the second half of the week.

Two More Fronts Collide over Houston

A coastal low is forming south of Matagorda Bay and will progress NE toward Houston tonight into Wednesday. This will add moisture to the arctic cold dome over the region. As rain begins to fall, temperatures will also fall and dewpoints will rise.

Freeze Line Shifting Farther South That Previously Predicted

According to Jeff Lindner, Harris County Meteorologist, “A “freeze line” should set up along and north of a line from roughly Matagorda Bay to Wharton to Pearland to Winnie. During the night this freezing line will begin to move northward slowly as warmer air from the Gulf of Mexico attempts to move inland. How far north this freezing line progresses is important as to what areas receive freezing rain and ice accumulation and what areas see plain rain.” 

Icicles formed in storms during last two days started to melt this afternoon. But temps will drop below freezing the the Lake Houston Area again tonight and more freezing precipitation is on the way.

The freezing line should slowly move north through the morning hours on Wednesday with freezing rain and ice transitioning to rain. “Expect the greatest ice accumulations to be found along and north of US 59/I-10 where temperatures will remain colder for the longest period of time,” says Lindner. 

Minor ice accumulations will be possible generally south of US 59 with accumulations of .10 to .25 of an inch generally north of US 59.

“Isolated amounts of .25-.50 will be possible mainly far to the north of Houston where a devastating ice storm is looking likely.” 

Jeff Lindner, Harris County Meteorologist

Ice on Lines Another Threat to Unstable Power

These ice accumulations will likely result in some tree damage and power line damage over the region and hamper efforts to restore power generation.

Temperatures on Wednesday after mid to late morning will rise above freezing and any ice should begin to melt. Temperatures will fall below freezing again Wednesday night and Thursday morning and any water left on roadways will likely freeze again. 

Hard Freeze Likely Friday Morning with Temps in Teens Again

One final disturbance will cross the area early Thursday and there may be some light precipitation and will need to keep an eye on this feature on the next 24 hours. As this disturbance passes, another shot of cold arctic air will spread into the region resulting in another night of very cold temperatures on Friday morning. Temperatures will likely fall into the upper 10’s to mid-20’s yet again over the area.

This is bad news for people who have gone without power for days.

Abbott Calls For Investigation

More than 5 million people have suffered through temperatures in the low teens without power and Governor Greg Abbott is calling for ERCOT leadership to resign and for there to be an immediate investigation.

Centerpoint says it could be days longer before power is fully restored. So don’t let your guard up yet.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/16/2021 at 8 PM based on information provided by Jeff Lindner, Harris County Meteorologist.

1267 Days since Hurricane Harvey