Tag Archive for: clearcutting

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.

This Is Not the Detention Basin

The photo below does not show the Royal Pines detention basin. It’s their main entrance at West Lake Houston Parkway.

And this was not a repeat of Woodridge Village on May 7th, 2019, when 7 inches of rain fell in one day. It was three separate rains totaling less than four inches spread out over four days.

Lake Royal Pines?

I’m not sure I’d want to buy a home in Lake Royal Pines. Here’s what it looks like from a lower angle.

Any more rain and the dump trucks would have to do double duty as high-water rescue vehicles.

Best Practices Call for Clearing One Section at a Time

Construction plans show that contractors appear to have clearcut 202 acres all at once. Seriously folks! This is why you don’t clearcut 200 acres all at once.

Best management practices suggest clearing one portion at a time and building the detention basin for that portion in a step-and-repeat fashion. That’s how it was supposed to work at Woodridge. But the boys on bulldozers got carried away.

This isn’t the only problem at Royal Pines. Earlier this month, runoff from the northwest corner flooded a neighbor’s property.

To their credit, the contractors subsequently put up extra silt fences in an effort to try to catch runoff. They also dug some trenches to channel runoff.

But despite the old high-school try, the measures still didn’t stop runoff from flooding the neighbor’s property for the second time in three weeks. The last time, though, it took less than an inch of rain. So at least they’re headed in the right direction.

Still, had they built the detention pond first…

Where the detention pond will go in the NW corner. Contractors appear to have graded their property toward this corner with nothing to catch the runoff except some flimsy fabric.
Runoff cascading toward the NW corner blew through and over the silt fences onto neighboring property. Photo by resident.

The mud line on the silt fences above represents the high water mark from the peak of the storm. This silt fence appears to be about 36″ tall and water pushed over the top of it in places.

Looking west from over flooded property. Despite the trench to channel runoff, earlier, the contractor graded the slope toward the left foreground where the detention pond will go.

The large trench above (and below) likely intercepted a lot of runoff and carried it away from the neighbor’s property. However, contractors dug the trench in the middle of the property. Not near the neighbor’s property. And it’s a pale imitation of the natural depression that they apparently filled in. See below.

The USGS National Map shows that, before clearcutting, the home on the left green marker was more than 7 feet above the low point several hundred feet east of the NW corner.
Looking South at trench.

Below, it looks as though they may have tried to start a second trench closer to the neighbors’ property, but if that’s what it is, it’s not nearly as deep or prominent.

Looking N. at trench (center). Notice second trench on the left that contractor started to dig but then filled in for unknown reasons.

Impact of Clearcutting on Runoff

To see a simple experiment that dramatizes the impact of runoff in clearcut areas, check out this 90-second video.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/26/22

1915 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.

Royal Pines Clearcutting Floods Neighbor on Less Than 1″ of Rain

As proof of how dangerous clearcutting without sufficient mitigation can be, the controversial Royal Pines development has flooded a neighbor on a rain that was less than 1″ – even as the Lake Houston area flirts with drought.

Royal Pines sits at the northern end of West Lake Houston Parkway in Montgomery County. Looking SE from NW corner on 10.31.22.

The circumstances are similar to those of a nearby development – Woodridge Village. There, clearcutting flooded Elm Grove Village and North Kingwood Forest twice in 2019. Without sufficient detention basins, sheet flow from approximately 268 acres swept through hundreds of homes. But those incidents weren’t during a drought. And the rainfalls were much heavier.

Less than an Inch of Rain

In this case, the rain fell on October 28, 2022. Harris County’s Flood Warning System recorded a peak of .72 inches of rain in an hour at the nearest gage. To put that in perspective, .72 inches is so slight that it would have had to have fallen in five minutes to qualify as a five-year rain or ten minutes to qualify as a one-year rain.

atlas 14 rainfall probabilities
NOAA’s Atlas 14 rainfall probabilities

However, the rain was spread out over about a half hour.

From Harris County Flood Warning System for West Lake Houston Parkway gage on 10/28/22.

And the soils were not saturated either. The Lake Houston Area has been in drought for much of the year. As of 11/5/22, the US Drought Monitor rated this area “abnormally dry.”

From US Drought Monitor

During the entire month before October 28, the area had received only a little more than a half inch of rain.

From Harris County Flood Warning System for month before rain in question.

Sloping Land Toward Neighbor’s House

The flooding occurred in the northwest corner of the new development. From pictures and emails supplied by the neighbor, aerial photos taken during the last several months, elevation profiles obtained from the USGS national map, and construction plans obtained via a FOIA Request, I’ve been able to piece together the following. It appears that:

  • Montgomery County asked the developer to revise its plans for a detention basin.
  • Before approval of the revisions, contractors clearcut 200+ acres.
  • Contractors filled in a natural depression that channeled runoff toward White Oak Creek and sloped the development toward the neighbor’s home.
  • Runoff from the .72-inch rain rushed toward the northwest corner of the development.
  • Silt fences funneled most of the runoff toward the corner, where it broke through the fence.
  • Runoff also seeped under the fence.
  • The runoff washed sediment across the back of the neighbor’s property toward White Oak Creek.

See the YouTube video below.

Video shot by resident on 10/28/22
Sloping mudline on silt fence shows how land had been angled toward this corner. The lower elevation used to be to the right. See discussion below.
Water and muck running onto neighbor’s property through break in corner. Water also ran underneath silt fence.
Aerial photo taken five days later on 11/2/22. Notice all the muck still in the corner and the silt deposited in the woods.

The neighbor’s property extends on a straight line beyond the left fence. Water flowed from bottom of frame toward corner.

Wider shot taken after the rain on 11.2.22 shows contractor tried to fill in trench eroded by runoff.
On 11.5.22, contractors repaired the silt fence and installed additional silt fences to slow and block runoff.

Luckily, the neighbor’s house did not flood. But a heavier rain might have flooded it.

Development Now Slopes Toward Neighbor Instead of Away

The USGS National Map shows that this area used to slope AWAY from their property, NOT TOWARD it.

Left side of image shows contour (brown line) from USGS National Map before land was cleared. Right side shows area east of the resident’s home used to slope down more than 7 feet in about 250 feet.

In this area water flows from the bottom of the frame toward the top where White Oak Creek is. Comparing the contours on the left above and depression on the right with the direction the water actually travelled confirm that contractors altered the slope of the land.

Yet Chapter 11.086 of the Texas Water Code begins “No person way divert … the natural flow of surface waters in this state, or permit a diversion … that damages the property of another …”

Missing Detention Basin

Construction plans show that the developer was supposed to have built a detention basin in the corner that flooded.

Royal Pines
Royal Pines construction plan shows detention basin in northwest corner. Also note same contour shown on USGS map above.

However, the Montgomery County Engineer’s Office has reportedly asked for changes to the design of the detention basin. A sound business practice would have been to avoid clearcutting that area until the basin could have been excavated immediately.

Montgomery County does not require the approval of construction plans before clearcutting. This story shows why that should change. Delays expose people to more flood risk.

Normally, October is the second rainiest month in Houston. We average 5.46 inches.

Clearly, the flooding shown in the pictures below could have been much worse in a normal year.

Let’s hope they get that stormwater detention basin built before heavier rains return! And let’s also hope that other contractors learn this clearcutting lesson.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/6/2022

1895 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.

Imelda’s Third Anniversary Brings Clearcutting into Focus

Today is the third anniversary of the day Tropical Storm Imelda flooded approximately 600 homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. A major contributing factor: clearcutting 268 acres immediately upstream. Here are several pictures and videos that people sent me.

Looking NW at Woodridge Village days before Imelda. During the storm, water flowed toward the circle, bottom right, with little to slow it down. Overflow went into surrounding streets. See video below taken from ground level.
September 19, 2019. Sheet flow from the Woodridge Village development flows down Village Springs in Elm Grove.
Family evacuating through North Kingwood Forest.
Car submerged during Imelda at the end of Village Springs adjacent to Woodridge.
People living in campers while restoring their homes from the May 7, 2019 flood were flooded again.
Security cam time lapse footage in Elm Grove on east side of Taylor Gully.
Depth of flood in Elm Grove was about two feet at this house.
Elm Grove debris pile after Imelda flood.
Abel Versa had to grab his car to avoid slipping in ankle-deep muck on Village Springs.
The bridge over Taylor Gully at Rustling Elms in Elm Grove caught debris flowing downstream.

Before the clearcutting, these areas had not flooded – even during Hurricane Harvey.

Lessons Lost

Lawsuits against the Woodridge Village developer and its contractors quickly followed. And flood victims won a major settlement. But the clearcutting lessons learned in court seem to be lost on other developers.

Lately, it seems that developers all around northern Harris, southern Montgomery, and Liberty Counties have employed clearcutting.

These represent just a few of the clearcutting stories I’ve covered in the last few months. So far, they’ve been lucky. We haven’t had any tropical storms like Imelda.

But still, risk remains. You’d think developers would hedge that risk by leaving some trees. They reduce erosion. Suck up rainwater. Slow down runoff. And filter water that may overflow detention basins.

But it’s their property. And your problem if we get another Imelda.

Posted by Bob Rehak on September 19, 2022

1847 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 3 years since Imelda

Clean Sweep for Royal Pines

Developers of the new Royal Pines subdivision at the north end of West Lake Houston Parkway have made a clean sweep. They appear to have finished clearing and grubbing more than 200 acres. See the pictures below taken on 9/17/22.

Looking east toward the Triple-PG mine in the background. The current terminus of West Lake Houston Parkway is in upper right.
Clearing began in April. Still looking east. Country Colony is in upper right.
Piles of dead trees being turned into mulch. Looking S toward West Lake Houston Parkway, top center.
Looking W. Not a tree left standing on where homes will be built. Nor a tree left standing between Royal Pines and Country Colony on left.

Trees As “Nuisance”

For most developers, including this one, trees are a nuisance. You have to work around them. They make it difficult to work the earth. And they often die later because of compaction of their roots by heavy machinery. Also, for smaller lots, there may not be enough room to leave trees and build a home at the same time.

But wholesale destruction like this can also contribute to flooding. We saw that a half mile southwest of Royal Pines at Woodridge Village when contractors cleared almost 700 acres before installing stormwater detention basins.

But beyond flood risk, marketing suffers. Marketers often try to build awareness by building a mystique around brands. Their goal: turn buyers into brand ambassadors. By preserving trees, Kingwood turned tens of thousands of families into brand ambassadors.

Missing Magic

It’s the most effective form of advertising possible. But Royal Pines won’t have it. Let me retell a true story that dramatizes the principle.

I’ll never forget one Christmas Eve when our kids were young. At dusk, snow started falling gently. I called the family together to witness the magic moment as Christmas music played in the background.

As we huddled at the front door, two deer strolled in front of us. You should have seen the kids’ eyes light up. They wanted to know which of Santa’s deer they were. It was our best Christmas ever.

You can’t buy publicity like that. More than 30 years later, I still tell that story.

Sadly, the kids who live in Royal Pines will likely never know a magic moment like that.

Oh, someone will eventually buy each home … even the ones in the flood plain. But the developer won’t have word-of-mouth advertising like I and my neighbors gave the original Friendswood Development Company. They won’t have tens of thousands of happy customers bragging about their community. Instead they’ll have a name that likely triggers a cynical comment as potential buyers enter the subdivision for the first time.

Impact of Clearcutting on Runoff, Water Quality

Clearcutting does more than drive wildlife away. It also increases runoff and reduces water quality. To see a simple experiment that dramatizes the impact, check out this 90-second video.

Progression of Clearcutting to Date

Also see the progression of clearing at Royal Pines during the last six months in these related posts.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/17/2022

1845 Days since Hurricane Harvey

202.8 Acres of Royal Pines Gone. Was It Necessary?

Since April 2022, I’ve documented the ever-widening clearing of the new Royal Pines subdivision at the north end of West Lake Houston Parkway. See what the development looked like in:

At the end of August, it appeared as though the clearing was close to complete. Massive piles of dead trees remain to haul away. But the cleared area closely matches the general plan shown below.

Looking ENE across the new, barren Royal Pines subdivision
Looking SSE from NW corner of Royal Pines
Looking WNW across Country Colony and Royal Pines, the clearing in the background.
General Plan for Royal Pines. Click here for higher resolution version.

Why Developers Clearcut: Pragmatism, Profit, Affordable Product

All across the region we see this same scenario played out over and over again. Why?

Bloomberg points out, “Money, of course. For homebuilders, trees are a nuisance. To keep a tree alive while building on a lot, they have to keep heavy equipment far away so they don’t compact the soil above its roots. They also can’t push soil up around the trunk. Preserving trees means keeping the topography of the lot unchanged, which often doesn’t fit their plans.” 

Memphis Daily News interviewed the president of the local homebuilders association there. The article says that “a developer’s stance on clear-cutting trees often depends on landscape and lot sizes. It’s easier to save trees on larger lots because they allow more room to work.”

“If a developer goes in and he decides he’s going to do two-acre lots, trees are no issue and they’re going to stay,” said Tim Wilson, president of the Memphis Area Homebuilders Association’s executive board. “But if a builder decides the best use for a piece of property is 40-foot lots, then the trees are coming down, every single one of them. That’s because there is no room for a house and a tree on a 40-foot lot.”

Majority of Lots 40-42 Feet

Exploring the links below will show you the general plan and layouts for the first three sections of Royal Pines. Most of the lots are, in fact, 40 to 42 feet wide:

The rising costs of land, borrowing, and building materials are forcing developers to squeeze more homes into smaller spaces to keep the homes affordable. In the Preserve at Woodridge, the lots are even smaller: 13 to the acre instead of 4-6.

That increases impervious cover. Unless sufficient detention and retention basins slow the water down, accelerated runoff increases the time of concentration downstream. That builds faster, higher flood peaks.

Effect of Urbanization on Peak Stream Flows” by Dr. William Dupre, professor emeritus from the University of Houston.

Impact on Environment

Sciencing.com points out that clearcutting also has other environmental impacts. They include erosion, pollution and flooding. “

“The roots of trees hold moisture and keep soil in place, protecting it from washing away during wind and rain. This erosion can also lead to flooding in waterways. Because trees are no longer holding the soil in place, rain flushes the sediment into waterways. … That can impact the river’s ability to flow properly and cause flooding.”

White Oak Creek

All along White Oak Creek, new developments are springing up. At 242 and FM1314, Mavera wetlands have bitten the dust.

Farther east, White Oak runs through the massive Valley Ranch area and the new Amazon transportation facility at 59 and 99.

Then Royal Pines borders White Oak as you get to West Lake Houston Parkway.

Finally White Oak joins Caney Creek, the East Fork San Jacinto and Lake Houston. (See below.)

White Oak Creek Watershed from the Texas Watershed Viewer.

All this clearcutting has the potential to increase runoff, erosion and sedimentation that could require future dredging…at public expense.

Eventually, the ground cover and forest canopy will regrow. But what about in the meantime? Neighbors have been lucky so far unlike those in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/5/22

1833 Days since Hurricane Harvey

New Caney ISD Clearcutting Site of High School #3 Before Installing Detention

The New Caney ISD has removed a long swath of trees that separated Sorters-McClellan Road from the site of its new high school south of the Kingwood Medical Center. Removal of the trees – before the construction of the detention pond for the site – removes the last barrier between sheet flow and residents downhill.

Similarities to Woodridge Village

Clearcutting creates a condition similar to that of Woodridge Village. Woodridge contributed to flooding Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest twice last year after Perry Homes cleared the site before installing all the required detention. With nothing to retain runoff in a major storm, water could inundate Sorters Road and the homes on the opposite side of it in McClellan Circle.

This once again raises the question of whether contractors follow best practices for construction.

The site is in both Montgomery County and the City of Houston. But Montgomery County claims the City took the lead in permitting this site. MoCo claims it does not even have any drainage plans.

Looking south along Sorters Road at the site of New Caney ISD High School #3. Land slopes from left to right and foreground to background. Recently, contractors removed all trees next to the road. A large detention pond is supposed to be installed next to the tree line at the far end of the site. See below.

Building Pad Site Complete But No Detention Pond Yet

As of July 20, 2020, New Caney ISD had this to say about the project. “The site has been cleared and rough grading is at 90 percent completion.” Contractors have completed the building pad and will start installing the concrete piers concurrent with the underground storm and sanitary systems.

General plan for New Caney High School #3. North is left, east is up. Detention pond should be at far end of the photo above.

How Site Looked in June

Site of New Caney High School Number 3 as it existed in June, 17, 2020. Note the tree buffer between the site and Sorters McClellan road on the right that is now gone. So are all the trees within the site.

Steep Slope Accelerates Runoff

This approximately 50-60 acre site slopes toward the corner in the upper right by 10 to 15 feet depending on where you start. Sources: Google Earth Pro and USGS National Map Viewer.
USGS National Map Viewer still shows old par 3 golf course on which the new high school will be built.

This is a 5% slope compared to the 1.8% slope on Woodridge Village.

Comparing Google Earth Elevation Profiles

The steepness of the slope accelerates runoff in the absence of features to slow it down.

Current State of Site

Here are some more shots showing the current state of construction on the site.

Looking NW toward the Eagle Sorters Sand Mine in the top left.
Looking NE toward HCA Kingwood Medical Center and Insperity.
Looking SE toward retail establishments that front US59, barely visible in the top left of the frame.

There seem to be some berms in the corners of the property. They may slow down sheet flow in a large storm. But the berms are absent over the large area in the center where the high school building itself will go.

Peak of Hurricane Season 5 Weeks Away

Let’s hope they get the detention in before the next big storm. No one wants a repeat of Woodridge.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/4/2020

1071 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.

You Don’t Have to Destroy Nature to Profit From It

I smelled it before I could see it. While flying up the San Jacinto West Fork on 6/16/2020, acrid smoke from burning trees filled the air for miles. Then I saw it. The comforting, green blanket of trees that surrounds Houston had another massive gash in it. This is one of the main ways flooding starts. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to destroy nature to profit from it.

Death of a Thousand Cuts

You’ve heard it. A thousand times. “What I do on my property is my own damn business.”

Extrapolate that out a hundred years. Multiply it times millions of people. Before you know it, you have…Houston. And flooding. Often born out of lack of awareness of alternatives.

Start of a new development between FM1314, SH99 and the West Fork, adjacent to Cumberland.
Red marker indicates location of pictures. North is up and FM1314 cuts diagonally through frame on upper right.
The developer had trees lined up like the dead bodies of fallen soldiers on a battlefield.
Perhaps someday, this will be the site of a strip center.
Maybe they will call it Memorial in honor of the silent sentinels that once helped protect this land from erosion and flooding.
It’s easier for contractors to work without trees. But it is possible to work around them.

How Trees Reduce Flooding

Nearby, homes in Cumberland showed that development can co-exist with nature. In fact, people pay a premium to be surrounded by nature.

Google “role of trees in reducing flooding” and you will get 240 million results. Here are some of the main ways.

Trees reduce flooding by:

This page by the EPA contains an excellent summary of the benefits and dozens of documented case histories from all over the county.

Alternatives to Clearcutting

Whole industries are set up around clear cutting. Try to build something someday. Most likely everyone from architects to engineers, land clearing companies, and building contractors will tell you that trees are a nuisance during construction. They say it’s best to get rid of them and replant when you’re done building.

I’m not a professional developer. But I did construct an award-winning office building in the forest without killing everything around me. I even managed to preserve a small patch of wetlands with a seasonal pond on the property. It became the focal point of the main entry. Deer routinely grazed outside my windows. Hawks hunted on the property. Everyone felt connected to nature.

A building that made everyone feel as though they worked in the forest.
Fawn born on RCS lawn, near the red sign above.
Red Tailed Hawk kept rodents away.
The peaceful quiet of a December snow. Can you see the street just 75 feet away?

You Don’t Have to Destroy Nature to Profit From It

The Texas Society of Architects named it one of the top 25 buildings in Texas the year it was built. And the American Institute of Architects gave the building its highest award for Environmental Design. People loved the relaxed atmosphere of working in the building; nature has a soothing quality. My company’s productivity and profits soared. And when it came time to retire, I sold the building for a nice profit that lets me live comfortably.

All it took was a vision and the determination to build a team of contractors who shared it.

These are the kind of stories you don’t hear from people who make their money with bulldozers.

Oh, and by the way. The building never flooded. Never even came close. Nor did anyone ever say that I was making their flooding problems worse.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/27/2020 with thanks to Melton Henry Architects and Crawford Construction

1034 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Simple Demonstration Underscores How Clearcutting Contributes to Flooding

We all understand intellectually that vegetation helps reduce runoff. But I never fully appreciated how MUCH runoff it could prevent until I saw this video. Michael Jrab sent the link to me this morning. It shows a brilliantly simple, table-top experiment in a science class. The experiment dramatizes the value of vegetation and how clearcutting can contribute to flooding by accelerating the rate of runoff.

It takes only a minute or so to watch. Notice both the volume AND THE CLARITY of the water coming out.

Now contrast that with this shot of erosion in the clearcut area just north of Elm Grove. One can only wonder how fast the water moved through here.

Part of the 262 acres clearcut by Figure Four Partners, LTD, a subsidiary of PSWA and Perry Homes.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/13/2019

622 Days since Hurricane Harvey