Tag Archive for: CoH

Entergy Escalates Battle with COH over Northpark

Entergy power poles sit on City of Houston (COH) rights-of-way. The company also runs underground wires in an easement near US59. Yet after years of discussion, the company still has not moved them to make room for the widening of Northpark Drive. Nor did the company comply with a request by the City to say how it would move them by a March 8th deadline.

The Northpark project is intended, in part, to create an all-weather evacuation route for 78,000 people who live in the Kingwood area. Rising floodwaters during Hurricane Harvey cut off escape routes along Hamblen Road, Kingwood Drive, and West Lake Houston Parkway.

Offending Entergy poles where Northpark will be widened for turn lanes next to the bridge over UP railroad tracks.

First Notified in 2020 and Still No Action

On 2/10/24, I detailed how Entergy was first notified about the project in 2020. Yet the company has moved nothing along Northpark to make room for construction. Groundbreaking for the project was last April and construction began last July.

So, COH put Entergy on notice. It wrote a letter, discussed in last week’s LHRA board meeting, that was dated 2/6/24. The letter requested Entergy to submit a proposed schedule and plan by last Friday detailing how it would relocate its facilities within 30 days.

That letter was dated 2/6/24, meaning the equipment should be moved and out of the way by 3/8/24.

Entergy Response Contained Only Hypothetical Schedule

ReduceFlooding.com has learned that Entergy replied to COH Public Works by last Friday as requested. But the reply did not indicate how they would move their equipment by 3/8/24. Nor did it address why Entergy could not meet the 30-day deadline or why the company has taken no action since 2020.

Instead the response suggested Entergy needed many more months, but committed to no firm deadline, according to a COH spokesperson.

Entergy and LHRA had already worked through potential conflicts with other utilities. So, resolving conflicts was not the issue.

I do not have a copy of the Entergy letter to reprint at this time; an Entergy spokesperson refused to provide it, citing potential legal concerns. As a result of the Entergy letter, LHRA has now asked to meet with the City Attorney.

Cost Escalation Possible

Continued delays are escalating the stakes. The Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA), which is acting as an agent of the City, has costly contractual obligations to its contractors.

Given the rate of inflation, delays could also reduce the purchasing power of LHRA’s budget. In the last four years, inflation in the construction sector has totaled 15-20%. And this project costs more than $75 million. Yet the original budget included only $3 million for change orders.

A legal battle could take years to resolve. That could needlessly put lives at risk and inconvenience tens of thousands of people daily.

Entergy Motive, Next Steps Unclear

It’s not clear what Entergy – a $4 billion company in Texas alone – hopes to gain through continued delays.

In the past, Entergy asked for compensation to move its poles. But according to an LHRA spokesperson, compensation is not allowable under Texas law because the poles were in a City right of way and not covered by an easement. Thus, any payment would have constituted a “gift of public funds,” which the Texas Constitution prohibits.

Entergy was, however, legally entitled to compensation for moving buried wires in an easement near the Exxon station at US59. Entergy had agreed to move them for $711,000.

Then, within days after the disagreement about payment for relocating the poles, Entergy’s asking price to move the underground wires mysteriously increased by half a million dollars. Simultaneously, their cost estimate went from line item to lump sum – without itemization. Since then, the asking price has increased another $200,000 without explanation.

LHRA has asked to meet with the City Attorney to discuss options and next steps. More news to follow.

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 2/10/2024

2365 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.

CoH Removing Sediment under Northpark Bridges, More Good News on Northpark Expansion

To help accommodate the expansion of Northpark Drive and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch, City of Houston (CoH) contractors are cleaning sediment from under the Northpark Bridges. This effort will eliminate a constriction in the Diversion Ditch that backed stormwater up, forcing it into Bens Branch, flooding people, businesses and schools downstream.

Separately, Week 2 of Northpark Drive expansion has seen other breakthroughs farther west.

  • Cleaning and expansion of the median ditch have reached almost to the UnionPacific (UP) railroad tracks that parallel Loop 494.
  • CoH and UP are also reaching agreements – at long last – that will let contractors move forward with construction at a much faster rate.

See more details and photos below.

Photos of Bridge Clean-out Taken 8/8/23

Looking east toward Woodland Hills at sediment removal project under Northpark bridges.
Side view looking SE toward North Woodland Hills shows more of work under bridge.
Looking west across Diversion Ditch and sediment removal project toward Russell Palmer. Photo by Father TJ Dolce of St. Martha Catholic Church.

8/8/23 Photos of Northpark Ditch Clean-out

Looking East from Northpark median at Public Storage. Note Duncan Donuts on left.
Reverse angle looking West shows remaining distance to UP tracks and Loop 494 at intersection.

The ditch clean-out will make room for 5′ x 7′ box culverts like those you see below. Workers have now buried all of the round concrete pipe stockpiled last week. They have also cut through concrete in the crossover between the fireworks stand and Flowers of Kingwood.

Steel cofferdam prevents wall collapse, protects workers in ditch.

The “step-down” from the box culverts to the round concrete pipe (now buried) will provide in-line stormwater detention during heavy rains that helps reduce flood potential in the receiving ditch, i.e., the Diversion Ditch.

UP and CoH Near Agreement on Access Rights

According to Ralph De Leon, project manager for the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority and TIRZ 10, CoH and UP have come to terms on one agreement and are close to finalizing a second.

The first covers covers maintenance and construction. It will let contractors drill under the railroad tracks to address utility issues. Cost: $2.2 million.

The second agreement covers vertical and horizontal easements. Cost: under $200 thousand. The easements will let contractors build a bridge and access roads over the tracks.

However, it will also require the TIRZ to purchase two additional tracts of land north and south of Northpark at the railroad tracks.

Resident Reacts to Sediment Removal in Diversion Ditch

Flood activist and Kingwood resident Chris Bloch lauded the CoH sediment removal under the Northpark Bridge. He called it, “Great news for Kingwood!” 

“Removal of the sediment under the Northpark bridges will substantially recover conveyance capacity of the Diversion Ditch,” he added. “When the water level in the Diversion Ditch touches the bottom of the Northpark bridges, the bridge acts as a dam and water levels upstream rise rapidly.”  That forces water into Bens Branch, threatening homes and businesses on either side of it.

Remembering Stan Sarman

Bloch worked with former TIRZ president Stan Sarman, who was also an engineer, to approach Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin and CoH about the need for this project. They agreed that sediment removal from the Diversion Ditch under the Northpark Bridges would help reduce flood risk in Woodland Hills, Hunters Ridge, Bear Branch and Kings Forest.  

Martin’s office arranged for the purchase order to get this project done.

Bloch took video during Imelda and shared it with Sarman, who had the original drawings of the bridge and channel from 1972. He is quick to give credit to Sarman who has since passed away. “I am not sure most Kingwood residents appreciate all Sarman did for Kingwood,” said Bloch.

This project and the repair of the channel under the Tree Lane Bridge are valued at nearly $1 million dollars.

Up Next

The LHRA/TIRZ are now providing weekly updates of construction activity so you can see what’s coming next.

Come back soon for more updates. The Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority will hold a public board meeting Thursday at 8 a.m. at the Kingwood Community Center to discuss this and other business.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/9/2023

2171 Days since Hurricane Harvey

CoH Excavating Silt from Diversion Ditch at Kingwood Drive

After finishing excavating silt from under the Kingwood Drive Bridge over Ben’s Branch, City crews are now doing the same under the bridge over the Diversion Ditch near the fire station on Kingwood Drive.

Before excavation began. Looking south at the Kingwood Drive Bridge over the Diversion Ditch in August.

Bridges are often chokepoints during floods because of their supports that reduce and sometimes slow the flow of water and contribute to sediment buildup.

Closer shot of same bridge, still looking south. Note sediment buildup. Also note how bridge supports catch debris.

The City of Houston is responsible for excavation under the bridges because the bridges are City property.

On Ben’s Branch, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) had excavated both north and south of the bridge at Kingwood Drive. Then the City did its part.

Pictures of Work in Progress At Kingwood Drive.

However, at the Diversion Ditch Bridge, HCFCD has not yet begun excavation. CoH went first.

Dan Monks, a Kingwood resident, captured work in progress last week and gave ReduceFlooding.com permission to use his photos.

Photo By Dan Monks shows excavation in progress under east side of Kingwood Drive Bridge over Diversion Ditch.
The City is stacking the dirt on the bank, letting it drain and then hauling it off. Another shot courtesy of Dan Monks.
There’s still more work to do on the western side, but that should happen soon. Photo courtesy of Dan Monks.

The Second of Many Such Projects

According to Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s office, the City’s Public Works Department will also be investigating other bridges in the Kingwood area to see if they too need to have silt removed from under them. These projects aren’t glamorous, but they are necessary to restore conveyance of area ditches. HCFCD’s Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis showed that some area ditches were down to a 2-year level of service. That means they were so constricted that they would flood in a two-year rain.

Bridges along Kingwood Drive and Northpark Drive can least afford flooding. They are vital links in crucial evacuation routes.

Thanks to the folks in the District E Council Office and the Public Works Department for addressing these issues.

It’s not yet clear when HCFCD plans to start excavation of the Diversion Ditch in this area.

If you have photos you would like to share with the public, please submit them through the Submissions Page of this website.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/10/21

1503 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Laura Intensifying into Major Hurricane; Prepare for Big Winds, Power Outages

These warnings were just issued by Jeff Lindner, Harris County Meteorologist, the National Hurricane Center, and City of Houston:

Hurricane warnings issued from San Luis Pass into Louisiana.

Landfall of a devastating hurricane likely between Galveston Bay and Sabine Pass tomorrow night.

Rush to complete preparations to protect life and property.

Heed all evacuation recommendations.

Discussion

Laura – now a hurricane with sustained winds of 75mph – is continuing to intensify. The hurricane will likely rapidly intensify over the next 24-36 hours, right up to landfall along the upper TX coast. The National Hurricane Center predicts Laura will become a major hurricane with sustained winds over 110 mph by tomorrow night or early Thursday morning when it makes landfall somewhere between Galveston Bay and Sabine Pass.

Track: 

Everyone should be planning for the landfall of a very serious hurricane between Galveston Bay and Sabine Pass on the Louisiana border. Additional shifts in the track are possible that could bring the core of Laura into Galveston Bay and Harris/Galveston Counties.

The large wind field will result in strong winds likely 100-150 miles inland across east Texas.

Prepare for power outages extending well inland along with significant wind damage and extended outages.  

Intensity:

Prepare for the impact of a major hurricane (cat 3 or higher). Once the inner core of Laura forms, significant intensification is likely, and conditions look very favorable for intensification. 

Tropical Storm force winds will begin along the coast at around 8:00 pm Wednesday evening.

Advice from City, Lake Status

“Rainfall amounts in the Lake Houston Watershed over the next six days are expected to be 2 – 4 inches with isolated accumulation of 6 inches possible,” said Dave Martin. “Currently, the Lake Houston Watershed is dry and the projected impact to our area will be to our east with the largest possible impact expected along the East Fork of the San Jacinto River. Lake Houston is already down one foot from normal pool with the possibility of being lowered additionally, if necessary. Please make sure all property along the shoreline is secured in the event additional lowering is ordered.”

“Regardless of where this storm lands,” said Martin, “it is important all residents prepare themselves and have a plan. Hurricane Laura will likely be similar to Ike with severe wind impacts and power outages. The City of Houston has prepared resources to help you get ready for upcoming disasters and make sure you are prepared for this one. Please visit www.readyhoustontx.gov to learn more.

Actions

  • Prepare for the landfall of a major hurricane along the SE TX coast
  • Bring in anything in your yard, such as lawn furniture, that could become airborne.
  • All preparations will be to be competed by 6:00 p.m. Wednesday evening.
  • Heed all evacuation orders. 

For hurricane preparation tips from the National Weather Service, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/24/2020 based on input from the National Hurricane Center and Jeff Lindner, Harris County Meteorologist.

1091 Days after Hurricane Harvey