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.
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.
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:
- 24/02/16 Excavation of Second Northpark Detention Basin Well Underway
- 24/02/10 Entergy in City’s Crosshairs, Lane Closures Announced
- 24/02/02 Northpark Tree Transplantation Finished, Drainage Updates
- 24/01/13 Excavation of Northpark Detention Basins Starts
- 24/01/07 What Some Utilities Don’t Understand About the Northpark Expansion Project
- 24/01/04 Northpark Tree Moving Starts; Pond Excavation Next
- 23/12/03 Northpark Expansion Presses Forward While Fighting Entergy Obstacle
- 23/11/17 Contractors Strike Oil at Entry (Illegally dumped years ago)
- 23/11/05 City Approves Northpark Expansion Agreement with Union-Pacific.
- 23/10/26 Project moving forward on multiple fronts
- 23/10/12 Transplanting first tree
- 23/10/02 Clearing of south-side entry for second pond
- 23/09/30 Clearing north-side entry for first pond
- 23/09/23 How plan balances flood mitigation, costs, saving trees
- 23/09/02 New entry design, change in construction plans forced by utility conflicts
- 23/08/17 More drainage for Northpark
- 23/08/02 Ditch clearing stretches halfway to 59 in less than week
- 23/07/25 Northpark construction starts in earnest
- 23/04/13 Groundbreaking
- 22/02/19 Update on expansion project
- 21/07/28 Plan details
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.