Tag Archive for: Dave Martin

City Mobilizing for More West Fork Dredging

Mobilization for the next phase of San Jacinto West Fork dredging is underway. The City of Houston and its contractor DRC (a subsidiary of Callan Marine) are already staging equipment in two places on the West Fork.

The program, funded by FEMA, will remove an estimated 800,000 cubic yards of silt and sediment between the original location of the West Fork Mouth Bar and FM1960. The contractor will use primarily hydraulic dredging and the program will take approximately two years, according to District E City Council Member Fred Flickinger.

West Fork Dredging Project Dates Back to Dave Martin Era

Flickinger credits his predecessor, former Council Member Dave Martin, and Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello’s tireless efforts in protesting the initial amount proposed for dredging by FEMA back in 2019. FEMA’s initial proposal, based on a four-page, table-top study produced by the Army Corps, called for dredging 283,000 cubic yards.

Martin strongly disagreed with the Corps’ report and appealed it while the City produced its own 94-page technical report. It showed a much higher volume deposited by Harvey. Remember: Harvey funds could not be used to address sediment deposited before Harvey. The City report produced by Tetra Tech relied extensively on core samples. Tetra Tech proved that Harvey laid down the sand in the mouth bar and that the dredging volume should be closer to a million cubic yards.

In August 2020, FEMA and the Corps finally concurred with the City, after extensive discussions and a massive assist from U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw. Crenshaw and others had been pushing FEMA for years for the additional dredging.

Current Status

The new West Fork dredging program should be ready to go within weeks. DRC is currently bringing in the equipment that they will need.

DRC plans to use primarily hydraulic dredging. They will attack the area between where the mouth bar was (south of Scenic Shores in Kings Point) and the FM1960 Bridge. See map below.

Map from City study showing area of focus.
Hydraulic dredge being assembled at old Army Corps mobilization site south of Forest Cove pool. Photo taken 4/1/24.
DRC is also starting to stockpile mechanical dredging equipment such as these pontoons on Berry Madden’s property south of River Grove Park (top center).

This is good news. The new West Fork dredging will help ensure that water doesn’t back up like it did before. It’s not a guarantee against flooding. Dredging is only one part of a multi-faceted mitigation program that also includes more upstream detention and new floodgates on the Lake Houston dam. More news on those topics to follow.

Posted by Bob Rehak

2407 Days since Hurricane Harvey

TWDB to Consider $50 Million Grant for Lake Houston Gates

Save the date. On December 7, 2023, the Texas Water Development Board will consider a $50 million grant to the City of Houston for structural improvements to the Lake Houston Dam. The improvements will extend the life of the dam and enable rapid lowering of lake levels in advance of a flood.

The project, led by outgoing Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin and Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello, will benefit thousands of residential properties in the surrounding area.

Make sure the next mayor supports it. Get out and vote. Better yet, take your neighbors with you!


The $50 million grant will complement funds from other sources including FEMA. The addition of new tainter gates will enable Lake Houston to shed water faster before and during storms, reducing the risk of flooding.

Until now, pre-releasing water has been risky. The old gates on the Lake Houston dam can release only 10,000 cubic feet per second. As a result, to significantly lower the lake, releases must start far in advance of a storm. But storms can veer away during that extended time. That increases the chances that the City could waste water.

After several years of study, the City has found that the optimal option would be to add tainter gates to the eastern, earthen portion of the dam. But the cost increased significantly compared to the crest gates initially favored.

Proposed location for new tainter gates
Proposed location for new tainter gates.

Earlier this year, the Legislature set aside more funds for the new tainter gates and specifically directed the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to provide those funds. The TWDB’s executive administrator has recommended authorizing the funds. The Board just needs to approve them.

TWDB Board Meeting In Houston

The TWDB board will consider the approval at a rare Houston meeting at the Harris County Flood Control District in early December.

Thursday, December 07, 2023; 9:30 AM
In person at 7522 Prairie Oak Drive
Michael Talbott Pavilion, Harris County Flood Control District Service Center
Houston, TX 77086

To view the webinar online, you must register for details.

Visitors who wish to address the Board should complete a visitor registration card and attend the meeting in person. The Texas Open Meetings Act prohibits visitor participation by telephone only. The visitor registration card is available and should be completed and submitted by e-mail to Customer Service no later than 8:00 a.m. on December 7, 2023, or in person at the registration desk.

Here is the full agenda. The $50 million grant for more gates is #14. Here is the backup information.

New, higher capacity gates were one of the three primary recommendations made by the Lake Houston Area Task Force after Harvey to mitigate flooding in the area. If all goes according to plan, construction could start in mid-2026, according to Costello.

Will Next Houston Mayor Support the Project?

Large infrastructure projects like this depend on unwavering political support. Completion of this project could take until the NEXT mayoral election. In the meantime, make sure we elect a mayor who will support the Gates Project until then. Keep it moving forward.

In that regard, John Whitmire has already demonstrated his support. If you haven’t yet voted, make sure you do. Take your neighbors, too. And then walk around your block and knock on some doors. Keeping this project will depend on turnout in the current runoff election.

So far, Acres Homes has had eight times more early voters than Huffman. And fewer than 4,000 people have voted in Kingwood.

As of 12/1/2023 according to Harris Votes.

The last day for early voting is December 5th. Polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm except for Sunday when they open at noon. Your last chance to vote is on Election Day, December 9th. For complete election information, visit Harris Votes.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/1/2023

2285 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Update on Floodgates, Dredging, Sand Traps from Martin, Costello

At Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s final town hall meeting last night, he and Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello gave an update on the status of new, higher capacity floodgates for the Lake Houston Dam. Their talks also addressed dredging and sand traps.

City of Houston Chief Recovery Office Stephen Costello (l) and Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin at Martin’s final town hall meeting on 10/17/2023. Term limits bar Martin from running again for Council, though he is running for City Controller.

According to the latest estimate, construction of the gates now looks like it could begin in mid-2026, barring unforeseen setbacks.

The City has scheduled more dredging for the San Jacinto West Fork south of where the mouth bar used to be. Also, Costello says the City has completed opening up ditches and tributaries north of the railroad bridge and is now starting on those south of it.

Finally, Costello revealed that Lake Houston has lost almost 20% of its capacity due to sedimentation. To receive future dredging grants, the City must take steps to reduce the rate of sediment inflow. Costello revealed plans for a pilot sand-trap project in a point bar outside the Hallett mine far upstream. He said that the mine had agreed to remove trapped sediment there for free. Otherwise, he did not explain why a possibly more effective location closer to the problem area was not chosen for the pilot project.

For more details on each, see below.

Gates Details/Timeline

The purpose of adding more floodgates to the Lake Houston Dam: to lower the lake faster in advance of a flood.

  • The City must now start to lower the lake so far in advance of a storm that storms can veer away before they arrive. This wastes water.
  • The existing gates have 1/15th of the release capacity of the gates on Lake Conroe. This makes a joint pre-release strategy virtually impossible in extreme storms.

After examining and discarding the notion of adding crest gates to the spillway portion of the dam, the City is now focusing on adding 11 tainter gates to the earthen portion of the dam (east of the existing gates).

Proposed location for 11 new tainter gates.

With Mayor Sylvester Turner’s help, the City secured enough funding for construction during the regular session of this year’s legislature.

Next steps include:

  • 3/24 – New environmental and historic preservation assessments, Army Corps permitting
  • 12/24 – Construction plans completed
  • 1/25 – Bidding
  • 6/25 – Award Contract
  • 5/26 – Begin Construction

The success of this plan will require the election of a new Mayor and City Council Representative who are committed to the project. Early voting begins next week.

Dredging Volumes, Costs

Dredging at various locations around Lake Houston will likely be a continuous effort for years to come. Sedimentation has already reduced the capacity of Lake Houston an estimated 18%. The City estimates future yearly losses in the range of 360-460 acre feet per year.

Historic and projected capacity loss in Lake Houston due to sedimentation.

One acre roughly equals the size of a football field. So imagine 400 football fields covered with sludge a foot deep. Each year!

To keep this problem in check, the City is already looking at doing additional dredging on the East and West Forks. It and the Army Corps finished major projects in both areas less than four years ago.

East of Atascocita and south of the convergence of the East and West Forks, the City plans to spend another $34 million to remove almost 900,000 cubic yards of sediment.

To date, Costello estimates that dredging nearly 4 million cubic yards of material has cost $186 million.

Summary of dredging costs and volumes in Lake Houston since Harvey

The City hopes to recoup some of these costs by reselling sand that it recovers from “hilltops” in the lake. Costello showed the heat map below. Notice the heavy sediment concentrations in the lake’s headwaters. This is because sediment drops out of suspension where rivers slow down as they meet standing bodies of water.

In addition to reducing the volume of Lake Houston, the sediment also poses a flood threat. It reduces conveyance of the rivers and lake forcing water up and out. Sediment blockages, such as the mouth bar, can also form dams that back water up.

Costello also addressed the ongoing dredging of 17 canals around Lake Houston. He said the focus is now shifting to the southern part of the lake.

Sand Traps to Reduce Inflow

In addition to dredging sediment from the lake, Costello also emphasized the need to reduce sediment coming downstream via sand traps. This last effort may be a condition of future grants for dredging.

Costello described two pilot types of pilot projects that the City is working on with the SJRA and sand-mining industry. The first is “sand traps” dug in point bars outside sand mines. The second: in-channel traps.

The idea behind the traps: dig holes in the river or its sand bars where migrating sand can settle out of the flow before it reaches the lake.

The first project may be near the Hallett Mine on the West Fork. According to Costello, the mine has agreed to remove the sand for free, thus reducing long term maintenance costs.

During Q&A after Costello’s presentation, however, he admitted that the City has no plans to try to get sand mines to reduce illegal emissions. In one notable instance, the TCEQ documented 56 million gallons of sludge discharged into the West Fork by the LMI mine.

Controlling sediment is crucial in reducing flooding. Accumulated sediment reduces storage capacity and conveyance for stormwater. The smaller capacity means lakes and rivers will flood faster and higher.

For high res versions of all the slides shown in the Town Hall, see this PDF.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/17/23

2241 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Save the Date: Dave Martin’s Farewell Town Hall Meeting Next Tuesday

City of Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin will hold a farewell town hall meeting for District E residents.

Date: Tuesday, October 17th, 2023

Time: 6:30 p.m.

At: Kingwood Community Center

Address: 4102 Rustic Woods Dr. Kingwood, TX 77345

The Houston Police Department (HPD) Kingwood Division will start the program with a brief demonstration of new virtual reality training software, purchased with District E Service Funds. The Police will also provide a brief summary of local crime statistics. Later, HPD Lake Patrol will provide safety tips for Lake Houston.

Other Speakers

Recovery Efforts

Stephen Costello, Chief Resiliency Officer for the City of Houston, will give a comprehensive overview of the recovery efforts undertaken after Hurricane Harvey. This will include updates on the Lake Houston Dam Spillway Improvement Project (floodgates), dredging operations, and the desilting of bridges.

Solid Waste/Recycling

Mark Wilfalk, Director of the Solid Waste Department, will address any concerns regarding trash and recycling collections.

Northpark Overpass Project

Jeff Nielsen, President of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Board/TIRZ 10 board, will share information on the Northpark Drive Overpass Project, and various TIRZ 10 projects. 

Dave Martin on His Years of Service

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin will provide a wrap up of his years of service and commitment to the residents of District E.

Information Tables for Early Arrivals

There will also be information tables hosted by City of Houston Departments, available for those who arrive early, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

For More Information

For more information, please contact Mayor Pro Tem Martin’s office at (832) 393-3008 or via email at districte@houstontx.gov.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/13/23

2236 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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

Last-Minute Funding Breathes New Life into Lake Houston Gates Project

The project to install more flood gates on the Lake Houston Dam has resulted in more nail-biting than a Steven Spielberg movie. Perhaps no project inspired more hope among flood-weary home- and business owners in the San Jacinto watershed. Importance is high, but the costs turned out far higher than expected and dollars proved hard to come by.

This morning, however, Dr. Greg Bonnen, chair of the House Appropriations Committee filed a rider to this year’s appropriations bill that will likely get the job done. The rider contains two provisions that affect funding for the gates.

  • Sec. 17.38 (a)(1) on page IX-22 contains $50 million for improvements to the Lake Houston Dam.
  • Sec. 17.38 (b)(1)(2)(3) on page IX-23 contains a provision that lets unexpended balances from previous grants be redeployed, so they can be spent on EITHER gates, a sediment capture pilot project, or sediment removal.
Lake Houston has four small floodgates only capable of releasing 1/15 the rate of Lake Conroe’s gates. New gates would go in the earthen embankment to the right of the old gates and spillway.

Funding Now Close to Expected Costs

According to Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, Black & Veatch Engineering estimates the cost of an 11-gate structure to be between $125 and $225 million.

Balancing that on the income side of the ledger are:

  • The remaining Federal funds of the $50 million provided by FEMA early on for engineering, environmental surveys, permits and construction. So far the City has reportedly spent about $5 million on upfront work.
  • An $8 million earmark by US Congressman Dan Crenshaw.
  • $20 million in County funds allocated in the 2018 Flood Bond (Project CI-61).
  • $11 million from the City of Houston in capital-improvement-project (CIP) funds.
  • The possibility of additional CIP funds from this year’s budget.
  • $50 million from 17.38 (a)(1) above
  • Up to another $50 million in State funds left over from a TWDB 2021 allocation in 17.38 (b)(1)(2)(3)
  • Redeployment of some FEMA dredging funds left over from the Mouth Bar Project.

That puts available funding somewhere north of $170 million. Martin says that should be enough to lock in the original FEMA funding and get the project started.

Redeployment of Funds Important

Congressman Crenshaw’s office emphasized that even though some FEMA money will be redeployed from dredging the mouth bar, additional FEMA funds from another FEMA grant will let dredging around the lake continue.

Re: 17.38 (b) above (that second bucket of $50 million in funding from the state) Martin points out that it includes two other important projects: dredging and the sediment trap pilot study. However:

  • The pilot study should not be very expensive and has no firm deadline.
  • Congressman Dan Crenshaw has helped secure additional funding for dredging from a second FEMA grant.

Finally, Martin points out that Black & Veatch is examining options to scale back the number of gates in case construction costs exceed funding if something falls through.

Enough Funding Committed to Move Forward with Confidence

While some uncertainty remains, Martin says the key point is that enough money has now been committed to move forward with confidence. This is a huge improvement over where the project stood just 8 days ago when concerned residents launched a call-in campaign to influential senators and representatives.

Lake Houston Area residents placed thousands of calls to save the project. Two days later, funding was placed in Bonnen’s rider. Martin thanks “ALL who placed phone calls, sent text messages and emailed state officials in support of our gates project.”

Thank you’s also go to all those who played key roles in this up-against-the-center-field wall catch:

  • State Senator Brandon Creighton
  • State Representative Charles Cunningham
  • Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick
  • State Representative Armando Walle
  • State Senator Joan Huffman
  • House Speaker Dade Phelan
  • House Appropriations Chairman Greg Bonnen
  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
  • US Representative Dan Crenshaw and Kaaren Cambio, his District Director

Several others deserve special thanks:

  • Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin worked the phones relentlessly and made countless trips to Austin to raise awareness of the project and coordinate the area’s efforts.
  • City of Houston Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello convinced FEMA to include social benefits in the cost/benefit ratio (CBR). That raised the CBR to 3.5, making it the highest-rated project in the State of Texas.
  • City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who called in some favors among Austin influentials to make the project happen.
  • Former State Representative Dan Huberty and Ben Melson, a CoH lobbyist, lobbied extensively over the last few months, working with Martin, Costello and Bill Kelly, the City’s Director of Government Affairs.

Reason More Gates Needed

Additional gates will let the City lower lake water faster as large storms approach, thus reducing flood peaks both upstream and down. That will, in turn, reduce flood risk for thousands of homeowners and businesses, not to mention all the schools that flooded.

But lowering the lake level carries some risk. If it takes too long to lower the lake, storms can veer away before they arrive, wasting water. Narrowing the window between release and the storm’s arrival, raises certainty that the storm will refill the lake.

More gates will also help balance releases from Lake Conroe with those from Lake Houston.

Next Steps

It ain’t over till it’s over. But even though only days are left in this session, Chairman Bonnen’s office said, “The legislature has never failed to pass an appropriations bill.”

More news as the project evolves.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/25/2023

2095 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Houston City Council Approves $29 Million More For Dredging, Sand Trap Tests

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin has announced that Houston City Council unanimously accepted an additional $29,000,000 in state grant funds to continue dredging around the canals and channels of Lake Houston. The money will also help start a pilot program to trap sediment upstream before it reaches the lake, thereby hopefully reducing dredging costs in the long run.

East Side of Lake

The additional funding will allow dredging activities to start on the east side of Lake Houston in the various canals/channels. Martin emphasized, however, that they have some touch up work to do on Rogers Gully on the west side of the lake before they move to the east side.

Once on the east side, dredging will start near FM1960 and work its way south. The City has not yet established a firm timeline.

DRC will handle the dredging. That is the same company that has handled the dredging since the Corps finished its Emergency West Fork Dredging program several years ago.

The company will deposit the spoils at the same marina it has used for the last year.

DRC will reportedly use mechanical, not hydraulic dredging. That means, they’ll be working with long-armed excavators and scooping dirt onto pontoons. See second picture below.

Pilot Sand-Trap Program

Part of the $29 million will also go towards implementing a pilot program testing sand traps upstream of Lake Houston. The goal: capture silt and sediment coming down the San Jacinto West Fork before it ever reaches Lake Houston.

If successful, this could reduce long-term dredging costs. The pilot program will rely on sand miners to excavate sand from point bars outside their mines. But there are few, if any, mines upstream on Cypress and Spring Creeks, where the miners claim most of the sediment is coming from. So that could limit the replicability of the test, even if successful on the West Fork.

More than 4 Million Cubic Yards Dredged to Date

“Tremendous progress has been made since Hurricane Harvey through the completion of FEMA, Texas Water Development Board, Harris County, and City of Houston projects,” said Martin. “Since 2018, the total combined efforts of these entities have resulted in approximately 4,004,008 cubic yards of silt and sediment dredged from Lake Houston and its tributaries at a total cost of $222 million.” That money has come from federal, state, and local funding sources.

Rogers Gully Before Dredging
Example of canal dredging. Rogers Gully mouth bar in Atascocita before it was removed.
rogers gully mouth bar
This picture shows mechanical dredgers at work. This blockage was eventually removed, but some touch up work elsewhere reportedly remains.

Blockages like those above can back water up during storms, and flood homes and businesses.


Martin passed out kudos to those who supported the $29 million appropriation. Martin thanked former State Representative Dan Huberty and Senator Brandon Creighton for their commitment to seeing this project through and their dedication to the long-term maintenance dredging on Lake Houston.

“Harris County Commissioner Precinct 3, Tom Ramsey, and Harris County Flood Control District have also been terrific partners,” said Martin. “I also want to thank my colleagues on City Council, Mayor Sylvester Turner for his unwavering support for Lake Houston, and Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello for his continued diligence on flood mitigation efforts.”

Status of Dredging District Legislation

State Representative Charles Cunningham introduced HB 5341 this year. The bill would have created a Lake Houston Dredging and Maintenance District to handle sediment issues like these in perpetuity. The bill received a public hearing on 4/11/23, but unfortunately, it has stalled in the Natural Resources Committee since then. So has HB 1093, a bill which would have assured cleanup of abandoned sand mines.

With time running out in this session, we will likely need to recycle those bills for the next session.

More news to follow when the dredging starts.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/11/2023 based on information from the Houston District E office and Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin

2081 Days since Hurricane Harvey

San Jacinto Greenway Officially Opens

Today, Saturday, April 15, 2023, marked a milestone in the recovery of the Lake Houston Area from Hurricane Harvey.

The San Jacinto Greenway, a gorgeous linear park with hike and bike trails, has replaced the Riverview Townhome complex so utterly destroyed by floodwaters in Forest Cove. At exactly 12:16 and 21 seconds, more than a dozen City, County, State, Federal, School Board, Houston Parks Board, Flood Control and Forest Cove officials officially cut a symbolic bright green ribbon to open the first 2.5 mile segment of the new San Jacinto West Fork Greenway.

The event had something for just about everyone:

  • Speakers who put the event in perspective
  • Free tacos from El Jimador, a local restaurant on Hamblen Road.
  • Refreshments
  • A DJ spinning tunes
  • The award-winning Riverwood Middle School cheer squad
  • Shaded picnic tables
  • Abundant sunshine

It had the feeling of a cross between a small-town festival and a Hallmark movie.

Neighbors greeted old friends. Proud parents showed off babies. Officials up for re-election pressed the flesh. And everyone, it seemed, took selfies with everyone else.

People Refusing to Accept Defeat

An almost audible sigh of relief hung in the air. Today was about people who refused to accept defeat. Who fought together to rebuild their community after 240,000 cubic feet per second swept some entire townhome complexes off their foundations.

Riverview townhome
Photo of townhome one year after Harvey in 2018. Imagine this times 80.

There were dark days during the seemingly endless buyout phase of the project when everything felt so hopeless. What remained of the townhomes became a magnet for arson, drug dealing, illegal dumping and graffiti.

At times it felt like the blight might never go away. But it did. Beautiful triumphed over bleak. And this morning, despite overnight thunderstorms, not a leaf was out of place and a community stood tall once again.

Award-Winning Riverwood Middle School Cheer Team
Crowd mingling among booths early in the event.
Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin (left) and Humble ISD School Board Member Robert Scarfo
Beth White, President & CEO, Houston Parks Board, introduced speakers and explained how the project came to be, including a hefty grant from the Kinder Foundation.
No chairs? No problem! Just pull up some pavement.
Dr. Tina Petersen, Executive Director of Harris County Flood Control District talked about the buyouts, FEMA, and how this area will remain green in perpetuity.
A guided bicycle tour of the trail system attracted families, teens and retirees.
Meanwhile, some people decided to explore the new San Jacinto Greenway on their own in the other direction.

Harris County Precinct 3 will reportedly finish pushing the San Jacinto Greenway through to Edgewater Park at US59, but has not announced a timetable yet. More news to follow when that becomes available.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/15/2023

2055 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Northpark Drive Expansion Starting Today

On 4/13/23 at 8 A.M. sharp, Northpark Drive expansion started after 10 years of planning. Dignitaries gathered in the parking lot of a local business for the groundbreaking ceremony even as surveyors were already working father east and Harper Brothers Construction started prepositioning equipment.

This project will make Kingwood safer in the next big flood. It will also make the Livable Forest more livable by reducing traffic congestion.

Ceremonial Kickoff

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, Council Member-at-Large Sally Alcorn, the board of the Lake Houston Area Redevelopment Authority, and Montgomery County Precinct 4 Commissioner Matt Gray all grabbed shovels for the ceremonial kickoff.

Gray will coordinate with the City on this project. Even though it is within the City, Phase One falls entirely in Montgomery County.

Martin acted as master of ceremonies and reminded everyone of the work the late TIRZ Chairman Stan Sarman did to keep this project moving through the years.

How Project Began

Martin called this the first major infrastructure project in Kingwood since the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge was built between 1990 and 1992. He also provided a brief history of the project. More than a decade ago, the City considered expanding Kingwood Drive.

Traffic studies showed that Kingwood Drive ranked as the most congested thoroughfare in the City and was among the most dangerous. However, the community’s desire to preserve the trees along Kingwood Drive – one of the signature attractions of the community – put that project on indefinite hold.

The City then began looking at Northpark Drive as an alternative. It was ranked the fifth most congested thoroughfare in the City and also one of the most dangerous.

Benefits of Project

Martin emphasized the benefits of the project during emergencies, such as Hurricane Harvey, which virtually turned Kingwood into an island. He also talked about the increasing length of trains and how they could block Kingwood Drive, Northpark and Ford Road simultaneously.

Martin said that the Northpark Drive expansion will provide a bridge over the railroad tracks and Loop 494 that lets citizens, firetrucks and ambulances enter and exit Kingwood 24/7/365 without delay. The City will also raise Northpark in places that frequently flood, i.e., at the diversion ditch and over Bens Branch.

Culverts will replace the ditch now down the center of Northpark Drive so the thoroughfare can expand to six lanes.

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin

The first phase of the project from 59 to the Kingwood Diversion Ditch should take about two years to complete. Traffic frequently backs up most of this distance, especially when trains pass through the area.

Pictures of Groundbreaking

Below are pictures that show today’s ceremony and scope of the project.

Martin (left) and Turner (right) kicked off the ceremony by talking about the need for the project and thanking all those present for their support.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who has only eight and a half months left in office, drew a laugh from the crowd when he quipped that residents could complain to someone else about traffic delays during construction.
First shovels in a two year project. Gray, Martin and Turner are fourth, fifth and sixth from left respectively. Traffic backed up in background underscores need for project.
Looking SW. Drone shot taken as event (bottom middle) was breaking up also shows where bridge will go over UP railroad tracks and Loop 494 in upper right.
Looking west. Another drone shot taken on previous afternoon at 3PM shows inbound traffic backed up all the way to 59 in background .
Looking east toward Kingwood. First phase of project will go to end of ditch at top of frame.

Construction always entails some pain. But the benefits will far outweigh any inconvenience. I can’t wait to be one of the first to drive over the bridge that will alleviate the perpetual congestion at the intersection above.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/13/2023

2053 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Recommended Floodgates Could Release at Rate of Lake Conroe During Harvey

City of Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s office has supplied ReduceFlooding.com with the Black & Veatch Engineering report on the recommended alternative for adding floodgates to Lake Houston. One key finding immediately jumped out at me that wasn’t in Martin’s press release last week. The recommended gates would have a release capacity that virtually equals the highest release rate of Lake Conroe during Hurricane Harvey.

The Lake Conroe release rate during Harvey maxed out at 79,000 cubic feet per second (CFS).

The eleven tainter gates recommended by Black & Veatch would have a release rate of 78,700 CFS.

New Possibilities, More Certainty

That opens up a world of possibilities. For instance, the City could wait to start releasing water until it knew water was coming downstream from Harvey.

Said Martin, “Once constructed, we can release with a moments notice which gives us great opportunities to coordinate release protocols with the SJRA!!”

Previously, Public Works has been reluctant to release water in advance of a storm because the release rate of the existing gates is so small. They have to start lowering the lake so far in advance of storms that a storm can veer away before it gets here. If it does, that means water has been wasted.

The recommended floodgates should provide much more certainty for operators and avoid waste.

Key Elements of Recommendation

site of proposed gates for Lake Houston on east side of dam
Gates would be placed at the original channel for the San Jacinto River seen in foreground.

Other key elements of the recommendation include:

  • Locating the floodgates in the earthen eastern portion of the dam near the old channel of the San Jacinto River.
  • Creating baffles and a dissipation basin downstream from the new gates to break up the flow and reduce water velocity
  • “Outdenting” the gates (i.e., building them in front of the current dam)
  • A bridge between the two parts of the earthen dam
  • Using tainter gates, the same type used at Lake Conroe.
  • A 3.5 year construction schedule.

The last point means that if construction started in January, the earliest completion date would be mid-2026.

However, given the need to line up additional funding in the state legislature, 2027 is a more realistic date.

For a complete discussion of the project history, constraints, alternatives, recommended options, construction drawings, rationales, and costs, see the entire 28-page Black and Veatch Report by Chris Mueller, PhD, P.E.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/14/22 based on the Black & Veatch Report

1933 Days since Hurricane Harvey