Tag Archive for: Dave Martin

City Inspector Finds No Problems At RV Park. 311 Says “Case Closed.” Martin’s Office Says “Not So Fast.”

After photos showed clear construction permit violations at the Laurel Springs RV Resort, a City inspector said he found no problems there. Then, 311 closed the case. But Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s office said another group was investigating. Martin’s chief of staff did not elaborate.

Discharging Silty Stormwater into County Park

On Saturday, I photographed the contractor digging a trench to let silty stormwater out of the detention pond into Harris County Precinct 4’s Edgewater Park.

stormwater runoff
RV Park Drains its construction pond into Harris County Precinct 4’s new Edgewater Park in background.

This violated the terms of the developer’s construction permit. The trees behind the trench belong to Harris County Precinct 4 Park System. And the construction permit clearly states that “stormwater runoff shall not cross property line.”

Note first sentence on approved drainage plan.

Discharging across property lines also violates state law. See Chapter 11.086 of the state water code.

Then on Monday morning, I photographed the contractor covering up pipe that creates a permanent outfall onto County property.

Contractors laying pipe under wall of detention pond to send stormwater into Edgewater Park
Contractors covering up pipe that will convey future discharges. Photographed yesterday.

So I filed a complaint with the City’s 311 system at the request of Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s District E staff.

Finally, today (Tuesday morning), I tried to photograph the drain/trench again. But contractors had covered it up and repaired the dike. If you hadn’t seen the previous pictures, you would never suspect a drainpipe was there (except for some black silt fencing around the intake which will be taken down).

By Tuesday morning, contractors had repaired the pond wall. Area circled in red is the outfall, covered with water.

Extent of Silty Runoff

The silty stormwater ran almost all the way down to Hamblen Road.

Water should have gone under Laurel Springs Lane and into the detention pond above via COH storm sewer. However, the contractor discharged it into the park instead. Note sediment-laden water in foreground.
A large portion of the park appears to be inundated with silty discharge.
Looking north toward detention pond on RV site from over Edgewater Park. Note silty water in foreground.

City Inspector Found No Violations

As I reviewed Tuesday’s images, I received an email from 311 saying the inspector found no problems and that 311 had closed the case. Obviously, the 311 operator didn’t clearly communicate the nature of my complaint. It was about stormwater runoff and construction-permit violations, not a fence line encroachment.

And clearly, the inspector didn’t:

  • Look at the approved drainage plan that showed the outfall should be going into the City storm sewer under Laurel Springs Lane.
  • Understand that draining water onto neighbor’s property violates the construction permit and state regulations.
  • Know the trees below the construction site belong to the County Park. He thought they belonged to the contractor. (See below.)
Response from 311 to complaint about construction stormwater violations. No pictures were attached despite text of email.

Inspector Felt Discharging into County Park Was Best Management Practice

To add insult to injury, the inspector characterized discharging into Edgewater Park’s vegetation as a contractor best management practice (BMP). Obviously, he thought the trees belonged to the contractor. He didn’t bother to explore who owned the land below the construction site or how far south the discharge had traveled.

Responses like this give the City a black eye.

I immediately emailed Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s office about the 311 response. Jessica Beemer, his chief of staff, responded that the case wasn’t really closed. She said a different group had been assigned to investigate the complaint. But, as of this writing, she did not elaborate.

The TCEQ hopes to respond to a separate complaint by tomorrow. And I met several Harris County employees investigating the construction this morning in response to other complaints.

Stay tuned. More news to follow. This isn’t over yet.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/1/2022

1617 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.

Special City Meeting Thursday At 2 PM Will Address Multi-Family Housing Flap

City of Houston called a special joint committee meeting for Thursday, October 7, at 2PM between Budget & Fiscal Affairs and Housing and Community Affairs. Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin will chair the meeting.

The agenda is scant. It entails a Housing and Community Development “Financial Update” with three speakers:

  • Keith Bynam, Deputy Director, Housing and Community Development
  • Temika Jones, Chief Financial Officer, Housing and Community Development
  • Andy Icken, Chief Development Officer, Mayor’s Office

I asked Mayor Pro Tem Martin for more detail. He replied, “Fiduciary update on City of Houston Housing, specifically CDBG and DR-17, and the status of the investigation from the City Attorney regarding his decision to bring in outside Firms and appropriate resources to ensure independence and completeness.”

Turner Vigorously Denies Allegations

The last part about the City Attorney refers to a self-investigation Mayor Sylvester Turner launched in the wake of explosive allegations by Tom McCasland, Housing and Community Development’s former director. Turner fired McCasland two weeks ago after McCasland accused the Mayor of improperly influencing the award of a housing grant. The Mayor skipped over the top seven recommendations by McCasland’s department to pick the eighth ranked project. The Mayor’s selection would have delivered one quarter of the affordable housing for basically the same price as the four projects recommended by the Department of Housing and Community Development. It just happened to turn out that the Mayor’s former law partner, Barry Barnes, is also a stakeholder in the eighth ranked project.

Turner vigorously denies any charges of impropriety and asked the City Attorney to investigate. However, the appointment of an appointed official to do the investigation was panned by the media.

Since then, the Texas General Land Office (GLO), HUD and the Harris County Attorney have each launched separate investigations. And now it appears that the City Attorney will also bow to public pressure by appointing an outside investigator.

Documents At Heart of Controversy

I spent the better part of the day reviewing complex documents in this case. I will post them below with some brief comments for those who like to refer to original source materials.

  • The 110-page contract between the GLO and City of Houston for $835 million. This is a subset of the $1.2 billion original contract that became the subject of a lawsuit between the same two parties last year. It lays out the expectations for each party, allocates totals to each program, sets performance goals for each, and lists deadlines. The Mayor signed it on Page 104.
  • A letter from the GLO to Keith Bynam, Interim Director of Housing and Community Development. It requested a review of the City’s Multi-Family Rental Program, starting no later than September 29, 2021.
  • The agenda for a review and a list of requested documents. Some of the acronyms in this may be puzzling. MQA stands for “Monitoring Quality Assurance.” MFRP stands for Multi-Family Rental Program. Page 4 lists the purpose of the review. Page 5 lists the scope. Page 11 lists the items that the City had not yet supplied as of 9/30/2021. Page 12 explains regulations that could penalize the City if it fails to provide the requested records.
  • The 40-page 2021 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) refers to Round 3 of the Disaster Recovery (DR-17) and Multifamily Program. It lays out the ground rules and selection criteria for the controversial Clear Lake apartment complex preferred by the Mayor. This was the “report card” for companies submitting proposals. It told them how they were going to be graded – i.e., what would increase or decrease their chances of success. It includes such factors as “flood resilience,” “experience,” “project readiness,” “cost reasonableness,” “disaster-recovery construction standards,” “location relative to the floodway,” and more.

Significantly, in the last document, the City’s Chief Procurement Officer, Jerry Adams, promises, “Bid proposals will be reviewed, underwritten and scored to select awardees based on a predetermined set of criteria outlined in the NOFA.”

Is There a Contract?

Yes and No.

No, in that a contract has not been signed with the Mayor’s hand-picked developer. The developer has not been paid any money. GLO has not even received a recommendation yet as to the developer. Everything blew up on the launching pad before things got that far.

However, the GLO and HUD contend that the NOFA is a contract. It obligates the City to solicit proposals according to criteria that have been agreed to beforehand.

The documentation calls into question whether bypassing seven higher scoring proposals in favor of a lower scoring project might violate the NOFA and federal procurement process regulations.

Here are some important federal requirements listed in the Code of Federal Regulations under 2 CFR Part 200:

  • Appendix I to Part 200 – Full Text of Notice of Funding Opportunity: “The intent is to make the application process transparent so applicants can make informed decisions when preparing their applications to maximize fairness of the process.” (E. Application Review Information)
  • § 200.319 Competition: “All procurement transactions for the acquisition of property or services required under a Federal award must be conducted in a manner providing full and open competition consistent with the standards of this section and § 200.320.

Additionally, in CONTRACT NO. 21-134-000-C788 above (section 8.05, page 19), the City of Houston agreed to strictly adhere to sections 318-326 of 2 CFR Part 200.

From that perspective, there was and is a contract. As this controversy plays out, the contract question will likely play a central role. Don’t be fooled if someone says, “There was no contract.” Clarify what that means.

To View Special Meeting Thursday At 2PM

To view the Microsoft Teams Live Meeting, go to: https://tinyurl.com/JOINTMTGBFAHOU.

Presentation handouts may be available at: https://www.houstontx.gov/council/committees/bfa.html. As of this posting, no handouts were available.

This meeting will also be broadcast on HTV, the City of Houston’s Municipal Channel.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/6/2021

1499 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.

Floodgate, Dredging Plans Unveiled

At one of the first large public meetings since Covid began, several hundred people crowded into the Kingwood Community Center last night. They came to see the City unveil floodgate and dredging plans for Lake Houston. Stephen Costello, PE, the City’s Chief Recovery Officer, addressed dredging. And Chris Mueller, PhD, PE, of engineering firm Black & Veatch discussed adding more floodgates to the Lake Houston Dam. Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin coordinated the meeting.

To see both presentations, click here. Or see the summaries below.

Dredging: About Half Done

In late 2019, the Army Corps finished hydraulic dredging in the area south of the West Fork mouth bar. Then in early 2020, the City of Houston began mechanical dredging to extend the effort. In terms of the estimated dollars designated for dredging, the effort is about halfway done.

The first four rows on this chart are done or almost done. They total $114 million out of a projected total of $222 million.

The last two rows on the chart above are estimates because they depend on bids currently in progress and a long-range plan not yet complete. The need for a long-term plan and maintenance dredging were identified early on by the Army Corps so that any benefits of dredging were not immediately wiped out by future sedimentation.

Scope of Long-Range Dredging Plan Still in Development

A long-range dredging plan for Lake Houston is critical. We must understand where the sediment comes from, how fast it builds up, where it builds up, and the consequences of not removing it periodically.

The numbered dots in the photo above show channels south of the East and West Forks draining into Lake Houston where sediment can also build up.

Costello says the City is currently working with affected homeowner associations to discuss cost-sharing arrangements.

He also says that the City must identify a long-range site for depositing the spoils that is suitable for hydraulic dredging. He called the mechanical dredging now in progress “not sustainable.” Currently, the City is using Berry Madden’s property on the West Fork south of Kingwood’s River Grove Park to deposit the mechanical dredging spoils. That’s a long haul for barges on the East Fork.

Next Dredging Steps: Channel to East Fork and East Fork Itself

Contractors must next deepen the channel between the West and East Forks of the San Jacinto to move dredging equipment and spoils back and forth (see below).

Current location of dredging is near yellow dot.

From there, dredgers will move slightly north of where Luce Bayou (far right) enters the East Fork and begin dredging the East Fork mouth bar. See large circle above. The map shows that area grew shallower by up to nine feet between 2011 and 2018. Imelda, in September 2019, made it grow even shallower. Note the fresh deposits of sand in the photo below now poking up above the water.

Growth of East Fork Mouth Bar after Imelda in September 2019. Photo taken in November 2019.

Additional Floodgates for Lake Houston Dam

Chris Mueller of Black & Veatch then discussed the reasons for adding additional floodgates to Lake Houston, preliminary engineering findings, and an implementation schedule.

The primary objective: to increase the outflow capacity of the dam to reduce the risk of future flooding. However, he emphasized that reducing the risk for people upstream of the dam cannot have an adverse impact on people below it. See below.

He emphasized that Lake Houston is, first and foremost, a drinking water reservoir. He also emphasized that the dam is almost seventy years old and near the end of its useful life. Significant safety issues exist in working with such old concrete.

Calculating the Benefit/Cost Ratio of Additional Floodgates

Mueller then explained how FEMA calculates the benefit/cost ratio of additional floodgates.

  • On the benefit side, it considers: the reduction in water surface level; how many buildings and streets that will prevent from flooding; reduced societal impacts; and reduced impacts to business revenues. These are primarily damage costs avoided.
  • On the cost side of the equation, FEMA factors in construction costs and annual operation and maintenance costs.

To win project approval, the City must show that the benefits of additional floodgates exceed the costs in a 100-year storm, similar to Imelda. Such a storm elevates the lake 10 feet.

The peak inflow to Lake Houston in a 100-year storm: 286,000 cubic feet per second (CFS), enough to fill the Astrodome in 3 minutes! However, during Harvey, SJRA estimated the peak inflow at 400,000 cfs.

Proposed Alternative Produces 11-Inch Benefit Nearest Dam

A hydrologic and hydraulic analysis conducted by Black & Veatch will help prove up the benefit/cost analysis. The San Jacinto Watershed (including Buffalo Bayou) includes flow from eight counties.

In evaluating about ten alternatives for adding floodgates, Black & Veatch considered both cost and non-cost factors listed below.

The company’s first choice was to install additional gates on the earthen portion of the dam on the east side. But environmental considerations there would have delayed the project by a decade or more.

So they decided to recommend a 1,000 feet of crest gates on the west side of the spillway instead. See example of crest gates in operation below.

An air bladder near a bottom hinge raises or lowers the floodgates to let water in/out

Such gates would increase the discharge capacity to 45,000 cfs, more than four times the current capacity of 10,000 cfs. That’s still only about a third of the discharge capacity of the floodgates on Lake Conroe. But according to Martin, that would still be enough to lower the level of the lake 4 feet in 24 hours.

However, before floodgate construction can begin, engineers must evaluate:

  • Downstream impacts and how to mitigate them
  • Impact to the stability of the existing concrete dam

Back in the 1950s when the Lake Houston dam was built, engineers did not use rebar. So this will be a delicate operation. Contractors must cut 6 feet into the existing spillway; cap the remaining concrete with a slab; and install the crest gates on top of the slab.

Black & Veatch must also develop an operations protocol for new floodgates that maximizes upstream benefits and limits downstream impacts. Mueller shared this schedule with attendees.

Best-Case Project Timeline Shows Completion in 2024

Schedule as of 7/8/2021. Detailed engineering could take another year.

A best-case scenario shows construction starting at the end of 2022 and finishing before the start of hurricane season in 2024. So, at least three more hurricane seasons to get through before seeing any benefit from additional gates.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/9/2021

1410 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Reminder: Floodgate Meeting at Kingwood Community Center on Thursday, July 8

On Thursday, July 8, Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin will host a pubic meeting to discuss the status of adding more floodgates to the Lake Houston Dam. Preliminary engineering finished earlier this year. In March, the Coastal Water Authority board approved Black & Veatch to begin final engineering.

Need for More Gates

The Lake Houston Area Task Force identified more and higher capacity floodgates as a key element in the area’s flood-mitigation strategy. The current gates have one-fifteenth the capacity of those at the Lake Conroe Dam. That makes it difficult to shed water from Lake Houston before people flood if Lake Conroe opens its gates as it did during Harvey.

During Harvey, Conroe released 79,000 cubic feet per second. That was one third of all the water coming down the West Fork between Humble and Kingwood. All by itself, that 79,000 CFS would have been the ninth largest flood in West Fork history. And that made the difference between flooding and not flooding for thousands of homes and businesses near the lake.

During Harvey, the peak flow over the spillway was five times the average flow over Niagra Falls. A wall of water 11 feet tall cascaded over the spillway above. Enough to fill NRG stadium in 3.5 minutes.

Lake Houston Dam During Harvey. The proposed crest gates would go in the far upper left of the spillway.

Floodgate Meeting Details

See the meeting details below.

Thursday, July 8, 2021
At the Kingwood Community Center (4102 Rustic Woods)
Doors Open 5:30 PM
Dredging Update Starts 5:45 PM
Gate Update Starts at 6 PM

Chief Recovery Officer, Stephen Costello, will provide a very brief update on Lake Houston Dredging operations at 5:45 p.m. before the Spillway Improvement Project program begins.

The program to discuss the Lake Houston Dam Spillway Improvement Project will start at 6:00 p.m. and conclude at 7:45 p.m. But don’t worry about sitting through a 2 hour meeting.

The main presentation by Black & Veatch, the project engineers, will be followed by a short Q&A session. The meeting will then transition into breakout sessions. Breakout tables will let residents engage with project management staff and engineers in small groups to ask more detailed questions.

Project Benefits

The Lake Houston Dam Spillway project will increase the outflow capacity of the Lake Houston Dam. The project proposes installing new crest gates in the existing uncontrolled spillway. This will allow for a rapid decrease of water levels in Lake Houston in advance of storm events to prevent or reduce upstream flooding. Engineers estimate the recommended alternative could help about 35,000 residents and 5,000 structures. It’s important for people to understand that if they flooded from streams or channels far from the lake during Harvey, this may not help them.


A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provides $4.3 million for engineering and positions the city to receive another $42.7 million for construction.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/6/2021 based on info provided by Dave Martin’s Office

1407 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Martin Announces Lake Houston Safety Plan With Color-Coded Zones

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin announced today a “Lake Houston Safety Plan.” It promotes lake safety by helping boaters better identify their locations on the lake when calling 9-1-1, so help can arrive faster.

Lake Houston Safety Plan Map courtesy of City of Houston, District E. For a printable high-resolution version, click here.

Use Colors to Narrow Down Location when Calling for Help

Martin worked with City of Houston’s Planning Department to create a map identifying seven geographic areas by color for residents needing to identify their position on the lake. Martin’s District E Office, Houston Fire Department, Houston Police Department and Lake Patrol Division, Houston Emergency Center, Houston Public Works, and Harris County Sheriff’s Office jointly designed the map.

When contacting first responders, the color coded zones will help reduce response time by narrowing down a boat’s location. The City will provide the safety plan map to all public docks/piers and private launch areas for posting. Dispatchers at Houston’s Emergency Center have already started training based on the map.

Maps have also been provided to all Lake Houston Area first responders. The City of Houston Public Works Department will also place highly visible signs on bridges crossing Lake Houston and the San Jacinto River with the names of roadways by Memorial Day.

For More Information on Safety Plan

District E will conduct outreach events, launch a targeted social-media campaign, and send out a mailer this summer to Lake Houston residents with more information on the Safety Plan.

To receive resources on the Lake Houston Safety Plan or to schedule a member of the District E Team to provide a presentation to your group directly please call (832) 393-3008 or email the District E Office at districte@houstontx.gov.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/15/2021 based on information from Dave Martin’s Office

1325 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Woodridge Village Purchase and Two More Kingwood Flood Control Measures APPROVED by Harris County Commissioners Today

Today, at 5:52PM, Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously approved three flood-control measures affecting Kingwood. The measures included approval to negotiate engineering contracts for improvements to the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and Taylor Gully. The third approval involved purchase of Woodridge Village from Perry Homes to build a regional floodwater detention facility in Montgomery County.

Woodridge Village Purchase Finally Approved

The latter has ranked high on the community’s agenda ever since sheet flow from Woodridge Village contributed to flooding hundreds of homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Villages twice in 2019.

Woodridge Village photographed one year after Imelda, when sheet flow flooded approximately 600 homes at the top of the frame.

Since then, Perry has completed the planned detention ponds on the property. However, the amount of detention still falls 40% of that needed under the new Atlas-14 standards.

The City of Houston will purchase 77 acres of the property outright for a wastewater treatment facility. The City will then pay for its half of the remaining Woodridge property by trading land that the Flood Control District can use to reduce the cost of flood mitigation projects elsewhere.

Neither the City nor County have yet announced a closing date for the Woodridge purchase.

The City and HCFCD will work with the community as plans for the property and Taylor Gully are developed by IDCUS Inc.

Kudos to County and City

Seventeen months after Imelda, families in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Village will sleep easier tonight, knowing they are one HUGE step closer to safety.

Thanks to all four Harris County Commissioners, especially Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, and Harris County Judge Lina Hildaldo. Thanks also to Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin who helped overcome objections raised at several stages in the Woodridge purchase process.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/9/2021

1260 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Mayor Pro Tem Martin Provides Additional Details on Purchase of Woodridge Village

Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin issued a press release today that provided additional details about the potential Harris County/City purchase of Woodridge Village.

Unanimous County Vote For Earnest Money Contract

As reported Tuesday evening, Harris County Commissioner’s Court voted unanimously to authorize the Harris County Real Property Division to negotiate an earnest money contract with Figure Four Partners, LTD. The purchase includes two tracts of land containing 267.35 acres located in Montgomery County, which could become the Woodridge Village Stormwater Basin.

The purchase price of $14,019,316.00 is about $5 million below the appraised value of the land. Martin thanks Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle for their support. 

TWDB Loan Application

Said Martin, “This is the first crucial step in completing an inter-local agreement between the City of Houston and Harris County to purchase Woodridge Village.” This vote, coupled with the upcoming announcement from the Texas Water Development Board of the City’s eligibility to apply for a 0% interest loan to help develop the Woodridge Village project, will help reduce future flooding in Kingwood and the Lake Houston region.” 

During May of 2019, as well as Tropical Storm Imelda almost exactly a year ago, Woodridge Village contributed to flooding and heavy sediment deposited in much of northern Kingwood.  Mayor Pro Tem Martin called for the immediate stoppage of the planned development and sale of this site.

End-of-Year Deadline

Martin says he is happy to see the execution of the earnest money contract. It will lock in the purchase price for 120 days. The purchase of the property is contingent upon Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) entering in to an interlocal agreement with the City of Houston within 120 days of signing the earnest money contract. 

Last week, the City of Houston Public Works Director, Carol Haddock, submitted a letter of intent to the HCFCD Executive Director, Russ Poppe. It acknowledges the commitment by both parties, City and County, to execute a binding inter-local agreement no later than December 31, 2020. 

“A binding agreement for the proposed transaction can only be evidenced by HCFCD executing a finalized inter-local agreement which will need the approval of Houston City Council” said Martin. Martin also said he “is committed to working with every council office to gain their support of this interlocal agreement, as mutual support of projects to reduce future flooding citywide are key to a successful resiliency plan.” 

The location of the Figure Four Property is suitable for a sub-regional stormwater detention facility, which will help protect affected residents from future intense rainfall events.

Dave Martin, Houston Mayor Pro tem

Consolidation of Three Wastewater Treatment Plants on Woodridge Property

“Additionally, the City has identified a need for approximately 73 acres of the total site to serve as the location for a regional wastewater treatment plant,” says Martin. “This would facilitate consolidation of three wastewater treatment plants in the Kingwood Area.”

Two of these three plants were significantly impacted by flooding during Hurricane Harvey.  

The City would contribute cash for the portion of the site that would house the new wastewater treatment facility.

Land in Lieu of Cash for Floodwater Detention Portion of Property

For the floodwater-detention portion of the property, the City would contribute land in lieu of cash for Harris County Flood Control District flood-risk-reduction projects. 

Construction Funding Details Still to Be Worked Out

Once purchased, the City and District will work together to find additional funding to construct additional stormwater detention on the site to maximize downstream benefits. The Perry Homes/Figure Four Partners property only contains enough detention capacity at the moment to handle about 60% of Atlas 14 requirements. Atlas 14 is NOAA’s attempt to update rainfall precipitation frequency statistics. The need for the update became apparent after four so-called 500-year rains in five years (Tax Day, Memorial Day, Harvey, Imelda).

Despite the recent completion of three additional detention ponds, the Woodridge Village site currently only has about 60% of the detention capacity needed to handle a true 100-year rain (according to Atlas-14 requirements). Photo 9/11/2020.

The City has recently submitted an abridged application to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) for a $30 million grant/loan to fund a flood-damage-reduction project on Taylor Gully.

TWDB manages the capital Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) created by the 86th legislature in 2019, thanks to Texas State Senator Brandon Creighton and Texas State Representative Dan Huberty. The legislature mutually seeded the FIF program with approximately $790 M, the state has received applications requesting over $2.3 billion to date. Staff recommendations for applications to advance to the formal comprehensive application submittal phase are pending. 

“Ultimately, approval of this earnest money contract is a huge win for the City of Houston and Kingwood residents,” said Martin. “We hope to have more good news once the city has completed its application to the Texas Water Development Board for improvements to Taylor Gully, which will happen later this year.”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/17/2020

1115 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 364 since Imelda

Lake Houston Level Now Being Lowered in Advance of Hurricane Laura

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin announced at 4:31 p.m. Tuesday that Houston Public Works will initiate the temporary lowering of Lake Houston within the hour. The City made this decision after taking into account the fast-changing nature of Hurricane Laura. The Coastal Water Authority will lower Lake Houston to 41.0 ft from 41.59, another six tenths of a foot, which is 18 inches below full pool.

Laura should arrive late tomorrow or early Thursday as a Category 3 storm. Hurricane conditions are expected in Chambers and Liberty County – with 45-60 mph winds east of I-45 throughout the Lake Houston Area.

Floodgates on Lake Houston Dam photographed on 6/16/2020.

2 to 4 Inches Expected

The National Hurricane Center predicts that Hurricane Laura will bring 2 – 4 inches of rain to the Lake Houston Area in the next few days. Isolated areas could receive 6 inches. These rainfall amounts exceed the 3 inch trigger to lower Lake Houston, said Martin. 

Lake to Be Lowered Another 7.2 inches

As a result of these predicted rainfall amounts in addition to the rainfall that will be accumulated to our east, the Lake will be lowered gradually overnight from the current level, which is 41.6 ft down to an elevation of 41.0 ft. Six tenths of a foot is 7.2 inches.

The Lake will be maintained at a level of approximately 41.0 ft while there is an immediate inclement weather threat. Once that weather has moved out of our area, the Lake will be allowed to naturally refill from the storm’s runoff.

Some fluctuations in Lake level can be attributed to high winds so please keep that in mind when checking Lake levels.

Secure Shoreline Property NOW If You Have Not Already

Property owners were given notice Friday afternoon to secure property along the shoreline for a potential temporary lowering of Lake Houston. If you have not already done so now is the time to take action to secure your shoreline property.

Dave Martin, Mayor Pro Tem

The lake will be lowered at a cautious rate so as to not impact those living downstream. At the completion of this temporary lowering effort the total reduction in the level of Lake Houston from normal pool of 42.5 ft to 41.0 ft will be 1.5 feet. 

For More Information

Residents may monitor the lowering of Lake Houston by visiting the Coastal Water Authority website or visiting Mayor Pro Tem Martin’s Facebook page for updates from the District E office.

No Mention of SJRA

Martin’s press release made no mention of the SJRA or Lake Conroe. Lake Conroe, which is farther west should receive less rain than Lake Houston from Laura.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/25/2020 at 6 pm, based on a press release from Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin.

1092 Days after Hurricane Harvey

FEMA to Fund Additional Million Cubic Yards of Dredging from West Fork Mouth Bar Area

Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin announced today that FEMA will fund the dredging of an additional million cubic yards of sediment from the area around the San Jacinto West Fork Mouth Bar. The giant sand bar partially blocked the mouth of the West Fork during Harvey and backed water up. It contributed to the flooding of thousands of homes and businesses in Kingwood, Humble and Atascocita.

Only a skeleton of the above-water portion of the mouth bar remains. But water remains shallow on both sides of it. Note all the trees and little islands poking up between the bar and camera position. Photo taken 8/20/2020.

Ending a Three-Year Debate

The City and FEMA debated for almost three years about how much sediment Harvey deposited in the area between Kings Point and Atascocita Point. The disaster declaration following Harvey only allowed FEMA to fund dredging of sediment deposited by that storm, not to pay for any deposits there previously.

Back before Great Lakes removed its hydraulic dredge, the City commissioned TetraTech to determine the quantity. In April 2019, the City submitted TetraTech’s ninety-four-page report. Based on core sampling, TetraTech estimated that Harvey deposited approximately 1,012,000 cubic yards of sand/sediment. 

However, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) disputed the TetraTech’s conclusion. USACE pulled the Great Lakes dredge from the river on September 3, 2019, after dredging only 500,000 cubic yards from that area.

Now, FEMA has reversed course. It concurs with the City’s findings, thanks in part to Martin’s persistence. Martin is “elated” with FEMA’s ruling.

Before Dredging Can Begin…

Removal of this debris is pending:

  • Project identification in the Federal/State grant portal
  • Preparation of construction documents
  • Identification of disposal site(s)
  • Selection of the method of dredging
  • Cost estimates and construction bidding.

The City will finalize the timeline as it develops the documents above.

How Various Dredging Projects Add Up

FEMA’s initial Emergency West Fork dredging contract in 2018 resulted in the removal of 1,849,000 cubic yards of sand/sediment between US59 and the Mouth Bar. Subsequently, FEMA authorized removal of an additional 500,000 cubic yards near the Mouth Bar itself. That brought the total up to 2,349,000 cubic yards.

Subsequently, Martin, Senator Brandon Creighton and Representative Dan Huberty gained support from Governor Greg Abbott to provide a $50 Million grant for additional debris removal. Approximately $7 Million went to dredging the mouth bar land mass, a project which is still underway.

Huberty’s amendment to Senate Bill (SB) 500 set aside another $30 Million for Harris County for dredging at the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston. The City is currently a sub-recipient of approximately $10 Million of those funds. Dredging will continue until the City exhausts the funds. According to Martin, the money should cover approximately 242,000 more cubic yards.

Then the FEMA money for the additional million cubic yards will kick in.

Said State Representative Dan Huberty, “After two years of showing FEMA the data, I am thrilled that we are allowed to continue this project due to the hard work of Mayor Pro Tem Martin and Mayor Turner. The funds we secured from the State during the last budget cycle to continue where FEMA left off are nearly depleted. This new funding source will let us complete this necessary and critical project. It is great news for our community. It also recognizes how important the Lake Houston Watershed is to our region.”

Other Lake Houston Dredging Projects

Approximately $10 Million of local funds are earmarked for the dredging activity within Lake Houston south of FM 1960. The City plans to coordinate with Harris County Flood Control District to utilize a portion of the $10 Million to remove the mouth bar obstruction at Roger’s Gully.

Rogers Gully Mouth Bar
Rogers Gully Mouth Bar

However, it won’t happen anytime soon. Based on the bond priorities pushed through Harris County by Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis, County funds will not be available until July 2021 at the earliest. And maybe not until March 2022.


Mayor Pro Tem Martin, Congressman Dan Crenshaw, State Representative Dan Huberty, State Senator Brandon Creighton, Texas Division Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd,  Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Chief Recovery Officer Stephen Costello have all worked together to make these projects happen.

Another view of the slowly disappearing San Jacinto West Fork mouth bar.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/21/2020

1088 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Long-Term Lake Houston Dredging Plan in Development; West Fork Mouth-Bar 60 Percent Completed

In January, the City hired DRC Emergency Services, LLC (DRC) to begin mechanical dredging of the San Jacinto West Fork Mouth Bar. I’ve provided periodic updates on that. According to Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, DRC has now officially completed 60% of that project.

In the meantime, other related dredging projects, including East Fork dredging and long-term Lake Houston maintenance dredging are reportedly taking shape. Here’s how pieces of the puzzle fit together. But one piece is still missing – long-term funding to pay for the maintenance dredging.

Two-Phase Program

DRC’s scope of work has two distinct phases:

  1. Phase One will remove accumulated materials near and at the mouth bar on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.
  2. Phase Two will remove accumulated materials in the East Fork of the San Jacinto River AND other locations in Lake Houston.
West Fork Mouth Bar as of late June 2020.

During Phase One, 400,000 cubic yards of material will be removed over twelve months. To date, DRC has removed approximately 240,080 cubic yards of material. (See photo above.) That’s 60% in approximately 60% of the allotted time, so that part of the project is on schedule.

East Fork Mouth Bar as of May 2020. This areas went from 18 to 3 feet deep during Imelda, according to boater Josh Alberson. The above-water portion of this sand bar has grown three quarters of a mile since Harvey.

Phase Two of the project will consist of:

  • Hydrographic surveys of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, the East Fork of the San Jacinto River, and Lake Houston to determine dredge material volumes
  • City of Houston advertising and awarding a dredging contract to the lowest responsive bidder

Phase Two will run simultaneously with Phase One to expedite dredging. 

Dave Martin, Houston Mayor Pro Tem

Mayor Pro Tem Martin did not provide an update on where Phase Two currently stands. But residents have reported seeing survey boats on Lake Houston, and the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto.

Mouth bar forming at Rogers Gully on Lake Houston. Example of kind of projects being considered for Phase 2. Photo late June, 2020.

Long-Term Dredging Plan in Development

Additionally, during Phase Two, City of Houston and its partners will develop a long-term dredging plan for Lake Houston. City of Houston or the Coastal Water Authority will execute the plan.

The intention: to fund dredging operations in perpetuity.

This phased approach will obligate the full grant funding before the 87th legislative session in 2021. This grant funding was made possible thanks to State Representative Dan Huberty (District 127) through the passage of Senate Bill 500.

Mayor Pro Tem Martin credits Huberty for his dedication to the long-term maintenance dredging activities on Lake Houston. “Representative Huberty has been a champion for his residents and a great ally in seeing these additional dredging efforts come to fruition,” said Martin.

$40 Million Project

The total project is valued at $40 million (except for the perpetuity part). Funding for the immediate dredging projects comes through a combination of:

  • City of Houston Harvey Disaster dollars provided by Governor Greg Abbott
  • Grant dollars from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB)
  • Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) Bond Program.

Harris County Engineer, John Blount submitted the grant application for this project to the TWDB. But the City of Houston became a “subrecipient” and is now managing the project.

Long Term Funding – Still A Missing Piece of Puzzle

Lake Houston, a City of Houston asset, is losing capacity. Everyone has recognized that fact for decades. But as silt filled the rivers, inlets and lake, maintenance was deferred, reportedly for budgetary reasons. In 2017, during Harvey, the problem became so big that no one could ignore it anymore. Flooding was the immediate problem. But loss of water capacity is an even bigger, longer-term problem.

It’s one thing to have a long-term maintenance dredging plan and another to put it into action. But where will the money come from?

A tax on sand mines? Won’t work. Most aren’t in the City. Or even in Harris County.

Some have suggested creating a taxing district for lakefront homeowners. That won’t work either. Not enough of them. And it would create a stampede for the Oklahoma border. Moreover, it hardly seems fair; the lake is part of a City system that provides water to two million people and generates revenue.

The logical solution seems to be increasing the cost of water. Adding just a fraction of a penny per 1000 gallons should do it. Dredging isn’t just about reducing flooding. Or preserving views for lakefront homeowners. It helps preserve the lake’s capacity. And that benefits everyone.

As we develop a long-term dredging plan for the lake, we also need to consider a sustainable source of financing.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/12/2020 based, in part, on a release by Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin

1079 Days after Hurricane Harvey