Tag Archive for: Detention Basin

Celebrating Completion of new KMS Without Flooding

As I passed the beautiful new Kingwood Middle School (KMS) last weekend, it struck me. Despite many heavy rains during construction that lasted almost three years, neighbors never reported flooding.

Too often, I hear of construction projects that alter drainage and flood neighbors. But Humble ISD seemed to consider that problem from the start and took appropriate measures to prevent it. The District even built a temporary stormwater detention basin before tearing down the old KMS. It protected the neighborhood during demolition and construction before the new permanent basin was completed.

The result is a magnificent architectural gem – a showcase for the entire community – without drama, stress or destruction.

Pictures Taken 8/27/23

Main entrance of new KMS
The KMS building now occupies the space of the old athletic fields and the athletic fields occupy the space of the old building.
Kingwood Middle School (KMS) detention basin
Note grass on the sides of the stormwater retention basin.
The basin will reduce the risk of street flooding in the surrounding neighborhood.

The current drought has the football-field grass struggling. But somehow, the grass on the sides of the detention basin seems well established. The vegetation on the slopes reduces erosion which could clog the inflow/outflow pipes.

For Photographic History of Project

For photos showing the history of Kingwood Middle School demolition and re-construction, see below.

Thanks to the Humble ISD, its board and contractors for a job well done.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/1/23

2194 days since Hurricane Harvey

New Woodridge Village Detention Basin Already 2nd Largest

As of January 30, 2023, Sprint Sand and Clay had excavated 80,360 Cubic Yards of dirt from a sixth Woodridge Village stormwater detention basin under an Excavation and Removal Contract with Harris County Flood Control District. Even though the new basin is not yet complete, it is already the second largest on the site.

Sprint’s $1,000 contract gives it the right to excavate up to 500,000 cubic yards and sell the dirt at market rates to make its money back. The purpose: to get a head start on construction of another basin that could eventually double Woodridge Village stormwater detention capacity so that it will exceed Atlas-14 requirements and create a safety margin to accommodate future development.

Reason for Project

Perry Homes sold the failed development to Harris County Flood Control District in 2021 after it contributed to the flooding of hundreds of homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest twice in 2019.

Excavation began in early 2022. By the end of that year, Sprint had removed 73,745 cubic yards of soil. January’s total means Sprint is about one-sixth of the way toward its goal.

The basin already holds a considerable amount of runoff as the pictures below show. The pictures were taken on 1/24/23 after a five-year rain (3.6 inches in two hours). That’s about half the volume that fell on May 7, 2019 when Woodridge Village first flooded Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. But at that time, only the long narrow detention basin on the lower right had been completed.

Looking NE across the main part of Woodridge. Basin in foreground is the one under construction.

Reverse angle, looking SW toward Woodland Hills Drive and Kingwood Park High School.

New Excavation Already Second Largest on Site

80,360 cubic yards equals 49.8 acre feet. Woodridge Village’s five original basins had the following capacity:

  • N1 = 13.2 acre feet
  • N2 = 154.7 acre feet
  • N3 = 42 acre feet
  • S1 = 18.6 acre feet
  • S2 = 42.5 acre feet
Original Detention Pond Capacity on Woodridge Village

That means the new basin already ranks as the second largest on the Woodridge Village site.

Only N2 has more capacity at the present. But eventually, the new basin could double its size.
All basins will eventually converge into the basin in left foreground above. From there, water exits into Taylor Gully.
Despite the 5-year rain that fell only hours before these photos, Taylor Gully never came close to overflowing on January 24th because of the controlled release rate.

More capacity will mean the site can safely handle much larger rainfalls.

Current detention pond capacity equals 271 acre feet. When complete, the new basin will add 309 acre feet, more than doubling the site’s stormwater detention capacity.

Funding and Next Steps

This is all part of a larger plan outlined in the preliminary engineering review for Taylor Gully that HCFCD shared with the public in December. The plan also calls for deepening a portion of Taylor Gully and replacing the twin-culvert bridge at Rustic Elms with an open-span bridge.

U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw has already secured $1.6 million for Taylor Gully Improvements. The City of Houston also has secured a $10.1 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board to improve drainage in the Taylor Gully watershed.

Next up: final design of the improvements before construction can begin.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/31/23

1981 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1230 since TS Imelda

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

This Is Not the Detention Basin

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

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

Lake Royal Pines?

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

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

Best Practices Call for Clearing One Section at a Time

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

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

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

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

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

Still, had they built the detention pond first…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impact of Clearcutting on Runoff

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

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/26/22

1915 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Laurel Springs RV Park Still Ignoring FAA Safety Requirement

No. Airplanes won’t be taking off and landing at the Laurel Springs RV resort any time soon. The headline has to do with an FAA rule that prohibits wet-bottom stormwater detention basins within five miles of airports.

Because of this pond’s location near IAH airport, the FAA and City of Houston require the stormwater detention basin to have a dry bottom within 48 hours after a storm. The requirement helps discourage birds, especially geese and other large waterfowl, from taking up residence close to the airport. That’s an important consideration, especially during the migration season, which we are in right now.

Wet-bottom ponds attract ducks and geese that create a hazard for aircraft taking off, landing or circling.

Problem Still Not Fixed

I first posted about this in May of this year and was told that the “Resort” hadn’t hooked up electricity to its pumps yet. Now, it’s almost six months later. And the pond is still holding water longer than allowed.

A retired airline captain who lives near the RV resort keeps calling this to my attention.

Evidently, he takes bird strikes far more seriously than the City inspector or resort owners. And little wonder!

If you google “airplane damage from bird strikes,” you find this horrifying collection of images.

Screen capture from Google search.

16,000 Bird Strikes in U.S. Each Year

The FAA records 16,000 bird strikes in the U.S. each year. And they cause $400 million in damages to commercial aircraft.

Ninety percent of bird strikes happen under 3,000 feet during takeoff or landing. This video explains the dangers and shows dramatic footage of the damage birds can cause when they come through a windshield, hit a wing, or get sucked into an engine. The greatest danger is when planes are close to the ground and pilots have little time to react or recover.

In extreme cases, bird strikes have even brought down airliners. In 2009, US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger reported a “double bird strike” that crippled both engines just after takeoff. Luckily, he managed to ditch his plane in the Hudson River without any fatalities.

Every-Other-Day Occurrence at IAH

Lest you think the problem is rare or trivial in the Houston area, the FAA maintains a publicly available online database that lets you customize searches. You can search by State, Airport, Operator, Date Ranges, Aircraft Type, Engine Type, Damage, and even the type of birds or other wildlife involved.

In the first three quarters of 2022, the FAA received 149 reports of bird strikes at Bush Intercontinental Airport. That’s out of 272 days. So…

Planes landing or departing IAH hit birds on MOST days.

Bush IAH reported 155 in all of 2019, 98 in all of 2020, and 139 in all of 2021.

Laurel Springs Basin Still Holds Water Too Long

The approved drainage plans for the Laurel Springs RV Resort stormwater detention basin show the note below.

screen capture from detention and drainage permit plans
Basin should be dry 48 hours after a 100-year storm. But today, it wasn’t dry 48 hours after a less-than-1-year storm.

The relevant portions of this 28-page advisory and its update explain that…

The FAA discourages land uses that attract or sustain hazardous wildlife within five (5) miles of airports to protect aircraft.

The detention pond for the Laurel Springs RV Resort falls within that radius from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport and therefore the FAA and City mandate dry-bottom detention basins.

Laurel Springs RV Resort Detention Basin. Photo taken 11/13/22, 48 hours after storm.

The official gage at the San Jacinto West Fork and US 59 – just blocks away – recorded 1.32 inches of rain on 11/11/2022.

rainfall 11.11.22
Official rainfall at nearest gage.

That amount is one third of a 1-year rain, according to Atlas-14 standards. That’s far less than a 100-year rain which the resort is required to pump out within 48 hours. But 48-hours later, as you can see, it’s still there.

The checkered history of this RV resort deserves yet another investigation. At one time, there were four simultaneous investigations into its drainage. Seems they still haven’t gotten the message. While the risk of a bird from their pond bringing down an airliner is very low, does any responsible individual want to defend ignoring FAA advice? Those are lessons learned the hard way.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/13/22

1902 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.

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.

Demolition of Old Kingwood Middle School Begins

Demolition of the old Kingwood Middle School (KMS) has begun. On Election Day, I drove by and noticed that the entire front entrance had been demolished. Removing the old school will create room for new athletic fields as well as a permanent stormwater detention basin that reduces the risk of flooding.

Next Step in Construction Project

Ever since construction of the new school, the KMS campus has functioned without athletic fields and with a temporary detention basin.

That’s about to change.

The first few pictures below show the extent of the demolition as of 11/8/2022. The last shows it on 11/9/22.

Beginning of demolition near the main entrance of old building, first observed on Election Day.
Reverse angle shot shows rip rap laid down at construction entrance. Rip rap knocks mud off the tires of dump trucks, to help keep sediment out of storm sewers.
Side shot, looking east, shows the second temporary detention basin, which will expand into the permanent detention basis after
Close up of the “jaws” used to rip apart structural steel.
This morning, 11/9/22, the demolished area had widened considerably.

What you see above, happened in a day and a half. At the current rate, demolition could finish before Thanksgiving in two weeks. Then landscaping of the athletic fields can begin, as well as excavation of the final detention basin.

For photos showing the progress of construction, see below.

stages of KMS construction
The final stages of construction. Remove the old building, expand the detention basin, and build athletic fields. From Nov. 2020.

Editorial comment: management of stormwater has been a major concern on this project since the beginning. I wish all owners and contractors built stormwater detention basins before construction or clearing land. Too often, it seems, some take the opposite approach and treat protection of neighbors as an afterthought.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/9/2022

1898 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Greens Bayou Detention Basin Capacity Steadily Growing

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and its partners continue to add detention basin capacity along Greens Bayou to reduce the risk of flooding. I flew in a helicopter today with fellow Harris County Community Flood Resilience Task Force members Ken Willians and Bill Calligari. We flew over Greens, Halls, Hunting, and White Oak Bayous. In this post, let’s focus on what we found in Greens.

From west to east, we flew over the Cutten Basin at 249 and Beltway 8, then followed the bayou over the Antoine, Kuykendahl, Glen Forest, Aldine-Westfield, and Lauder Basins. Some have recently completed construction. Others are still under construction. Here’s a rundown of everything between US249 and US59 along Greens.

Cutten Basin

Scheduled for completion later this year, the Cutten Basin covers approximately 250 acres. It includes five compartments, four south of Greens Bayou and one north. When complete, it will hold 850 acre feet of stormwater. That’s enough to hold a foot of rain falling across approximately 1.3 square miles. It will lower the water surface elevation along Greens by a third of a foot in a hundred-year flood.

Looking S toward Beltway 8. Greens Bayou flows from right to left through the center of the frame.
Looking East. Greens cuts through the upper left portion of the frame. Beltway 8 cuts through the upper right.
Looking West across Hollister which cuts through the middle of the frame.

Antoine Basin

HCFCD and the Army Corps started the $80 million Antoine Basin in 2015. The Army Corps designed and built it. Satellite photos in Google Earth first show it holding water in November 2020.

Looking east along Greens toward the Antoine Basin, top right.
Looking SW. West Greens Road arcs through center of frame. Greens flows from upper right to lower left. Beltway 8 near top of frame.

The completed basin holds approximately 1,650 acre-feet, or 538 million gallons of stormwater. To put that in perspective, it holds a foot of rain falling over a 2.5 square mile area, or half a foot falling across 5 square miles!

Kuykendahl Basin

Kuykendahl Stormwater Detention Basin sits on a 288-acre property near Kuykendahl Road and Ella Boulevard along an unnamed tributary of Greens Bayou. In floods, it holds water back from entering the bayou and then releases it safely and slowly after the storm has passed.

Wide shot of Kuykendahl Basin looking west
Kuykendahl in foreground. Note how densely populated the area is with apartments.

Contractors removed 3.61 million cubic yards of soil from the site. It holds 2,325 acre-feet, or 757.6 million gallons of stormwater. That’s a foot of rain falling across 3.6 square miles, or half a foot falling across 7.2.

Following construction, contractors planted 22.19 acres of native tree and shrubs, and 12.79 acres of stormwater quality-treatment wetlands. They also created 14.04 acres of other wetlands to replace those impacted by construction.

Ceres Environmental Services Inc. constructed the Kuykendahl basin and another to the east (see Glen Forest below). Combined, they were the largest construction contract ever managed by HCFCD up to that time. The two basins reduced or removed flooding risks and damages from more than 1,100 structures along Greens Bayou. “Avoided damages” exceed $90 million in every flood. Far more than the cost of construction.

FEMA awarded $39.2 million to the Harris County Flood Control District, under the Hurricane Ike Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) to construct the basins and HCFCD contributed matching funds.

Google Earth satellite photos indicate construction finished for both basins in 2020.

Glen Forest

Farther east along Greens, the Glen Forest Detention Basin extends from I-45 to Imperial Valley north of Greens Road.

Looking East across I-45 at Glen Forest Basin.
Looking West at Glen Forest Basin on Greens Bayou between I-45 at top of frame and Imperial Valley Drive under camera position.

The Glen Forest Basin project removed approximately 2.15 million cubic yards of soil in three connected cells. The completed basin holds approximately 894 acre-feet. That’s 1.4 square miles one foot deep or 2.8 square miles a half foot deep.

Aldine Westfield Basins: Phases 1 and 2

Farther east along Greens Bayou, directly south of Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport, you will find two more new basins. HCFCD completed construction on the first in April 2021. The second (to the north) then began construction and has not yet finished.

Looking East from over Aldine Westfield Road in foreground at Phase One. Beltway 8 in upper right. Note Greens Bayou turning south under Beltway in upper right.
Looking ENE. Phase 2 is still under construction on Aldine-Westfield Road immediately north of Phase 1 (lower right). Note airport tower on horizon.

Phase 1 holds approximately 667 acre-feet of stormwater and Phase II will hold another 600 acre-feet. Two 5’x4′ reinforced concrete boxes will connect the two phases and outfalls into Greens Bayou.

Together the two basins will hold a foot of rain falling over more than two square miles.

Lauder Basin

1.5 miles to south of the Aldine-Westfield Basins, you will find the Lauder Basin: Phases 1 and 2.

Looking S at Phase I of the recently completed Lauder Basin. Greens Bayou is on right, flowing top to bottom.

Phase 2 of the Lauder Basin is starting in the forested area in the upper right of the photo above.

Phase 1 completed construction late last year. In May of 2022, the Texas Water Development Board granted HCFCD more than $2.2 million to begin Phase 2.

The two basins when complete in 2024 will hold a foot of rain falling over more than 2 square miles (1260 acre feet). That concludes your helicopter flight down Greens Bayou for today.

Greens by the Numbers

Together, these basins should hold approximately a foot of rain falling over 12 square miles.

That’s not enough to prevent flooding in another Harvey. But it will certainly reduce flooding for thousands of people. HCFCD has not yet released updated flood-risk data for the mid- and upper reaches of Greens Bayou (shown above). More news on that when it becomes available.

According to data obtained from HCFCD via a FOIA Request, Flood Control and its partners have spent more than $435 million on flood mitigation in Greens Bayou between 1/1/2000 and the end of last year. That includes money spent on all phases of all projects shown above.

Only three other watersheds have received more funding since 2000: Brays, White Oak and Sims. But more on those later.

Greens was the second most heavily damaged watershed in five major storms (Allison, Tax Day, Memorial Day, Harvey, Imelda). Those storms damaged more than 29,000 Greens structures.

58% of the population of Greens has low-to-moderate income (LMI). That ranks 6th on the LMI scale of Harris County watersheds.

Posted Bob Rehak on 7/19/22

1785 Days since Hurricane Harvey