Tag Archive for: District E

Flickinger Provides Updates On Gates, Dredging, Northpark, More

City of Houston District E Council Member Fred Flickinger addressed a group of local executives at the Kingwood Country Club this morning. He covered a wide range of topics, both in his talk and during Q&A. They included the status of five flood-related topics for the Lake Houston Area:

  • New Gates for the Lake Houston Dam
  • Seasonal Lake Lowering
  • Additional dredging in Lake Houston
  • Kingwood Diversion Ditch expansion
  • Last weekend’s flooding on Northpark Drive
Flickinger addressing the Kingwood Executive Group at the Kingwood Country Club on 4/24/24

Floodgate Construction Could Start in ’25 or ’26

Within two sentences of standing up, Flickinger got straight to the subject of flooding and new, bigger floodgates for the Lake Houston Dam. He said, “Obviously, the big thing is getting additional gates. That is currently pending a FEMA review and approval.”

He continued, “We have about $150 million secured for those. Much of that has come via Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s office. Also the State, thanks to Representatives Dan Huberty and Charles Cunningham, and Dave Martin, my predecessor. Stephen Costello [the City’s Flood Czar] has also all done great work. They’ve all really done yeomen’s jobs getting money for the dam gates.”

Looking S. New gates will be built in the earthen portion of the dam to the left of the four small gates you see now.

“We’re looking at construction probably in late 2025 or sometime in 2026,” said Flickinger. “That’s obviously the biggest key to reducing flooding.”

Flickinger also said that he believes the current Mayor remains committed to the project.

Seasonal Lake Lowering

Regarding lowering Lakes Houston and Conroe, Flickinger said the City and SJRA have moved to an event-driven strategy rather than a seasonal one. Automatically lowering the level of Lake Conroe twice a year to reduce flood risk in the Lake Houston Area generated pushback from Lake Conroe residents.

For some time now, the politically divisive strategy has been replaced by an “as-needed” lake-lowering policy in one or both lakes depending on where and when rain falls.

However, the “as needed” policy requires precise forecasting. And several times lately, rain has shifted at the last minute. Ironically, that supports the need for bigger gates that release water faster. They can create extra storage in Lake Houston while still reducing the lead time needed, so forecasters can be absolutely certain of the need to lower the lake.

After all, that’s the drinking water supply for more than 2 million people. You don’t want to lower it needlessly if it won’t be refilled right away.

More Dredging on Tap

Flickinger next addressed the need for more dredging. He said that the City is currently removing another 800,000 yd³ of sediment between Kings Point and FM1960.

“Again, funding for that largely came from Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s office,” he said. “Some people in the government questioned whether that was Harvey-related sediment. But we got the funding! And dredging has started. So that’s a really good thing.”

Diversion Ditch/Walnut Lane Bridge

“The next issue with flooding,” said Flickinger, “is really the Kingwood Diversion Ditch.” The ditch cuts south from St. Martha’s Catholic Church to River Grove Park through the western portion of Kingwood.

“The Walnut Lane Bridge has about a fourth of the surface area below it that the Kingwood Drive and North Park Bridges have. Because of that, it works somewhat like a dam. Crenshaw just secured $4 million to address that, but we have got to have a cost/benefit ratio of one or greater, which will be a challenge. So, we’re working on that.”

Looking north along Diversion Ditch. Notice how it narrows under the Walnut Lane Bridge.

“And that money probably won’t become available for another six months. Hopefully, we can get that cost/benefit analysis to where we need it by then and use that money to rebuild the Walnut Lane Bridge. It’s a huge deal that affects Trailwood, Forest Cove, and even people who live along Bens Branch.”

“Part of the water from Ben’s branch is actually supposed to go to the lake via the Diversion Ditch,” said Flickinger. (That’s how the ditch got its name.) However, Flickinger noted that when the Diversion Ditch backs up, water goes down Bens Branch instead.

“And we’re getting more and more of that because of the development in Montgomery County…That’s part of why Kingwood High School flooded.”

Northpark Flooding

Last weekend, Northpark Drive flooded near the construction zone.

At the time, I conjectured that one or more of the drains may have been blocked. Flickinger revealed the cause this morning.

He said the drain was never tied into the new drainage system.

“It turns out that they had a change in foremen on the job, and one of the drains was not connected to the storm sewer.”

Houston City Council Member Fred Flickinger

“That is what caused that big fiasco. Now our office is going to contact the construction team every time we have a significant rain event and ask them to double check, so we don’t have any issues obstructing stormwater,” said Flickinger.

“Anytime you’ve got construction, there’s a certain amount of mess associated with it. But obviously, we don’t need somebody causing flooding by forgetting or blocking something.”

Looking E along Northpark on Sunday morning, 4/21/24 at area where drain was not tied in.

Before Flickinger had to leave for a meeting downtown, it became clear to everyone in the room that flooding was one of his primary concerns.

For someone who’s been in the job less than four months, he was very aware of the complex intricacies and interdependencies of the Lake Houston Area’s drainage problems. And that was very encouraging news!

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/24/24

2430 Days since Hurricane Harvey

City Will Lower Lake Houston Sunday in Advance of Heavy Rainfall

Houston District E City Council Member Fred Flickinger announced today that Houston Public Works will lower Lake Houston beginning Sunday afternoon. They expect to complete the lowering before rain starts on Monday. Houston Public Works is actively monitoring weather forecasts.

The National Weather Service has predicted 3-5+ inches of rainfall in our watershed beginning Monday through the coming week. A forecast of 3+ inches of rain triggers the opening of the Lake Houston Spillway Gates. 

Gates on Lake Houston. File photo of 2019 release.

Flickinger advises property owners along the lake secure their property, including patio and outdoor furniture.

The Gates will remain open to manage storm inflows until the inclement weather has moved out of our region.

Lake Houston is currently at 42.22 ft (normal pool is 42.4) and Lake Conroe is at 200.64 ft (normal pool is 201.

The City put the lake-lowering policy in place after Hurricane Harvey. It has saved many homes and businesses from flooding during many events since then. The City is even planning on adding additional floodgates to Lake Houston to lower water faster.

Monitor Current Weather Events

To monitor current Lake Houston water levels, visit www.coastalwaterauthority.org.

To see current levels for Lake Conroe you can visit www.sjra.net.

For up-to-the-second weather for your zip code, visit the National Weather Service. NWS published the warnings below on Sunday, 1/20/24.

From Weather.gov on 1/20/24. As of 9:45am.
From Weather.gov as of 1/20/24 at 3:30pm. Updated frequently.

More than the Lake Could Flood, So…

Please keep in mind that flash flooding, affecting roadways and inland neighborhoods, is also possible in this storm. That’s a separate issue. Most storm drains are designed to handle only an inch of rainfall per hour.

Stay weather aware and avoid roadways if possible during rain events. It only takes 6 inches of water to move a car. If you see rising water near a stream, bayou or underpass, always turn around, don’t drown.

For more information, please contact the District E office at (832) 393-3008 or via email at districte@houstontx.gov.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/20/24

2335 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Comcast Contractors Force Traffic Across Residents’ Lawns

Today, Comcast contractors occupied both sides of the street in front of my house. This blocked traffic, forcing motorists to drive onto my lawn and my neighbor’s lawn to get around them.

There were no traffic control signs. No warnings. No flag men. No supervisors. No one directing traffic. In fact, no one from the entire crew even seemed to be around … until I started taking pictures. Then I was swarmed.

Pictures of Incident Occurring around 11AM Today

Here’s what I found at the end of my driveway.

No room to park. No problem. New York chutzpah comes to Houston.

As we teach kids in driver’s ed, this is called “driving on the wrong side of the road.”

Police give tickets for it. It illustrates a cavalier attitude toward public safety. Not to mention contempt for the people Comcast hopes will someday buy its services.

But I guess Comcast doesn’t care. They had no supervisors onsite. If you don’t see it, you don’t have to report it.

The trailer contained pipe for the hydro-excavation truck in the background.
Opposite angle shows a second hydro-excavation truck. Noise from these trucks reached 96 decibels. Exposure to that level for more than 30 minutes is considered dangerous and can cause hearing loss.
When I asked the lady in this car not to drive on my lawn, she turned around. But other drivers just zoomed around me in frustration without stopping.

In fairness, when I told the Comcast contractors to move their trucks, they did. But it’s sad that I should have had to tell them. They had no name badges, no ID and offered no apology.

Had I not questioned the employees, I never would have known from the logos on their trucks that they were affiliated with Comcast.

The subcontractor blocking both sides of the street.

City Still Says It has Received No Comcast Complaints

Ironically, while I was downloading the images from my Nikon, I got an email from Jessica Beemer, Dave Martin’s Chief of Staff, saying yet again that the City had received NO COMPLAINTS re: Comcast. I responded, “Let me be the first then.”

Please follow these procedures if you see concerning behavior or experience damage from Comcast. The house you save could be your own. I reported this incident to multiple people in multiple places: the City, Comcast, Aspen, and Aspen’s parent Company.

No Warning Within 72-Hours

Our only warning that Team Comcast would be in the neighborhood was a door hanger delivered months ago. Those warnings are supposed to be within 72 hours.

Attention Comcast Shareholders

But in this case, Comcast was a loser, too. My neighbor was hosting a luncheon today for 25 people. Oops. Why alienate one potential customer when you can alienate 25 at once?

The neighbor and I haven’t been able to see if someone broke our irrigation systems yet because we’re still under a no watering ban due to the drought. But if they did break them, I think I’ll get angry.

Seriously though, what’s a sprinkler head and some ruts in your lawn compared to some of the horror stories I’ve heard. I talked to several people in Bear Branch with more than a quarter million dollars worth of sewer damage to their homes.

Another lady had her electricity cut. The resulting power surge knocked out a new heating/ac system, a computer, and a double oven. It also fried the circuits in her home.

The Comcast contractor said not to file a claim, that they would pay for it. A month later, they changed their minds and told her to file a claim with her own insurance company. Her insurance company asked, “Why did you wait a month?” Her insurance company also said it could take 1-2 years to work this out. Meanwhile, she’s paying CenterPoint $500 per month to run a temporary electric line to her house.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/3/2023

2257 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.

Flood Observations of Houston City Council District E Candidate Sam Cleveland

Sam Cleveland, a Houston Police Officer, started working in Kingwood the day Harvey made landfall two years ago. He is now running for City Council District E. Below are some of his observations on flooding, in part, based on his experience as a first responder.

The night of May 7th in Elm Grove Village

Reporting for Duty as Harvey Struck

Two years ago, almost to the day, I reported to Kingwood Police Station for duty at 07:00 am for my first day back after two days off.  That day was August 25, 2017, and it would become an event that would leave a lasting impact on our city. 

As we sat in roll call, we knew Hurricane Harvey would be making its appearance at some point during our shift. My day started off dry, then to light rain and eventually into heavy downpours.  As the day continued, I found myself increasingly active in rescue operations alongside other emergency responders and citizens alike. 

Lessons of Harvey

Over the next several days, it became painfully obvious that the city was not prepared to handle a disaster of this magnitude. To be honest, I’m not sure any amount of planning could have prepared us for what was coming. The issues we faced were far greater than what our current systems of flood control and emergency services were capable of handling. Harvey should have been a lesson to us all, and should have reminded us that nature is always in control. This catastrophic event should have also acted as an incentive to repair long neglected drainage systems throughout the city, find ways to increase detention systems and adjust current infrastructure to accommodate future needs.  

 Street Flooding on May 7th

On the evening of May 7th, I again found myself in a significant flood event that brought back memories of Harvey. I experienced the street flooding that made traveling impossible, the flooding of homes and asking myself, `What has changed since Harvey?’ As I was wading through thigh-high water, I noticed that water simply did not seem to be draining. I would expect to see some indication of a current flowing into the storm drains, but I saw nothing. As the water receded it became apparent that our existing infrastructure could not support the rainfall amounts that fell on that day. Roadways in Houston are essentially part of our drainage systems and should be viewed as such. When debris, organic or otherwise, falls into the roadway our drainage system runs the risk of backing up. Then, back up leads to flooding.    

Flooding a Multifaceted Problem

So what’s the point of this? Instead of looking at flooding as a singular issue, we should apply an objective view and find additional contributing factors that we can address through a more comprehensive proactive approach to flooding. Let’s look at flood control like a system and view everything as inter-related. Flooding involves more than just water, just as crime involves more than just an offender. Let’s look at what contributing factors are present in smaller flood events, just as much as we look at the conditions present in combating the catastrophic events. 

Contributing Factors to Street Flooding

In looking at the small rain events, we need to ask where our storm-drain backups come from. The answer might be more simplistic than we think. How often do we drive down a street in Kingwood and go to make a turn, only to be forced to creep out so we can see on-coming traffic? When was the last time you drove down the road and saw a dead tree toppled over or a yard crew blowing lawn clippings into a drain? Most importantly, prior to the May 7thfloods, when was the last time anyone of us saw basic service or maintenance being done to any of our rain water sewer systems?

Recommendations to Help Reduce Flooding

The catastrophic flooding that hit Kingwood during Harvey must be addressed by: adding gates to the dam on Lake Houston; dredging the river and mouth bar; and adding detention basins.  

I cannot help but wonder, however, about the condition of our drainage systems in this city. Are our drainage systems working as intended and designed? It has recently come to light that our sewage systems are in such poor condition that they are leaking raw sewage, leading to a consent decree that will ultimately cost the taxpayers around $2 billion. I question if our sewage lines are clogged or cracked, why should we not at least consider the possibility that our drainage system may be too?

We need to address the major issues: gates for Lake Houston, dredging of the lake, and additional detention basins.  The gates will allow for greater water flow, the dredging allows for proper conveyance and additional detention basins will help control run off and allow for our homes to stay dry during major flooding events. With that however, we must also focus ensuring our drainage systems work as intended.  This can be accomplished through regular and routine maintenance.

Need Greater Emphasis on Infrastructure, Maintenance

We need to face reality and that reality is that, for too long, we have ignored and neglected the infrastructure in this city.  We need to ask if the lack of investment into our infrastructure has led to a greater risk of flooding.  We need to focus on addressing those areas of neglect that have been allowed to increase the potential of significant flood events.

We need to focus on the neglect that impacts our ability to effectively and efficiently respond to significant flood events. We need to focus on keeping our medians and storm drains free from obstructions and ensure that proper and regular service is being given to the system that is designed to keep us dry. 

By Sam Cleveland, Candidate for Houston City Council District E

730 Days (2 years) since Hurricane Harvey inundated the Lake Houston Area