Rumors of a Ben’s Branch agreement between Bear Branch Trail Association, Friendswood and Harris County Flood Control District have circulated for weeks. On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, the deal became official when Diane Trautman, the Harris County Clerk, recorded the easement. Here is exactly what the easement does and doesn’t allow the various parties to do along Ben’s Branch.
49-Page Ben’s Branch Easement Finally Signed
The easement is like a contract that spells out the rights, obligations and limitations of each party.
Here is the complete text of the 49-page document. Below is a summary.
Bear Branch Trail Association Rights and Obligations
This is an agreement between three parties that modifies the original deed of gift between Friendswood and the Bear Branch Trail Association (BBTA).
- Gives Harris County Flood Control the right to operate in an area 100 feet wide, 50 feet on either side of the creek’s centerline.
- Retains the right to maintain and operate existing trails, bridges, low water crossings.
- May construct, install, maintain and operate new trails in the easement area as long as they don’t obstruct water flow, cause erosion or hinder HCFCD’s “de-snagging” efforts. De-snagging is the removal of trees that have fallen or are falling into the creek.
- Must share plans for new trails, bridges, etc. with HCFCD and HCFCD must approve them before any construction begins.
- Acknowledges that HCFCD equipment may damage trails and agrees not to hold HCFCD liable for repairs.
- Remains solely responsible for the safe condition and maintenance within the easement area and for repairs to any damage.
Harris County Flood Control Rights and Obligations
- Perform de-snagging operations related to flood control and drainage.
- Clear, cut, drop, stack and stockpile trees, shrubs, vines, and vegetation for the sole purpose of flood control.
- Grade and stabilize banks to protect against erosion and maintain drainage.
- Plant grass, or use rip rap or man-made materials to reduce bank erosion.
HCFCD can/will NOT:
- Widen, deepen, enlarge, straighten or smooth the channel in such a way as to increase channel capacity.
- Maintain or repair trails or bridges, but may repair erosion that threatens them.
HCFCD has no responsibility to repair or replace storm sewer outfalls or to repair erosion around them.
Friendswood Agrees to All of Above Plus…
Friendswood agrees to all of the above. Friendswood also agrees that the terms of the easement will not trigger the automatic reversion of ownership from BBTA to Friendswood that the original deed of gift specified.
John Hammond of Friendswood signed the easement on Monday, November 11, 2019.
Kathryn Palmer, president of BBTA signed it on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.
Diane Trautman, the Harris County Clerk signed and recorded it on November 13, 2019.
Roadblocks to Flood Control Maintenance Now Removed
This means that Flood Control can now begin de-snagging and other maintenance activities within 50 feet of either side of Ben’s Branch. The area affected lies between Woodland Hills Drive and Kingwood Drive.
North Park, Woodland Hills, Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway define the boundaries of BBTA.
Other community and commercial associations control the creek outside of those boundaries. But those areas are already channelized and maintained by HCFCD for the most part.
Note: Those who don’t live within these boundaries may be confused by the names. Ben’s Branch is the name of the creek that runs through Bear Branch Village, Kings Forest and Hunters Ridge. The Bear Branch Trail Association overlaps all three of the community associations, but technically has nothing to do with them. BBTA is solely responsible for the greenbelts and greenbelt trails. It has nothing to do with swimming pools or deed restrictions. This can differ in other parts of Kingwood.
Compromise Between Natural Aesthetics and Flood-Risk Reduction
Everyone should realize that this easement represents a compromise. Any loss of natural aesthetics is the price of reducing flood risk to their neighbors. The three parties worked on this for more than a year.
Parts of the greenbelt will be thinned out, but you shouldn’t see wholesale widening of the creek into a massive channel. As a consequence, people who live along the creek should realize that this doesn’t offer the highest degree of flood protection. But it does help protect both greenbelts and property owners much more than before.
St. Martha Catholic School, Kids In Action, and homes on either side of the creek that flooded should be optimistic about this agreement.
The densely forested nature of the preserve along each side of the creek will look less dense. However…
The Ben’s Branch greenbelt is a minimum of 300 feet wide. In most places, it’s 400-600 feet wide. And in some places, it measures as much as 800 feet wide. This agreement affects only 100-feet.
Thus, two-thirds to seven-eighths of the natural area will remain the way it looks now. That sounds like a reasonable price to pay for helping to protect neighbors and property values in the entire neighborhood.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/17/2019
810 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 59 since 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.