Tag Archive for: east end park

Preservation: A Natural, Low-Cost Form of Flood Mitigation

Most people think of Kingwood’s East End Park as a place to commune with nature. But it began as a natural, low-cost form of flood mitigation.

When Friendswood was building Kingwood, it toyed with the idea of building homes where the park now stands. Instead, it bequeathed the land to the Kingwood Service Association (KSA). KSA now maintains the property as a nature park for the benefit of all Kingwood residents. Leaving it natural also helps protect people from flooding.

Sometimes the best way to deal with the side effects of development is simply to preserve nature where flooding occurs most frequently. And it certainly occurs frequently along the East Fork of the San Jacinto River. In areas like these, parks provide a buffer. And that creates positive value while avoiding negative costs.

How Parks Create Positive Value

The main features offered in the 158-acre East End Park are tranquil, yet breathtaking views provided free of charge by Mother Nature. The park includes forests, wetlands, and natural meadows that provide food and habitat for wildlife. People often see families of deer munching on grass at the edge of the forests. Occasionally, visitors sight eagles, alligators, river otters, foxes, coyotes and bobcats.

KSA East End Park Poster. Photos by Bob Rehak.

Birders also find the park an urban wonderland. Forty-plus acres of tall grass meadows draw approximately 140 species of birds during the spring and fall migrations. Many of those are threatened or endangered. The Lake Houston Area Nature Club hosts birding tours here from September to May. They start at 7:30 AM from the parking lot at the east end of Kingwood Drive and usually last till about 10am.

Another major attraction of the park: spectacular sunrises most mornings.

East End Park at Sunrise by Dr. Charles Campbell.

Dr. Charles Campbell hikes several miles in the park each morning. He took the picture above not far from the main entrance at the east end of Kingwood Drive. He also took the one below at Otter Point.

Sunrise over Lake Houston from Kingwood’s East End Park at Otter Point. By Dr. Charles Campbell.

The park draws an estimated 100,000 visitors per year, but it rarely seems crowded because the visitors disperse among dense forests along 5+ miles of trails throughout the day.

East End Park is an exceptional amenity for Kingwood residents, gifted to all by a visionary developer. Was it totally selfless? Of course not. Nationally, research shows that proximity to parks can increase home values up to 20%. In short, people like parks.

Also Consider Cost Avoidance of Preservation

During Harvey, the entire park went underwater. Most of it also went underwater during the Tax Day, Memorial Day, and Imelda storms. Can you imagine what would have happened had Friendswood built homes here?

There would have been tens of millions of dollars in damages, losses to taxpayer-subsidized flood insurance, disaster relief funds, and the overhead of a bureaucracy to administer aid. Buyouts and demolition would have been required. Flood mitigation in the form of channels and detention basins would have cost tens of millions more. And all the positive values would have been lost.

But by just leaving it natural, we collectively saved all those personal and public expenses. We also created a beautiful “people magnet” that sustains home values instead of undermining them. Trail repair costs after Harvey totaled only $60,000.

That’s less than the cost to repair one average home flooded to a depth of a foot or more. And that’s the value of preservation – the natural, low-cost form of flood mitigation.

Sometimes we need to learn to just let nature be.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/18/22 with thanks to Dr. Charles Campbell

1815 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Endangered Species Spotted in Kingwood’s East End Park

Natural buffers of green space between rivers and residents are one of the best ways to reduce flooding. And they come with side benefits! Like occasionally spotting endangered species.

Ken and Debbie Beeney are avid birders who frequent Kingwood’s East End Park, where they have helped document more than 140 species of birds, many of them rare, threatened, or even endangered – such as the Henslow’s Sparrow. The presence of such species helps indicate the environmental health of a community. And on that score, Kingwood is doing well, indeed.

History of East End Park

Back in the 1980s, Friendswood Development had hoped to build another subdivision in the area of East End Park. But because of wetland issues, the EPA issued a “cease and desist” order in 1988. The developer then donated East End Park to the Kingwood Service Association (KSA) to turn it into a community amenity.

The dirt from the streets Friendswood cut in Kings Point built up the area that has now a 43-acre tall-grass meadow within the larger 158-acre nature park bordering the San Jacinto East Fork.

Representative scenes from East End Park. The park has 5.5 miles of trails and boardwalks.

Fast Forward 33 Years

In addition to providing hiking and jogging trails, the park provides a refuge for migrating birds. In winter, the grass goes to seed and the birds use that as a fly-through buffet.

Part of East End Park from the air. Lower meadow in center.

After consulting with the Houston Audubon Society and the Lake Houston Area nature club, KSA decided to mow the meadow each year after the spring migration. Mowing helps prevent the forest from encroaching on the meadow. The timing also allows the tall grass to regrow and reseed before the fall migration. That helps preserve a healthy supply of seed and cover that attracts all those species.

Beeney Photographs Henslow’s Sparrow

The Beeneys, who are members of the Lake Houston Area Nature Club, write, “Could you please extend our thanks and gratitude to KSA for timing the mowing of the meadow to accommodate the wintering birds who need this type of habitat.”

Endangered Henslow’s Sparrow photographed in Kingwood’s East End Park on January 9, 2021, by Ken and Debbie Beeney.

“Saturday January 9th, we spotted a rare bird, the Henslow’s sparrow.  This is the first observed Henslow’s at East End Park. Henslow’s is listed as an endangered species in Canada. Additionally, seven U.S. states have listed Henslow’s Sparrow as endangered, five have listed it as threatened, and four have listed it as a species of Special Concern. Grassland conservation efforts have been responsible for the reversal of some long-term declines among local populations of this species.”

“Our bird walks in December and January have yielded high numbers of sparrows in the grassy meadow.  Species include; LeConte’s, Chipping, Savannah and Swamp Sparrows. The overwintering sparrows need the tall grasses for protection from predators and as a food source.”

Regards, Ken and Debbie Beeney

Park Has Many Values

In addition, to attracting wildlife, areas such as East End Park attract people. East End is one of the busiest parks in Kingwood. The Lake Houston Area Nature Club meets there at 7:30 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month from September through May for guided nature walks.

The park helps PROTECT wildlife. But we shouldn’t forget that it also provides a valuable amenity for residents and protects homes from flooding. During Harvey and Imelda, the ENTIRE park went underwater. Can you imagine if Friendswood had built homes there!

Ultimately, the donation by Friendswood let them salvage some value out of the land by improving home values in the rest of Kingwood. This should be a valuable lesson for all developers as areas upstream start to develop.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/16/2021 with thanks to KSA, Ken Beeney and Debbie Beeney

1236 Days since Hurricane Harvey

East End Park from the Air: A Wetlands Success Story

One of the most beautiful parts of Kingwood also helps protect the area from flooding: East End Park. If you’ve never seen it, you should. The park comprises 158 acres and contains about five miles of nature trails. With the help of boardwalks, the trails wind through wetlands that form the perimeter of the park.

Those wetlands help slow runoff during storms. And the park itself puts distance and elevation between the East Fork of the San Jacinto and the nearest homes.

Park Almost Became Another Subdivision During 1980s

The park was not always destined to become a park. Originally Friendswood Development wanted to build another subdivision where the park is now. As Friendswood cut streets in nearby Kings Point, they dumped the extra dirt in what is now the park’s giant meadow. That’s why it’s so much higher than surrounding wetlands.

These meadows comprise approximately 45 acres of tall grass, an abundant food source for migrating birds.
Looking south. The East Fork San Jacinto is on the left. Sand damage from Harvey and Imelda at Eagle Point is in the foreground. Birdhouses once 10-feet up on trees are now at ankle height.
Looking west from the north side of the park on the left. The East Fork (out of frame to the right) and Caney Creek converge at East End Park’s Eagle Point. Also to the right is the 5000-acre Lake Houston Nature Park.
Looking south again. The East Fork on the left empties into Lake Houston in background. Trails border the river within the trees.

But in 1988, the EPA issued a cease and desist order because they were jeopardizing the wetlands. Blocked from further development, Friendswood tried to turn a problem into an amenity that could add value to homebuyers. The company donated the land to the Kingwood Service Association to own and operate as a park for the benefit of all Kingwood residents.

Development as Nature Park in 2000s

Not much happened with the park for about a decade. Then KSA, with the help of volunteer groups, like the Boy Scouts, started building a small trail network, mostly on the north side of the park.

Around 2000, KSA debated the future of the remainder of the park. Should they turn it into more sports fields? Or keep it a nature park? The nature park faction won out. And for the next fifteen years, KSA slowly built new trails and improved old ones as money became available.

Birder’s Wonderland

The Lake Houston Nature Club has documented approximately 150 species of birds in the park, some threatened or endangered. In season, birders seem everywhere. Migrating birds munch on the abundant tall grass which seems to go to seed just in time for the migration.

In the park, I’ve spotted everything from painted buntings to majestic bald eagles. In fact, part of the park is named Eagle Point because of the frequent eagle sightings there.

Healing Power of Nature

Shortly after KSA put in the Eagle Point Trail, I encountered a man sitting in the same place on the river bank day after day. I asked him what his attraction was to that particular place. He said that it helped him heal. I asked if he wanted to explain that. He said he was undergoing treatment for cancer and the the beauty gave him the will to go on living. I suspect he’s not the only one who has found sustenance in nature there.

One often sees families walking with young children there. I also suspect kids learn to translate the love they feel from parents on such walks into a lifelong love of nature.

Living Lessons

Sadly both Harvey and Imelda completely inundated the park. Eagle Point became covered with 10-15 feet of sand which killed many of the trees there and filled in some of the wetlands. Regardless, the park remains a natural gem and a living lesson about the cycles of nature.

The pictures below show some of the natural beauty. To get to the park, take Kingwood Drive east until you run out of road. You can see the park entrance from the parking lot.

East End Park poster.
Sunrise over Lake Houston from Kingwood’s East End Park at Otter Point. By Dr. Charles Campbell.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/8/2020

1168 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 416 since Imelda

New Phase of East Fork Cleanup Begins

Last week, cleanup pontoons motored up and down the East Fork and its tributaries near East End Park in Kingwood. Giant claws mounted on the pontoons plucked downed trees and branches out of the water and off the shoreline. It was all part of a continuing effort by the City of Houston to remove debris that contributes to flooding.

Photo Courtesy of Dee Price. Taken at East End Park where Peach Creek, Caney Creek and East Fork all come together.

Stopping Beaver Dams Before They Start

During floods, the downed trees get swept downstream. They form “beaver dams” that back water up when the debris hangs up on other trees, boat docks, bridges and the Lake Houston dam itself. Removing the debris lowers the risk of flooding and damage.

During Harvey, such debris gathered in supports of the Union Pacific Bridge over the west fork, where it contributed to flooding in Humble.

Union Pacific Bridge immediately after Harvey. Photo Courtesy of David Seitzinger.
Donna Dewhirst’s boat dock received a 70-foot surprise during Harvey.
Rail bridge over Lake Houston after Harvey. Photo courtesy of Donna Dewhirst.
Logs collect at Lake Houston Spillway. Photo taken on 6/16/2020.

Improving Boater Safety

The debris pickup also improves boating safety when lake and rivers are low. Submerged trees can injure and kill boaters and water skiers.

Semi-submerged trees in Lake Houston just north of FM1960 Bridge. Photo taken March 6, 2020.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/21/2020

1028 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Erosion: Sometimes Sudden

Erosion can sometimes be sudden. It’s not always a slow process of water grinding away at dirt and dissolving it, or wearing down rocks. This post will examine several examples around us and look at their implications. I intend it as a continuation of yesterday’s post about ditch maintenance.

The Northpark Woods development (right) on the West Fork San Jacinto River (background)

There are four main types of erosion.

  • Hydraulic action – When rapidly moving water churns against river banks and scours or undermines them.
  • Abrasion – Caused by small pebbles moving along a river bank or bed and knocking other particles loose. Think of sandpaper.
  • Attrition – When rocks carried by the river knock against each other. They break apart to become smaller and more rounded. This is how boulders turn into gravel.
  • Solution – When water dissolves certain types of rocks, for example limestone. We often see this in Florida, where sinkholes frequently develop.

Most of these processes happen slowly. But the first can be sudden. One storm. One flood. And boom. That river bank where you used to sit and quietly contemplate nature is gone.

Now You See It; Now You Don’t

Sometimes large slabs of a river bank or ditch suddenly slump into a river, almost like mini landslides. One flood expert commented on the picture above; he said “The owners of those new homes may suddenly find the ditch in their backyards.”

At other times, the size of a flood forces a river to widen. We saw this during Harvey and Imelda. The relentless pounding of flood waters carries away everything in their path. Cutbanks (the outside of a river bend) are especially vulnerable. Water slams directly into them like a firehose and washes them away. This action actually changes the course of a river over time.

Most of the time, it happens so slowly, we barely notice it. But during large floods, it’s sometimes sudden, large, and devastating to homeowners or businesses near rivers.

Three More Examples of Hydraulic Action

Example A: East End Park
East End Park in Kingwood. In 2019, the San Jacinto East Fork removed approximately 50-100 feet of river bank during Imelda, including this part of the Overlook Trail.
Example B: Balcom House and River Migration
Note a long peninsula south of the Balcom House on the San Jacinto West Fork before Hurricane Harvey.
After one monster storm, the peninsula was gone. The Balcoms lost 175 feet of riverfront property.
Example C: River Aggregate Mine on West Fork in Porter

The third example comes from the abandoned River Aggregates sand mine beyond the new development in the first picture above. It’s a spectacular example of river migration.

In this case, the San Jacinto West Fork migrated 258 feet toward the mine’s dike in 23 years. When I first photographed the dike after Harvey, the river had eaten away an average of 12.4 feet per year. At the time, the dike was only 38 feet wide, and I predicted it could soon fail. It did. Within approximately a year.

Image taken on 9/14/2017, shortly after Hurricane Harvey. At the time, only 38 feet stood between the abandoned mine in the background that the San Jacinto west fork in the foreground.
Note how the pond in the foreground disappeared when the river took the last 38 feet of river bank.

Wait a minute, you say! What happened to the pond. After the river bank collapsed, the pond drained, exposing sediment already within it. And the action of draining concentrated more sediment in it, like all the remnants of food trapped in your sink drain after you’re done washing dishes.

History of Pond

The missing, shallow pond in the foreground above used to be the settling pond for River Aggregates.

This satellite image from 2004 shows that River Aggregates used the missing pond as a settling pond.
This is how the mine looked in 2017 after River Aggregates abandoned it. Note river bank is still intact.
This is how the abandoned mine looked in January of 2019. The river bank was gone. The pond had drained. And a steady stream of silty water from other ponds leaked into the West Fork.

Here’s how it looks today from a helicopter.

River Aggregates mine now leaks a steady stream of silty water into the West Fork San Jacinto. This is the same area as above, but from the reverse angle.

Lessons of Life Near a River

Most people never live long enough to see massive changes such as these in rivers. In most places, river change happens on a geologic time scale. But along the Gulf Coast, hurricanes can create floods that make rivers change on a human time scale, as these examples have shown.

What can we deduce from this?

  1. Around here, we need to give rivers room to roam. Parks, green spaces, and golf courses, often represent the highest and best use of land near a river, bayou or ditch.
  2. Building too close to rivers, bayous and drainage ditches can be costly. Disturbing wetlands and topsoil accelerates erosion. That, in turn, can threaten everything in its path. Be prepared to maintain anything you build near a watercourse, including the watercourse itself. And be prepared to fight what ultimately becomes a losing battle.
  3. We need greater separation between mines and the San Jacinto riverKeep mines out of the meander belt. They worsen downstream sedimentation. And as we have seen, that can contribute to sediment build ups that require public money to remove. The alternative, leaving them in place, contributes to flooding.

Here’s a current list of ditch maintenance projects in the Kingwood area.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/18/2020

993 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.

KSA’s Christmas Present to Kingwood: A Beautifully Restored East End Park

Just in time for Christmas, East End Park is back and beautifully restored. KSA has resurfaced the entire trail network with crushed granite; repaired the boardwalks; repainted or power-washed the benches and picnic tables; restored the parking lot; and improved the entry.

Contractors mowed the meadows earlier in the fall and the tall grass has returned with a bumper crop of seed. The seed has attracted wintering birds. And deer abound…especially early and late in the day.

The park has not looked this good since KSA built out the trail network a decade ago (see poster below).

I walked for an hour and a half there this afternoon. It felt serene, tranquil, and rejuvenating. The low winter sun wrapped colorful leaves in golden sunlight. At one point, I met a father pulling his daughter in a wagon. They had stopped to watch a doe grazing in the woods. It all felt…so…perfect.

Father and daughter spotted a doe grazing in the woods at East End Park. Photo taken today.

Back from the Brink

Three major storms destroyed East End Park three times in rapid succession. Hurricane Harvey, the May floods this year, and then Tropical Storm Imelda each took a heavy toll. Harvey buried Eagle Point under 15 feet of sand. And Imelda added even more, but over a much wider area.

Because of repeated and costly damage to Eagle Point and the difficulty of building trails over loose sand, KSA intends to leave that trail natural for now. KSA may consider building an alternative trail on higher ground next year. If you venture into that part of the park, heed the warning signs. And above all, stay back from the shoreline. Imelda undercut it badly. Cave-ins have happened at several points. Imelda also severed a small portion of the Overlook Trail where 50 feet of the shoreline eroded overnight. Walk-arounds exist in both cases.

The Most Beautiful Part of the Most Beautiful Part of Houston

Bring the family out for a walk on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. In my humble opinion, East End Park is the most beautiful part of the most beautiful part of Houston – Kingwood. It’s hard to believe that a natural area this beautiful could exist inside the nation’s fourth largest city. But it does. Make it a part of your family’s holidays.

KSA has restored East End Park trails and boardwalks to their pre-Harvey, pre-May 7th, pre-Imelda state. Nature is restoring the rest.

Posted by Bob Rehak on December 24, 2019 with thanks to Dee Price, Chris Manthei, Mary Ann Fortson, KAM, Ira Guel, Bruce Casto and the entire KSA Parks Committee for their tireless support

847 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 96 since Imelda

East Fork Water Shockingly Clear with Mines Closed

The attorney general has had production at the Triple PG mine on Caney Creek shut down and the breaches in the mine’s dikes closed since early November. Also, the Texas Concrete mine in Plum Grove on the East Fork closed. And the TCEQ is forcing them to fix breaches and replant exposed areas before abandoning the mine. It could just be a coincidence, but water clarity on the East Fork and Caney Creek have improved to a shocking degree with both of the major mines out of action. See below. Said Kingwood resident John Knoerzer, “This is the clearest I’ve ever seen the East Fork.”

Photo taken by John Knoerzer on East Fork at East End Park on 12/20/2019.

It’s not Cozumel, but it’s far better than the opaque brown liquid we had.

Return of Eagles

Resident Josh Alberson reports that he’s seen cormorants, pelicans and bald eagles return to the East Fork and Caney Creek. “They were feasting on the white bass.” Says Alberson, “Last Sunday, we saw more birds than we had every seen working. It was National Geographic worthy, but I couldn’t get close enough to get any quality pics or video.” He attributes all the birds to both the bass and the clarity of the water. “It helps the birds spot the prey,” he says.

Only problem: there’s so much sand in Caney Creek that it’s hard to boat upstream. Josh Alberson informs me that his jet boat got stuck on a giant sand bar immediately downstream from the Triple PG mine. Boats with propellers can’t get through at all, he says.

Please Help Document Wildlife and Water Clarity

It seems to me that this change, if it is permanent, is important to document. Any boaters or jet skiers who can make it upstream, please send pics through the submissions page on this web site.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/21/2019

844 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 93 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.

A Moment of Tranquil Splendor at Otter Point

Dr. Charlie Campbell, a master of functional medicine, jogs 22 miles a week in East End Park. He tries to time his jogs so that he arrives at Otter Point every morning for moments like this.

Sunrise at Otter Point by Dr. Charles Campbell. Used with permission.

If that won’t make you feel good, you’re a spiritual crustacean.

Years ago, I remember meeting a man meditating at Otter Point almost every day. I asked him what he found in it. He told me his story. The man was on chemo, fighting cancer. He said that the natural beauty gave him sustenance and the will to keep on fighting.

East End Park does that for many people in many different ways. Especially Otter Point. Whether you’re a cancer survivor or a flood survivor. If you’re not familiar with the park and the place, you should be. They are rare ecological gems inside the fourth largest city in the country. And something worth fighting FOR.

This is why we live here.

Trail repairs from Imelda are underway now and should be complete soon.

As a postscript to this story, Dr. Campbell sent me another picture taken this morning.

Photo by Dr. Charles Campbell, used with permission.

If you want to get your kids interested in physics, ask them why sunrises and sunsets are red. Here’s the answer.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/21/2019, with thanks to Dr. Campbell and Mother Nature

814 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 63 since Imelda

One Bright Spot of Imelda

While Imelda brought untold heartache and suffering to hundreds, it did have one bright spot.

Shortly before Imelda, KSA had the meadows mowed in East End Park. Since then, thanks to the heavy rains, a bumper crop of fresh new green grass has attracted large numbers of deer. The grass is already knee high. On my evening walk in the park tonight, we circled the large meadow and saw more deer than I have ever seen in one place in 35 years of living in Kingwood. We counted a total of four families and twenty deer in total: bucks, does, and fawns.

The best time for viewing deer, if you are so inclined, is near sunset.

Video courtesy of John Knoezer. Deer are pretty skittish. You probably won’t get closer to them than 20 or 30 yards. But it’s inspiring to watch such graceful creatures, even from a distance. Bring binoculars for the best viewing. Many deer will remain near the edge of the meadow where they can retreat into the forest if they feel threatened.

Why KSA Mows the Meadows

KSA mows the meadows occasionally to discourage the spread of invasive species and halt the spread of the forests into meadow areas. The meadows also provide grass seed for migrating species of birds in the fall and spring.

Even though KSA got a late start mowing this year, heavy rains from Imelda made the grass grow quickly. It has already started going to seed, ensuring that migrating birds will have a satisfying rest stop and that birders will have have one of the best seasons ever.

The deer this year? Purely a bonus.

Meadow Trails Still Passable

While flood waters destroyed trails and wetlands in other parts of the park, the main meadow near Kingwood Drive seems to have benefited. Meadow trails are still passable unlike other trails. And at sunset there is a refreshing breeze that seems to keep mosquitos away.

Three of 20 deer spotted in East End Park’s main meadow near sunset on 10/9/2019. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/9/2019

771 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 20 since Imelda

More Breaches Discovered at Triple PG Sand Mine; Implications for East Fork Flooding

The Triple PG Sand Mine on Hueni Road in Porter breached its dikes during Imelda in more places than originally observed. Despite the breaches still being open, and despite multiple investigations into the mine’s operations, the mine resumed business today. Trucks went in and out all afternoon. At the end of this post, I will discuss some of the implications of these multiple breaches and their possible contribution to flooded homes.

Second Flyover Reveals More Breaches

During my initial helicopter flyover on 9/28/19, I could only observe three breaches in the Triple PG Sand Mine dikes because of inclement weather. On a second flyover on 10/2/19, I observed several more. Other people discovered several more from the ground or boat.

Here’s what I saw from the air and ground. These pictures have been sent to State Representative Dan Huberty, the TCEQ and the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the Department of Labor. The TCEQ forwarded them to the Attorney General’s office.

Below: the approximate locations of breaches for orientation purposes. All aerial photos taken on 10/2/19.

Approximate locations of eight breaches in the Porter Triple PG mine during Imelda.

Breach #1

Partial breach along Caney Creek in the northern section of the mine, looking south toward the mine’s ponds.

Breach #2

Another pond in the far northern area shows evidence of a breach and severe erosion. This shot looks northwest.

Breach #3

Looking NW from over the main dike that separates the main part of the mine from the northern area. The dike cuts from the upper left toward lower right and has a massive breach. The angle of the downed trees suggests that Caney Creek overflowed on the north, swept through all the ponds to the north and then broke into the mine through this breach.

Breach #4

Partial breach. Hovering over Caney Creek in the foreground, looking west into the pit.

Breach #5

Hovering over Caney Creek in the foreground, looking west into the pit. This breach was opened in May and never closed properly.
Same breach, but photographed from the reverse angle. Hovering over the pit, looking east toward Caney Creek.

Breach #6

The southern dike of the mine is behind these trees. It obviously didn’t hold back water sweeping through the mine. It pushed these fences in from the north toward the south. Photo taken 10/6/19.
Many homes immediately below the mine flooded also. The so-called dike that runs along the southern edge of the mine is really flush with the ground level in this area. Photo taken 10/6/19.

Breach #7

Hovering over the pit looking toward the west dike of the mine and White Oak Creek, which breached into the mine.
Reverse shot. Looking east into the mine from over White Oak Creek.

Breach #8

The mine’s main stockpile sits on the western side of the mine. Rain seems to have washed much of it into the creek below the dike.

Direction of Flow

Note additional erosion to main stockpile. It sits at the confluence of two floodways: Caney Creek’s and White Oak Creek’s. You can see the influence of those two creeks in the erosion. This shot faces west. Caney Creek came in from the north (right to left). White Oak Creek came in from the west (top middle to left middle). Note the sand pushed up against the building. See close up below.
Sand pushed up against northern edge of building indicates the main flow came from the north…Caney Creek.

Sand Clogging River

Much sand now clogs the river that wasn’t there before Imelda. No doubt, some sand came from river bed and bank erosion. But it’s hard to believe that none of it came from the Triple PG Sand Mine, which sits in two floodways and whose dikes breached in at least eight places.

The shot below looks across the northeastern section of Riverchase. Many homes flooded in this area. When you look at the river, you can see a possible contributing factor: giant sand bars that consume two-thirds of the width of the river.

The breaches, the sand clogging the river, and the flooded homes all argue for moving mines back farther from rivers. Texas is the only state that has no minimum setbacks for mines. During Imelda, the East Fork and its residents paid the price for that policy.

Northeastern Riverchase, where several homes flooded near the river. Note giant sand bars just beyond the trees. Residents have commented on all the sand in streets. East End Park lies to the right of the giant bar. It also suffered from massive sanding during Imelda, in the area immediately opposite the bar.
A reverse shot of this bar shows that it is not only wide and long but tall. It reaches into treetops. The helicopter was hovering over East End Park for this shot and the camera is looking north.

Altogether, I took almost a thousand shots from the air last Wednesday along the East Fork between 99 and Lake Houston and from Lake Houston up the West Fork to the Woodlands. More findings in future posts.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/6/2019 with help from Josh Alberson and Charlie Fahrmeier

768 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 17 since Imelda.

All thoughts in this post represent my opinions on matters of public interest and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.