Tag Archive for: east fork

Swollen San Jacinto East and West Forks Sweep Through Sand Mines

As floodwaters worked their way down the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto from last week’s heavy rains, they invaded sand mines on both rivers on Easter Sunday, 2023.

Up to 9 inches of rain fell in the headwaters of both rivers during 3 days from 4/5 to 4/7. Atlas-14 rainfall probability statistics indicate that equals a 5-year rain.

The Lake Conroe Dam intercepted much of the West Fork rain and is now releasing it at about 6400 cubic feet per second. There are no dams on the East Fork and the flooding there appears much worse.

West Fork Near Northpark South Development

Near the Northpark South Development on Sorters Road, the West Fork snakes its way through four square miles of sand mines. In the image below, the Hallett Mine on the right seemed secure. But the abandoned sand mines on the left and top center both opened to the river.

Photo taken 4/9/2023 two days after rain stopped.

East Fork Near FM2090 on 4/9/2023

Normally, the East Fork at 2090 is about 30-40 feet wide – the size of the opening in the woods circled in red below. But today, the river swelled to about 2000 feet wide.

Looking south from over East Fork San Jacinto toward FM2090.
Looking East along FM2090 across the East Fork.

As the East Fork rose, it invaded the abandoned Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Mine in Plum Grove.

Abandoned Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Plum Grove Mine north of FM2090 between East Fork and FM1010

Water entered the northern end, swept through the mine, and punched through the dikes on the southern end, carrying silt and sand with it. See sequence of pictures below.

Looking N toward northern end of mine. Water entered mine in upper left and cut off house.
Water then swept under and around house moving south.
Looking S. The water then exited back into the river through several breaches in dikes.
Rushing water carrying silt and sand found two more breaches close to 2090. Left unchecked, the force of this water will eventually erode the banks of FM2090.
Baptist Church Loop Road south of FM2090 was also underwater.

Mine Fails to Meet Guidelines for Abandonment

This mine does not meet TCEQ guidelines for abandonment. The miners left equipment, including a dredge. They also failed to grade stockpiles, remove buildings, and plant grass. Yet somehow, the TCEQ gave them a pass.

This is the second time in less than two years that this mine has been inundated. The public will bear the cost of dredging all the sand carried downriver.

Ironically, a bill introduced by State Rep. Charles Cunningham requiring financial surety for sand mine reclamation remains bottled up in the House Natural Resources Committee. See HB1093.

I guess the miners need the money more than you do.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/9/2023

2049 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.

February East Fork Mouth Bar Dredging Update

Since last month, dredgers have removed one island and have started on another in the massive complex of sand bars laid down during Harvey and Imelda on the San Jacinto East Fork where it meets Lake Houston.

Current Location

Another island in the San Jacinto East Fork Mouth Bar complex.
Another island in the San Jacinto East Fork Mouth Bar complex is being dredged away. Photo taken on Sunday afternoon, 2/20/22. Looking downstream toward Lake Houston.

The sand bar already eliminated was toward the top and left side of the frame above. It stretched almost 2000 feet.

Now dredgers are focusing on the giant bar in the middle above.

Mouth Bar Complex in 2020 Before Start of Dredging

The shot below, taken from the opposite direction, helps put things in perspective.

East Fork Mouth Bar
Looking upstream at the East Fork Mouth Bar complex in March 2020 before dredging. The bar dredgers already eliminated is the bright white one in the foreground. Now they’re working on the one farther upriver and to the left.

More Current Shots Taken Today

East Fork Mouth Bar Complex
Looking NE at dredging in the East Fork Mouth Bar Complex. It looks like they may have started here and moved elsewhere for some reason. Photo taken 2/20/22.
This shot more than the others, gives one a feeling for the immensity of the task.

Long Range Dredging Plan

The City of Houston’s purchasing website does not indicate whether the City has yet awarded the project to develop a long range dredging plan. Last month, the purchasing agent for the City, Bridget Cormier, stated that “The City has not yet made a decision, nor a recommendation for award yet.” She explained, “We are still in the evaluation phase and have requested additional information from suppliers that moved forward in the process.” 

It took three months just for contractors to dredge their way through the Royal Shores channel to get to East Fork (July, August, September 2021). East Fork dredging started in October last year. Spoils are currently being ferried back to land south of the West Fork, opposite River Grove Park. There it dries before TexDoT hauls it away for use in roadbuilding.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/20/2022

1636 Days since Hurricane Harvey

San Jacinto East Fork Dredging Begins

This morning, for the first time, I photographed dredging on the San Jacinto East Fork. It was a welcome site and one that hundreds of East Fork residents who flooded will appreciate.

Three Months After Plans Unveiled

It was back on July 9, 2021, that Stephen Costello, the City’s Chief Recovery Officer, unveiled the City’s plans to begin East Fork dredging. At the time, Costello said crews would have to dredge their way there through a shallow channel south of Royal Shores in Kingwood.

On July 11, I first photographed dredging in the channel.

On September 23rd, I photographed crews about three quarters of the way through the channel.

Finally, today, October 12, three months later, I photographed a barge moving straight through the channel and into the East Fork. I even had to move locations a couple time to keep the drone within range.

Drone Photos of East Fork Dredging from 10/12/2021

Two mechanical dredges on East Fork, just upstream from the entrance to Luce Bayou.
Today’s dredging location circled in red. Arrow points way back to where crews are depositing the spoils on the West Fork just south of River Grove Park.
Tug pushing empty pontoon through Royal Shores Channel toward East Fork (top). Looking SE. Note FM1960 Causeway in upper right.
Looking NE toward Luce Bayou on opposite shore to begin Dredging
Empty barge turns NNE. East Fork dredging location is around the finger that sticks out into the river from the upper left. After loading up with silt and sediment, the barge will return to the West Fork to deposit the spoils.

More Dredging $$$ Voted by Commissioners Today

This morning, in Harris County Commissioners Court, Agenda Item 102 passed unanimously without discussion. The motion will contribute $10 million from the Harris County 2018 flood bond funds to extend the dredging on the East Fork, West Fork, and Lake Houston, including the entrance to Rogers Gully.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/12/2021

1505 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 756 since Imelda

FM1485: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I took this picture on May 26, 2021. It shows TxDOT construction of the new State Highway 99 (Grand Parkway) next to FM1485 in New Caney. The picture looks northeast toward Colony Ridge in Liberty County. The East Fork of the San Jacinto River flows under both bridges toward Lake Houston on the right.

Looking east toward Colony Ridge across FM1485 and the East Fork. Water flows left to right.

Note the huge backup of water trying to get under the FM1485 bridge. Also note how much taller and wider the new bridge is compared to the old one.

How Much Rainfall Caused This?

Here is rainfall for the month of May as measured by the Harris County Flood Control District Gage at this location.

The Harris County Flood Warning System shows that the largest rainfall for the month was 2.28 inches TWO days before the photo. But the ground was clearly saturated from steady, moderate rains the week before.

The gage upstream at FM2090 shows slightly more rain. It reported 14 inches for the month instead of 11, but it received exactly 2.28 inches on the same day this gage did. While 2+ inches in a day is substantial, few in this part of the world would consider it excessive – especially since it was spread out over 5 hours.

Likewise, according to Atlas-14 standards, the rain that fell in the week before would qualify as a 1- to 2-year rain – notable, but not historic.

Note the 7-day rainfall totals in columns 1 and 2.

Submerged 41 Times in 32 years

And after consulting Harris County Flood Control District records, I learned that FM1485 has gone under water 41 times since 1990 – an average of 1.32 times per year.

The East Fork came out of its banks and flooded this area twice in the week before the picture was taken.

Rainfall data, road flooding frequency and the photo all suggest that a 1- to 2-year rain is enough to flood FM1485.

What Should a Roadway over a Major River Withstand?

Yet the TxDOT standard suggests that such minor arterials and bridges over a major river crossing be built to withstand 25- to 50-year floods. Oops!

Obviously TxDOT built a much higher road and a much wider, taller bridge for its new highway. The new one is approximately five times wider than the old one. Construction standards for major highways could account for that. But so could TxDOT’s experience with FM1485.

So What’s Going on Here?

Why did TxDOT make the new bridge so much wider and taller?

  • Did TxDOT just get the engineering wrong on the old bridge?
  • Did bridge standards change over time?
  • Do state highways have higher standards than farm-to-market roads?
  • Did Atlas-14 increase the risk?
  • Did upstream development, such as Colony Ridge, alter the hydraulics of the watershed when the developer paved over wetlands and deforested thousands of acres while providing little detention-pond capacity?
  • Did the mischaracterization of soil types in Colony Ridge lead to more runoff than anticipated?
  • All of the above?
  • Some of the above?

Jeff Lindner, Harris County’s meteorologist, cautions that, “Water surface elevations depend on many variables…rainfall patterns, intensity, soil conditions, water level in the river when the rain started, ect. It is usually difficult to compare events as no two are exactly alike. You really need a hydrological analysis of the location to determine the amount of run-off from that site into the river per an amount of rainfall.”

Good luck with that! More than six months after the Liberty County Attorney launched an investigation into Colony Ridge drainage reports, we still are waiting for answers.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/15/2021

1415 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

Floodwaters Converging Downstream on Lake Houston

As of Monday morning, the threat to Lake Conroe had passed, but now floodwaters from the rain soaked northwestern portion of the region are converging on Lake Houston. Here’s a roundup of what’s happening where.

Lake Conroe Going Down

The San Jacinto River Authority reduced its discharge rate to from 9275 cubic feet per second (CFS) to 8120 CFS as the level of Lake Conroe continued to recede, but the West Fork came out of its banks at US 59. The West Fork also began flooding Kingwood’s River Grove Park and the abandoned Noxxe Oil Fields between the river and the Forest Cove Little League Fields.

As of 5:09 pm on 5/3/2021

Lake Conroe Re-Opening With Caution

The SJRA issued a press release at 10:15 am. stating that Lake Conroe will reopen to normal lake traffic at noon Monday, May 3. However, boaters are still urged to use extreme caution due to floating debris and submerged objects that may not be fully visible. With submerged bulkheads, lake area residents should also be cautious of electrical outlets and equipment coming into contact with water.

SJRA is currently releasing water from the Lake Conroe dam to gradually lower the water level back to conservation pool of 201’, but SJRA must strike a balance between upstream recovery and downstream danger. For real-time information on Lake Conroe levels, releases, rainfall totals, or stream flows visit www.sjra.net

SJRA clarified that it intends to return Lake Conroe to 200 until June 1 per its seasonal lake lowering policy as soon as emergency operations restore it to 201. Normally, SJRA would begin recapture on June 1, not May 1. The seasonal release rate is much lower than the current rate.

Floodwaters Converging Toward South and East

Meanwhile, the glut of rainfall that inundated the northwest portions of Houston last week is starting to converging on areas downstream.

As of 10:30 am, the San Jacinto East Fork is also way out of its banks at FM1485 and FM1485 is reportedly closed until Friday. That leaves one way in and out of Colony Ridge – FM2090.

The San Jacinto East Fork at FM2090 peaked overnight and is starting to recede, but is still out of its banks. The East Fork is not influenced by the Lake Conroe Dam, which is on the West Fork.

FM2090 at East Fork near Plum Grove on May 3, 2021 at noon.

FM2090 is still open, but Plum Grove resident Michael Shrader reported a steady line of traffic trying to get out of Colony Ridge up to 11:30 PM Sunday night. This underscores the need to develop alternate evacuation routes for the fast growing subdivision.

Meanwhile, the flood threat is receding at Peach Creek and FM2090.

Caney Creek at FM2090 is getting back within its banks.

And the West Fork, however, is still rising. By 9 a.m. (six hours after the hydrograph below) it was out of its banks at US59.

Flood Warning Remains in Effect for West Fork Until Further Notice

At 2:45 PM CDT Monday, the National Weather Service indicated the West Fork was 49.6 feet.

  • Flood stage is 49.3 feet.
  • Minor flooding is occurring and minor flooding is forecast.
  • Forecast…The river is expected to rise to a crest of 49.7 feet late this afternoon. It will then fall below flood stage late Wednesday morning.
  • Impact…At 49.3 feet, Minor lowland flooding begins in the vicinity of the gage. North side turnaround at US 59 begins to flood. Low points on Thelma Road, Aqua Vista Drive, and Riverview Drive begin to flood.
  • Flood History…This crest compares to a previous crest of 49.7 feet on 11/13/2008.

Here are photos taken along the West Fork this morning.

A young couple surveys rising floodwaters at the turnaround under the US59 bridge. The river bank is about a hundred yards in front of them at the sign in the background. This is the northwestern extent of Lake Houston.
A log jam forms from flood debris under the pedestrian bridge over the West Fork.
Floodwater had crept past the edge of Harris County’s Edgewater Park.
However traffic was still flowing on US59 in both directions.
About a third of the abandoned Noxxe Oil Field by the Forest Cove Little League fields was under water.
The soccer fields at River Grove were partially submerged. Yesterday they were mostly dry.
The boardwalk at River Grove was underwater except for the entrance.
There was no immediate threat to Kings Harbor though the dock was only inches above water.
As floodwaters work their way downstream, Lake Houston continues to rise. As of 5:30PM on 5/3, the lake is now up more than 1.6 feet and many docks are starting to go under.

No widespread flooding is expected in the Lake Houston Area. But people who live in low-lying areas or near the lake should take precautions.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/3/2021 based on information from NWS, HCFCD, Jeff Lindner, SJRA, Michael Shrader and personal observation

1343 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 592 since Imelda

Rampaging East Fork Floodwaters Cut New Path Through Plum Grove Sand Mine

The sign outside the abandoned Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Mine in Plum Grove tells readers that an RV resort is coming soon. They might want to rethink that concept. Yesterday, rampaging floodwaters destroyed most of the mine except for a small area near the entry on FM1010.

Classic Example of Pit Capture

The East Fork rerouted itself right through the heart of the mine, sweeping away almost everything in its path. The river swelled to more than half a mile wide and ruptured dikes in at least four places when the river rose 10 feet in 24-hours.

The East Fork at this location rose 15 feet in three days, 10 of those in one day.
Normal course of river is red line on west side of mine. During flood, the river broke through the dike on the north side. Then floodwater filled the mine like a water balloon which burst in multiple places on the south side. Water now follows the yellow line.

This is a classic example of what geologists call pit or river capture. The East Fork entered the northern side of the mine and exited at multiple points on the south. Current coming out of the mine exceeded that in the river itself, carrying mud and muck downstream.

Flooding Based on Less than 10-Year Rain

The gage at this location indicated Plum Grove received only 3.36 inches of rain over a three-day period. However, up to 8 inches fell upstream from here, primarily during a two-day period. Jeff Lindner, Harris County’s meteorologist characterized the rains that produced the flood as, “Generally less than a 10-year event for the 48-hour time period.”

Pictures Taken on 5/3/2021

I took all of the shots below on 5/3/2021, three days after the major portion of the rain fell on April 30.

Looking north at the northernmost portion of the mine. The river appears to have entered the mine in this area. Note the dike in the far distance that’s not visible in the tree-line on the left.
Wider shot, still looking north toward entry point shows white water ripping through mine.
Looking south, you can see that the water in the mine is now higher and faster than the water in the river to the right.
Still looking south toward FM2090, now the only way in and out of Plum Grove. FM1485 is closed due to high water and FM1010 was washed out during Harvey by runoff from Colony Ridge to the southeast.
Looking north across FM2090. Where the water exits the mine, you can see that the force of the main flow is now misaligned with the bridge opening.
The width of the mine is now the width of the river…plus the river. Only the entry of the mine at the upper right remains above water at this time.
Looking east from over FM2090.

Danger of 2090 Washout in Next Big Flood?

Unless someone reroutes the river back to its original course and fixes the dikes, the current through the mine will continue to erode the banks of the roadway at the top of the image above.

These images dramatize the need for real sand-mining reform in Texas. There’s some evidence that Imelda did the same thing to this mine two years ago. But the TCEQ forced the company to repair the dikes. Now that the miners are gone, who will do that?

Plum Grove was lucky that upstream rains only amounted to a ten-year event. A larger storm could have cut the City and Colony Ridge off from the only viable evacuation route. More than 20,000 people would have been affected.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/3/2021

1343 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 592 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.

TCEQ Blasts Colony Ridge, Says Construction Practices Could Adversely Affect Human Health

A seven-month-long TCEQ investigation of Colony Ridge construction practices resulted in a 184-page report that confirmed allegations of erosion and silt flowing uncontrolled into ditches and streams. The investigation resulted in a “notice of enforcement.”

TCEQ Alleges Permit Violations Affecting Human Health

TCEQ found the Colony Ridge developer in violation of its Construction General Permit for failure to install even minimum controls such as silt fences and vegetative buffer strips.

As a result, the report says the developer failed to prevent discharges that “contribute to a violation of water quality standards” and that have “a reasonable likelihood of adversely affecting human health or the environment.”

Investigators found unstabilized and unprotected drainage channels connecting 3,678.69 acres of disturbed land to unprotected streams and creeks. Sediment now almost completely fills some of those streams. They lead to Luce Bayou and and the East Fork San Jacinto River, which empty into Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for 2 million people.

Lack of Construction Best Management Practices

Colony Ridge’s Construction General Permit does not authorize discharges into Texas surface waters. Yet investigators found:

  • Drainage ditches with unstabilized soil on their sides
  • A drainage ditch with completely destabilized sides
  • Sediment deposition in multiple creeks
  • One creek channel almost completely filled by sediment
  • Culverts blocked with sediment
  • A washed out road
  • Water samples with elevated levels of dissolved and suspended solids as high as 1370 milligrams/liter (suspended) and 6360 (solid)…
  • ...All tied to inadequate or non-existent best management practices

See photos below.

Self-Reports in Stark Contrast to TCEQ Report

In contrast, the construction superintendent’s own inspection checklists (pages 51-78) rated virtually all erosion-prevention measures that the company did employ as “acceptable.” However, he also indicated that the company did not use most common protective measures, such as vegetation, sod, silt fences and detention basins; claiming they were “not applicable.” His report on 2/19/20 contained a note indicating the construction site “Looks good.” His last weekly report before the complaint that triggered the investigation found no “action items.”

Get the Picture

Pages 139 to 159 of the report (Attachment 13) and pages 167-171 (attachment 17) show photographs of almost five dozen violations that contradict the construction manager’s reports.

Below is a sampling of ten photos from the report. The TCEQ investigator took them all on 6/16/2020. He also provided the captions. Page numbers refer to the full TCEQ report.

Downstream view of Rocky Branch Creek. Washed out road in background. Photo 2 out of 57. Page 141.
Destabilized banks along Long Branch Creek and sediment deposition in creek channel. Note: the creek channel almost completely filled in by sediment. Photo 17 of 57. Page 146.
Unstabilized drainage channels in Section 7 that are tied into Long Branch Creek. Photo 20 of 57. Page 147.
Area surrounding Long Branch Creek destabilized with no BMPs installed around the creek. Note unstabilized sediment piles next to the creek. Photo 30 of 57, Page 151.
Area surrounding Long Branch Creek destabilized with no BMPs installed around the creek. Note unstabilized sediment piles next to the creek. Photo 32 of 57, Page 151.
Sediment and debris in cement culvert that allows Long Branch Creek to flow underneath Section 5 entrance road. Photo 40 of 57. Page 154.
Sediment and debris in cement culvert that allows Long Branch Creek to flow underneath Section 5 entrance road. Photo 41 of 57. Page 154.
Inadequate BMPs in drainage ditch that leads to Long Branch Creek. Note: Undercut silt fence. Photo 44 of 57, page 155.
Sediment deposition in unnamed creek channel right before Long Branch Creek. Note sediment line on cree. Sediment line is demarcated by pocket knife in red circle. Photo 48 of 57. Page 156.
Sediment in a drainage ditch that is tied into an unnamed creek. Note over-capacitated silt fence. Photo 53 of 57. Page 158.

Personal Observations Corroborate Report

Based on personal observations, I don’t think the investigator exaggerated. On the contrary, he may not have captured the full scope the hazards. Some can only be seen from the air. As luck would have it, I flew a helicopter over Colony Ridge on the same day the investigator captured his photos. Here are two from the air and one from the ground.

Washed out ditches abounded.
The developer was clearing more land before previously developed areas could be stabilized.
Silt fence being propped up to allow raw sewage to flow underneath it into Luce Bayou, which empties into Lake Houston.

Other Strangeness

Colony Ridge hired Merit Professional Services in Flower Mound, a Dallas/Fort Worth suburb. Merit obtains stormwater pollution prevention permits and also provides stormwater inspection services. However, according to the complainant in this case, Merit claimed they only provided the permit, but not inspection services. Lack of local oversight may have been a large part of the problem.

Page 182 of the TCEQ report contains an August 12, 2020, memo from Landplan Engineering to the investigator. It states that, “Going forward, Colony has switched to Double Oak since they are headquartered in the Houston Area.” Double Oak provides the same services and then some. Their website shows they offer construction, erosion control and stormwater management.

Ironically, Double Oak Construction is a defendant in the Elm Grove lawsuits against Perry Homes and its contractors on the Woodridge Village project in Montgomery County. That case involves many of the same issues involved in both the TCEQ report and the City of Plum Grove’s lawsuit against the developer of Colony Ridge. The report does not mention exactly when Double Oak started working for Colony Ridge.

For the full TCEQ report, click here. Caution: large download, 28 megs, 184 pages.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/16/2020

1144 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 393 After 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.

48,000 Gallons of Fecal Contamination Found in Liberty County’s Colony Ridge Ditches, Streams; Problems Persist

Last year, the TCEQ found sewage coming from a lift station and sewers in Liberty County’s Colony Ridge development, the world’s largest trailer park. TCEQ estimates Quadvest, the water and sewer supplier in Colony Ridge, released as much as 48,000 gallons of sewage into Maple Branch Creek, a tributary of the East Fork, at a minimum, causing a fish kill (Page 51).

More recent independent laboratory testing has verified fecal contamination in at least two drainage ditches in Colony Ridge. Moreover, residents claim they have found fecal contamination in other Colony Ridge ditches and streams, too. It’s not clear whether those additional spills have been tested.

During heavy rains, fecal contamination can quickly wash downstream and eventually wind up in Lake Houston.

A major concern of residents is the frequency of sewage leaks.

Results of TCEQ Investigation

Maple Branch Creek carried black water into the East Fork.
In addition to the stench, neighbors noticed a fish kill. These two photos correspond to a TCEQ investigation in July 2019.

TCEQ cited Quadvest L.P., the sewage and water provider for Colony Ridge, for “unauthorized discharge of wastewater which resulted in a documented serious impact to the environment.”

A month after TCEQ documented this discharge, 33 inches of rain fell on nearby Plum Grove during TS Imelda.

More Recent Tests by Eastex Environmental Labs

Eastex Environmental Labs in Cold Springs collected and analyzed at least two sets of samples this year. The first was for Liberty County. The second was for Maria Acevedo, a concerned resident.

Both show significant fecal contamination.

First Eastex Report shows Fecal Contamination

Here are results of the first test and pictures of the sewage.

The first site on a ditch next to County Road 5023 showed 3090 and 3130 units of fecal coliform, with none detected in the control sample. Maria Acevedo photographed this problem on June 4, 2020.

Photo on June 4, 2020 by Maria Acevedo on CR 5023 where Eastex took samples.
Sludge oozing down same ditch.

Second Eastex Report Shows VERY STRONG Fecal Contamination

Samples collected and analyzed by Eastex Environmental Labs, eliminating chain of custody issues.

In the second lab report obtained by ReduceFlooding.com, Eastex Labs found 5120 units of fecal contamination per 100 milliliters in Frances Ditch on 6/19/2020. A second sample taken from the same location found 4870. A control sample detected none.

The lab told Acevedo that they found “very strong fecal contamination.”

Maria acevedo

Residents who wish to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, contacted me about this site a week before Eastex sampled it.

Location of Second Sample Photographed on 6/12/2020

I photographed that ditch on Friday, 6/12/2020. It’s on the southeast corner of Colony Ridge. While there, I photographed cloudy water bubbling up out of the ground and running down a ditch toward Tarkington Bayou (see photos below).

Foul water and trail of greenish-brown sludge (left) bubbling up through ground…
…then flowed into ditch toward Tarkington Bayou at bottom of hill.
Close up of water/sludge in ditch.
Silt fence in ditch was propped up, ensuring foul water could ooze under it.
Farther down the ditch, contaminated water was pooling, and turning green and black.
In places, it had dried due to extreme heat. Temp was in 90’s.

Photos Taken Two Days Later Show Attempted Coverup

I came back two days later on 6/14 to explore the same area some more. The foul water still bubbled up, but someone with a bulldozer attempted to cover up the evidence in the ditch.

Sludge and contaminated water bubbled up from same hole on 6/14/2020.
However, the evidence in the ditch near the road had been freshly covered up by a bulldozer.

The Leaks Go On

If the incidents above were isolated, one might dismiss them. But they seem to be part of a larger, recurring pattern that neither Colony Ridge, Quadvest, nor Liberty County have stopped.

A resident says this sanitary sewer was leaking for more than two months into a ditch in a residential neighborhood and stunk like sewage. Photo by Maria Acevedo on CR5006 on March 18, 2020.

The largely Hispanic residents complain among themselves. But few reportedly file reports for fear of raising their profiles with authorities and perhaps answering difficult questions in court. Meanwhile, the sewage leaks go on. Both Colony Ridge residents and those downstream pay the price.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/23/2020

1029 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 278 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.

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