Tag Archive for: excavation and removal

Woodridge Village Plans Still on Hold, But that Could Change Soon

Back in November 2023, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) terminated its excavation and removal contract with Sprint Sand and Clay. The 2021 contract called for Sprint to remove up to 500,000 cubic yards of material from Woodridge Village. Had the full amount been excavated, it would have more than doubled the stormwater detention basin capacity on the site.

Extent of excavation at end of Woodridge Village E&R Contract with Sprint. Photo: 12/28/31.

Only About A Third of Max Volume Excavated

But at the time HCFCD terminated the contract, Sprint had excavated only 160,748 cubic yards, an amount equal to 100 acre feet, and only about a third of the maximum allowed under the contract.

When HCFCD purchased the Woodridge Village property from Perry Homes, the site had only 70% of Atlas 14 requirements (the new standard for a 100-year storm). The lack of detention capacity contributed to the flooding of hundreds of homes in Kingwood along Taylor Gully twice in 2019.

In the end, the 160,748 cubic yards meant that the site had 96% of Atlas 14 requirements. But significantly, the additional capacity is still just a hole in the ground. It has not yet been tied into other Woodridge detention basins or drainage channels.

Termination Caused by HUD Rule

The rationale for termination of the contract had nothing to do with Sprint’s performance. Rather, it had to do with an unintended consequence of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule.

HCFCD hoped to pay for both Taylor Gully and Woodridge Village with HUD funds. But a HUD rule states that HUD funds cannot pay for work already completed on a project when a grant application is submitted.

As a result, when HCFCD applies for a HUD grant, it must:

  • Zero out work completed to date and stop work.
  • Estimate the cost of remaining work.
  • Wait for an award determination.

The rule also affected several other E&R projects in Harris County, such as one on TC Jester next to Cypress Creek.

It’s especially painful in this case because HCFCD listed the Woodridge Village stormwater detention basin as an alternate project for HUD funding. That means, it would only be considered if a fatal flaw knocked one of HCFCD’s primary recommendations out of the running.

HCFCD Exploring Alternative

Amy Crouser, an HCFCD spokesperson said, “Woodridge must be treated as if it were funded by HUD and GLO, which means that we cannot perform any choice-limiting actions on the site, such as the E&R contract. It will be some time before we know if any alternate projects will move to the ‘funded list.’”  

Crouser then added, “However, we are investigating whether we can split the Woodridge Village Stormwater Detention Basin into two projects. That may offer some flexibility in getting the E&R contract reinstated. We should have an answer in the next few weeks.”

HCFCD has not yet publicly released the final engineering studies on Woodridge or Taylor Gully.

With interest rates falling, housing starts may pick up and increase demand for fill dirt. That could eliminate the only real drawback of an E&R contract; they can be time consuming if demand for dirt is low. Otherwise, they represent exceptional value for taxpayers. Sprint made only $1,000 from the contract but made its money back by selling the dirt at market rates.

Status of Excavation At Year End

Here’s where things stood at the end of 2023:

Acre Feet of Stormwater Detention% of Atlas-14 Requirement% of Ultimate
Site Had When Purchased from Perry Homes27170%47%
Had as of 12/31/2337196%63.9%
Atlas 14 Requires385100%66%
Had Sprint Excavated All 500,000 CY580150%100%
As of 12/31/23, nothing but the cool winter wind could be heard howling through Woodridge Village.

Stay tuned for more news as it develops.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/3/2023

2318 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Woodridge Village Excavation Slows

During September, Sprint Sand & Clay excavated another 5,698 cubic yards of material from Woodridge Village, down slightly from the previous month. However, that brought the total to date up to 150,724 cubic yards – a nice milestone.

Attempted development of the property contributed to the flooding of neighboring properties twice in 2019 during May and September.

Background of Project

Sprint’s excavation will create a sixth stormwater detention basin on the former Perry Homes property purchased by Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and the City of Houston in 2021.

Sprint began excavation in January of 2022 under an Excavation and Removal Contract (E&R). The E&R contract gives Sprint the right to remove up to 500,000 cubic yards of material for just $1,000. Sprint then makes its money back by selling the dirt at market rates.

Where Things Stand

To date, here’s where things stand in relation to possible goals:

Acre Feet of Stormwater Detention% of Atlas-14 Requirement% of Ultimate
Site Had When Purchased from Perry Homes27170%47%
Has as of 10/3/23364.494.6%62.8%
Atlas 14 Requires385100%66%
If Sprint Excavates All 500K Cubic Yards580150%100%
As of 10/3/23

The rate of excavation slowed in September compared to August. During August Sprint excavated 10,353 cubic yards – almost twice as much.

E&R contracts often fluctuate like this depending on home- and road-building activity nearby. Regardless, Sprint still exceeded its contract’s monthly minimum of 5,000 cubic yards.

Before/After Pictures For September

The first two photos below show the extent of excavation at the beginning and end of September.

Woodridge Village E&R activity
Looking NE from SW Corner. Beginning of September.
End of September 2023

I see no dramatic changes. They did, however, nibble away at the edges in the top left corner, where the tire tracks lead to. Here’s a closeup of that area.

NW limit of excavation as of September 30, 2023
Reverse angle looking SW. Notice removal of surface layer in the lower right.
Entry view, 9/30/23

Rain always slows construction activity and it may have played a role here. The pool of water above was one third this size at the start of the month.

5,698 cubic yards of material for September equals 3.5 acre feet. At that rate, the detention basin will not reach Atlas-14 requirements for another 5-6 months. It appears unlikely at this point that Sprint will meet Atlas-14 requirements by the end of the year – unless Sprint really sprints.

No Engineering Report Yet

At the start of the project, HCFCD planned to go beyond Atlas 14 to accommodate possible future increases in rainfall requirements and upstream growth. That would provide an extra margin of safety for people in the area.

HCFCD still has not released the final engineering report yet for Woodridge Village and Taylor Gully. So we don’t know yet how large this detention basin will be, i.e., beyond Atlas 14.

That final engineering report will also determine the final shape of the basin and its connectivity to other drainage on the site.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/3/23

2226 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Woodridge Village Excavation Slows in July

During July 2023, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) contractor Sprint Sand and Clay, LLC, excavated 5,754 cubic yards from a new Woodridge Village stormwater detention basin. That brought Sprints’ grand total up to 135, 751 cubic yards. 

5,764 cubic yards equals another 3.6 acre feet. The previous month, Sprint excavated 5 acre feet. So, excavation during July declined 28%. At the current rate, Sprint would take another 8 months to bring detention volume up to Atlas-14 requirements (see table below). 

At the end of July, excavation had reached 92.6% of Atlas-14 requirements, up slightly from June, when it had reached 92%. 

Why Atlas 14 is Important

Atlas-14 defines the current standard for safely containing a 100-year rainfall. The lack of detention basin capacity contributed to the flooding of hundreds of homes along Taylor Gully twice in 2019, after Perry contractors clearcut the property.

HCFCD and City of Houston purchased the property from Perry in March 2021. Excavation of additional stormwater detention capacity started in January 2022. At the time, it had only 70% of the required detention capacity under Atlas 14.

NOAA is already working on revising Atlas 14. Atlas 15 will incorporate predicted climate-change impacts and feature recurrence intervals up to 1000 years.

However, the good news is that Sprint’s contract could eventually take the site well beyond Atlas-14.

Before/After Photos Show July Progress

I took the first photo below on July 1, 2023.

Woodridge Village E&R as of July 1, 2023
Woodridge Village July 1, 2023, looking NE.

I took the other photos below at the end of July.

July 29, 2023. The big difference appears to be the area filled with water.

The outline has changed little. But additional water in the absence of rain and the presence of blistering heat suggests excavation may have reached the water table.

During the month of July, when temperatures pushed a 100 degrees every day, the nearest gage received only 2 inches of rain. And most of that was three weeks before the photo above.

HCFCD often prefers wet bottom retention basins because they reduce mowing costs, but the design of this basin is not yet complete.

Those circular patterns may indicate the use of scrapers to lower the bottom of the new basin gradually.
However, north (right) of the exposed water, contractors still seem to be using excavators to expand the edges of the area.

Under HCFCD Excavation and Removal contracts, contractors are free to excavate where they want within the provided footprint.

Rough layout for new Woodridge basin.
Green area indicates rough outline of new basin.

Where Does Woodridge Village Excavation Go From Here?

HCFCD’s Excavation and Removal contract with Sprint Sand & Clay calls for excavating up to 500,000 cubic yards. Sprint excavated approximately 8,000 cubic yards (5 acre feet) in June. 

Any excavation beyond Atlas-14 needs would create a safety hedge against future needs should they increase. 

NOAA is already working on updating the Atlas 14 requirements and should release Atlas 15 before the end of this decade.

Here’s how the various stages look in a table.

Acre Feet of Stormwater Detention% of Atlas-14 Requirement% of Ultimate
Site Had When Purchased from Perry Homes27170%47%
Has as of 8/1/23356.592.5%61.5%
Atlas 14 Requires385100%66%
If Sprint Excavates All 500K Cubic Feet580150%100%
Calculations based on original construction plans, HCFCD monthly reports, Atlas-14 Requirements and Sprint contract. Sprint could excavate down to or even slightly past the small grove of trees in the top center.

Sprint will make only $1,000 from its Woodridge Village excavation contract with HCFCD, but will make its profit by selling the dirt at market rates. It’s a good deal for taxpayers, but carries some uncertainty with it.

If the demand for dirt dries up, excavation could slow or stop.

But simply excavating the dirt isn’t the end of the job. Harris County still needs to slope the sides, plant grass, and tie the new basin into the site’s existing stormwater-detention-basin network. Engineers are reportedly working on plans for all that, according to HCFCD.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/1/2023

2163 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Woodridge Village Excavation Surpasses 100,000 Cubic Yards

In the four weeks since my last update, Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) contractor has excavated another 11,000 cubic yards of dirt from Woodridge Village. That means Sprint Sand and Clay has removed a total of 104,000 cubic yards since it started work under its Excavation and Removal Contract a little more than a year ago.

Sprint is removing the dirt from what will become a sixth stormwater detention basin on the former Perry Homes site. The lack of adequate detention capacity on the site contributed to flooding hundreds of homes in Kingwood twice back in 2019, before HCFCD purchased the property.

New Excavation Already Second Largest on Site

Already, at 62 acre feet, the new basin ranks as the second largest stormwater detention basin on the 268-acre site. Woodridge Village’s five original basins had the following capacities:

  • N1 = 13.2 acre feet
  • N2 = 154.7 acre feet
  • N3 = 42 acre feet
  • S1 = 18.6 acre feet
  • S2 = 42.5 acre feet

The new detention basin could more than double capacity on the site. Ultimately, it will exceed Atlas 14 requirements.

Here’s where the original five are located.

Locations and sizes of first five stormwater detention basins shown in blue.

The new basin will go between N2 and S1.

Woodridge Village Excavation and Removal
Location of new basin outlined in red.

Progress by the Numbers

The 11,000 cubic yards excavated in the last 28 days averages 2,750 cubic yards per week. That’s an increase of 220 cubic yards per week compared to the previous month. It’s also 1,000 cubic yards per week more than the weekly average since the start of the contract.

The current monthly rate more than doubles the minimum required under Sprint’s contract.

The excavation of 100,000 cubic yards marks yet another milestone. Sprint has now removed more than 20% of the 500,000 cubic yards allowed under the contract.

February vs. March Photos

To get a feeling for just how much 11,000 cubic yards is, compare these photos taken at the ends of February and March.

Extent of excavation for new Woodridge Village Detention Basin as of 3/5/23
End of February
End of March: excavation stretches much farther into the distance.

A Head Start on Construction

In December 2022, HCFCD revealed the results of its analysis of alternatives to reduce flooding adjacent to Woodridge and Taylor Gully. HCFCD is now working on finalizing those plans.

Excavation and removal contracts give HCFCD a head start on construction while engineers finish plans. This compresses the timetable.

The contract also saves taxpayers money. It gives Sprint the right to remove up to 500,000 cubic yards for a grand total of only $1000. Sprint makes its money by selling the dirt at market rates to home- and road builders. The only restriction: the dirt can’t be placed in the floodplain.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/4/2023

2044 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.

Woodridge Village Excavation, Taylor Gully Updates

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) says that, as of 10/31/22, Sprint Sand and Clay has hauled off 66,094 cubic yards of dirt from Woodridge Village. That means, despite the slowing real estate market, that the company has exceeded its Excavation and Removal contract minimum within nine months of the first year.

Objective of Excavation

The objective of the contract: to get a head start on the removal of up to 500,000 cubic yards of dirt from what will eventually become the sixth stormwater detention basin on the Woodridge Village property. Woodridge forms the headwaters of Taylor Gully.

The Woodridge property flooded up to 600 homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest twice in 2019. That happened after the a developer clearcut the property before installing sufficient stormwater detention capacity.

Since then:

Community Meeting Will Reveal Findings of Engineering Study

HCFCD is now planning a community meeting to share the results with affected residents before the end of the year.

It’s not clear yet exactly:

  • How much additional detention Woodridge will need
  • How much channel widening Taylor Gully will need
  • Whether any bridges need to be replaced
  • How upstream improvements will affect residents farther downstream.

The preliminary engineering report should address all those questions.

Photos from September and October

In the meantime, a parade of dump trucks visits the Woodridge site most days to haul off dirt from where the sixth basin will go. The sixth basin could double stormwater detention capacity on the site – if Sprint excavates all 500,000 CY.

As of mid-September 2022, Sprint Sand and Clay had removed 57,785 cubic yards (CY). Currently, they have removed a total of 66,094 CY. That means they removed 8,309 CY in the last 6 weeks. And that in turn means the current monthly rate is about 5500 CY.

Sprint’s contract calls for them to remove a minimum of 60,000 cubic yards per year or 5,000 per month.

The September and October pictures below show how far Sprint has come in the last six weeks.

Woodridge Village E&R contract progress end of September 2022
End of September 2022
End of October. Sprint has not gone much farther, but they have gone deeper.

See pictures taken below from the reverse angle. The majority of the work now takes place at the far end.

Extent of excavation on September 24.
End of October 2022.

Groundwater appears to be seeping into excavated areas.

HCFCD did not confirm WHY Sprint appears to be digging shallower. Amy Stone, a HCFCD spokesperson, did say however that the site contains multiple types of soil. The volume removed in a particular location may relate to demand for a particular type.

More news about the community meeting and study findings when it becomes available.

Posted by Bob Rehak on November 1, 2022

1890 Days since Hurricane Harvey

July Update: Woodridge Village Excavation Rate Slows Slightly

The pace of excavation and removal of up to 500,000 cubic yards of soil from Woodridge Village has slowed slightly in recent months. That may be due to rising interest rates, which have slowed housing starts. Contractors use excavated dirt to elevate homesites in new developments. But the Census Bureau says housing starts in June 2022 fell 6.3% below the June 2021 rate.

Woodridge Village Background

Woodridge Village was the failed 670-acre Perry Homes development that twice contributed to flooding hundreds of homes in Kingwood’s Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest Villages in 2019. Harris County and the City of Houston bought the property in 2021 to help reduce flood risk. They plan to do this by building another detention basin.

Perry left the site about 40% short of the floodwater detention capacity needed to meet current Atlas-14 requirements. Since then, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) entered into an “Excavation and Removal” contract (E&R) with Sprint Sand and Clay to begin removing additional soil. The goal: to get a head start on building an additional detention basin that would meet OR exceed Atlas-14 requirements.

Harris County Commissioners Court approved the contract with Sprint Sand and Clay on July 20, 2021. It obligates Sprint to remove at least 5000 cubic yards per month. Excavation started on January 27, 2022. 

During July, Sprint removed approximately 6,400 cubic yards of dirt.

HCFCD spokesperson Amy Stone

To date, Sprint has removed 48,860 yards of material. That’s 18,860 cubic yards more than the contract minimum for six months. And 1,400 cubic yards more than the minimum for July. So you can see that the rate of removal is dipping slightly.

At almost 50,000 cubic yards for 6 months (or 100,000 yards per year), it would take 5 years for Sprint to reach the maximum. However, by contract, Sprint has 36 months. If Sprint continues to average 6,000 cubic yards per month for another 30 months, it would remove a total of 229,000 cubic yards before the end of the contract term ([30×6000]+ 49,000). 

So at some point, Sprint will have to sprint to catch up if they want to remove all 500,00 cubic yards.

Recent Photos Show Growth of Basin

Here’s what the site looked like before and after July’s excavation activity.

End of June
Woodridge Village E&R as of 6/30/22
Excavation at end of June 2022. Note where the upper right boundary of the pit stops relative to the storm-sewer pipes at far right.

End of July

End of July 2022.
Looking south over eastern edge of pond. Newly excavated area is at left (darker dirt).

About E&R Contracts

E&R contracts provide a head start on construction of detention basins before completion of their final design. 

Sprint has agreed to remove up to half a million cubic yards of soil for only $1000. But it makes its money back by selling the soil for a profit on the open market. This provides virtually free excavation to taxpayers and virtually free raw material to Sprint. HCFCD has spent only $230 on the project so far. But the tradeoffs are speed and certainty.

The property above forms the headwaters of Taylor Gully. When HCFCD finishes its Taylor Gully study, things may change.

Final Needs Contingent on Outcome of Taylor Gully Study

HCFCD hired Idcus, Inc. in mid-2021 to develop up to five conceptual alternatives for modifying Taylor Gully. Scenarios may include:

  • Expanding Detention On Woodridge Village so that no channel improvements are necessary.
  • Determining amount of detention and channel improvements necessary to ensure no adverse impact all the way to Lake Houston.
  • Finding the optimum balance between maximum flood protection and minimum construction costs.
Deliverables include:
  • Channel and basin layouts
  • Estimates of benefits for various levels of storms (100-year, etc.)
  • Right-of-way requirements
  • Cost estimates for right-of-way acquisition, engineering and construction management.
  • Performance metrics, i.e., estimated acreage of land inundation, number of structures in floodplain, number of structures flooded and miles of inundated roadway.
  • A scoring matrix to rank alternatives.
The red dots show location of current excavation relative to entire scope of Idcus project, from yellow polygon on left to end of red line in forest on right.

Idcus should be done with the study soon. In the meantime, residents will have to settle for the virtually free head start we get.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/31/2022

1797 Days since Hurricane Harvey

1182 Days since May 7, 2019

1049 Days since TS Imelda

Progress Report: Woodridge Village Excavation and Removal Contract

As of the end of June 2022, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) had removed 42,483 cubic yards of dirt from the Woodridge Village property in Montgomery County. The dirt is part of an excavation and removal (E&R) contract that allows removal of up to 500,000 cubic yards. That amount would double the floodwater detention capacity on the site and help reduce the risk of flooding in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest along Taylor Gully. Heavy rains in May and September of 2019 flooded approximately 600 homes in the area.

History of Project

Harris County purchased Woodridge with the City of Houston from Perry Homes in February 2021. At the time of purchase, the site had enough detention capacity to meet pre-Atlas 14 requirements in Montgomery County. But Atlas-14 requirements call for about 40% more. Hence the need to increase floodwater detention capacity.

Harris County Commissioners Court approved the contract with Sprint Sand and Clay on July 20, 2021. It obligates Sprint to remove at least 5000 cubic yards per month. Excavation started on January 27, 2022. Five months later, Sprint has removed 42,483 cubic yards, 17,000 cubic yards more than the minimum.

Sprint will excavate within red area.

Chronological Excavation Photos

Woodridge Village Before e&r contract
Looking NE at Woodridge Village before start.
Woodridge Village E&R contract
Start of E&R Contract on January 27, 2022. Tree Line on right is the Montgomery/Harris County Line. Harris is on right.
January 29, 2022
February 27, 2022

Woodridge Village E&R
March 28, 2022
April 30, 2022
May 22, 2022
June 13, 2022, 41,174 cubic yards of material removed from the site
June 30, 2022, 42,483 cubic yards of material removed

Excavation & Removal Contract

E&R contracts provide a head start on construction of detention basins before completion of their final design.

Sprint has agreed to remove up to half a million cubic yards of soil for only $1000. But it gets to sell the soil for a profit on the open market. This provides significant savings to taxpayers by minimizing trucking and disposal fees.

By contract, Sprint has up to 36 months. If Sprint continues removing dirt at the rate of about 8,000 cubic yards per month, they should remove another 248,000 cubic yards before the end of the contract term.

With the dirt already removed, that would only put them at 290,00 cubic yards at the end of three years. So at some point, Sprint will have to sprint to catch up if they want to remove all 500,00 cubic yards.

Future of Woodridge Village

The rate of removal will ultimately depend on developments in the housing market. The latest report by the Census Bureau shows housing starts in May 2022 were down 7% from April 2022, but still 0.2% ahead of May 2021.

An engineering study currently underway includes the Woodridge property. HCFCD has the flexibility to change the E&R contract if necessary to accommodate any design requirements that emerge from the study.

Community engagement should be scheduled soon to gather input from area residents on the proposed project and to present project alternatives.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/1/2022

1767 Days since Hurricane Harvey