Tag Archive for: flooded homes

How Loss of Wetlands Led to War

In three years of writing about flooding, this is one of the most dramatic case studies I have seen about the value of wetlands. It starts with a developer clearing wetlands and ends with the developer at war with a neighboring town.

Wetlands as Protectors

Michael Shrader lived in a modest home in Plum Grove in Liberty County. It was an idyllic, rural lifestyle in many ways. He did tech work remotely while raising animals on his small plot of land near the East Fork of the San Jacinto and Maple Branch. Shrader never flooded for the first 29 years he lived in Plum Grove despite living on a creek. Not in 1994. Not in Allison. Not in Rita. And not in Ike.

Forests filled with wetlands surrounded him. Water ponded during heavy rains. Much of it soaked in and was absorbed by tree roots. The creeks ran clear.

Before Colony Ridge

In this 2008 Google Earth image, you can see the vibrant greens. And if you look closely enough on a desktop display, you can even see the ponds and wetlands east of FM1010.

Note area east (right) of FM1010.

For those reading on smaller displays, here’s the same image, but with data from the US Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory superimposed.

The bright, solid greens represent wetlands in the national inventory. Superimposition courtesy of Michael Shrader.

Then Came the Bulldozers

In 2016, the developer of Colony Ridge started clearing land and replacing wetlands with ditches that fed into Maple Branch. It runs right behind Shrader’s home. As the developer filled in more and more of the wetlands, water started getting higher in the creek after every rain, according to Shrader. Harvey, May 7th, Imelda: those were the high-water marks. And the low points in Shrader’s life. He flooded all three times.

By last year, the developer had replaced virtually all the wetlands by this.

By 2/23/19, most of the wetlands had been turned into streets with ditches in the world’s largest trailer park. Shrader lives on a stream that cuts across the NW portion of the grid.

Since the satellite image above was taken, even more forests and wetlands farther east and north have been replaced by what is now the world’s largest trailer park.

Eastern area in June, 2020.
Slash and burn development practices at Colony Ridge. Photo June 2020. Note how contractors are draining wetland area on left.

Lives Disrupted

With the wetlands gone, Shrader’s house flooded in 2017 during Harvey (admittedly an extreme event), and twice in 2019. Not only did his house flood, so did most of Plum Grove, including the City Hall. Now, Shrader says, many homes are vacant.

The fence below, immediately downstream from the Camino Real Subdivision in Colony Ridge, was pushed over three times by the increased flow of floodwaters coming down Maple Branch. The owners of the red-roofed house bought this property just before the first of three floods.

Flooded Plum Grove home near Maple Branch and Colony Ridge. Owners stopped repairing the fence after the second flood.

The Domino Effect

To make matters worse:

Soon, Hollywood screenwriters will develop screenplays based on the Plum Grove experience and pitch them as “the next Erin Brokovich.”

Eroded drainage ditch in Colony Ridge that blew out FM1010 at far end. Three years after Harvey, the road still had not been repaired, much to the dismay of residents.
FM1010, one of the main roads into and out of the development, destroyed by out-of-control stormwater. The loss of this road has led to massive traffic jams on alternate access routes, such as FM2090.

Sadly, a little more respect for Mother Nature could have easily prevented all that trouble for the developer. One wonders whether the engineers and environmental consultants whom he hired to obtain permits served him well.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/22/2020

1050 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 398 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.