Tag Archive for: Forest Cove

Last Forest Cove Townhome Now Down

Today, the last townhome in Forest Cove was demolished – 1799 days after Hurricane Harvey, the storm that left them uninhabitable.

As of 3PM today, only one small portion of one wall remained and the demolition crew was busy loading up the last debris into waiting trucks. I may take another day or two to remove foundations and concrete driveways. But this show is over.

All that remained as of 3PM 8/2/22
Excavator loads debris into waiting truck.

Before Demolition

How last complex looked on 2/24/22, before demolition.

The last complex was situated across from the Forest Cove pool on Marina Drive. 240,000 cubic feet per second coming down the West Fork during Harvey blew out doors, windows, stairs and portions of balconies. The homes became uninhabitable for structural reasons.

Photo taken on July 22, 2022 shows location of last complex relative to Forest Cove pool.

You would think that in such cases, buyouts would take little time. But some people reportedly fled mortgage obligations to avoid payments on homes they could no longer live in. Without forwarding addresses, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) had no choice but to go through lengthy condemnation proceedings in several cases. And until every unit in a complex like the one above had been bought, HCFCD could not tear down the complex.

The buyout and demolition process lasted four years. It began in 2018 and the first complex came down in 2019. Two complexes burned down.

While the legal system sputtered through Covid, drug dealers, illegal dumpers, arsonists, and graffiti artists took over these buildings. But now the area can return to nature. HCFCD will use this area to help preserve the floodplain.

Thank You, HCFCD!

Thanks to the women and men of the Harris County Flood Control District and their contractors for their diligence. Today’s demolition will make a huge difference in the quality of life for everyone in Forest Cove. Residents’ pool, athletic fields and community room were in the middle of this area. Perhaps now it can be restored to a productive, recreational purpose.

There is still no word on plans for the area. The only thing we know is that the FEMA money used to buy out the Forest Cove townhomes came with strings attached. Specifically, no other “insurable structures” can every be built on the purchased property.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/2/2022

1799 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Forest Cove Townhomes: One More Gone, One to Go

Earlier this week, I photographed the collapse of one of the two last townhome complexes in Forest Cove on Marina Drive. Today, I flew over the demolition site and photographed contractors removing the last of the debris and cleaning up the site.

The images also show the extent of buyouts in the area as well as the last remaining townhome complex opposite the Forest Cove pool. One down. One to go!

Photos Taken on 7/22/22

Looking south toward San Jacinto West Fork. Site of recently demolished complex in foreground. Last complex at top of frame, left of pool.
The demolition contractor has removed everything, including foundations and driveways – down to the dirt.
This entire area was once filled with townhome complexes, owned or rented by people who loved the river lifestyle.
Now only one remains. Harris County Flood Control has bought out the last owner and is doing final inspections before scheduling demolition sometime in August.
From dust to dust. All that remains of this address is memories. The excavator is using an I-Beam to level the dirt.

Vast Improvement

Compare the image below with the one above.

forest cove townhomes
After Harvey. Before demolition. This picture was taken in April, 2022.

Harvey was the final insult to these townhomes. These and neighboring properties became uninhabitable because of flooding. 240,000 cubic feet per second made them structurally unsound.

Since Harvey, all the derelict buildings drew drug dealers, graffiti artists and illegal dumpers. Now, the area will revert to nature and become, once again, a haven for eagles and other wildlife that still roam this area.

One down. One to go.

No More Insurable Structures

Many people have asked about the long range plans for this area. Harris County Flood Control now owns the property. It will never be developed. Under the terms of the FEMA grant used to finance the buyouts, “no insurable structures” can ever be placed on this land again. That severely limits possibilities.

So What Comes Next?

However, the land could still be used for parks and trails. Beth Walters, a spokesperson for HCFCD confirmed this afternoon that Harris County and the Houston Parks Board have been in talks about this property. However, she was not aware of any decisions that have been made at this point. Creating something beautiful on this property will likely take fund raising, long-term budgeting, and the cooperation of multiple entities.

The Value of Park Land

In my humble opinion, a long linear park stretching from here to US 59 might be the highest and best use for this land. It would turn a negative into a positive. If a deal can be worked out, it would help restore nearby property values in Forest Cove. These derelict townhomes certainly did not help them.

Many studies point to an increase in home values near parks. This one suggests an 8% to 20% bump. I hope the community can come together around the idea of turning this area into a park.

Meanwhile…a couple miles downstream, developers are busy building even more condos and apartments…even closer to the river. And they say that one of the hallmarks of human intelligence is that we can learn from each other’s mistakesI

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/22/2022

1788 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Caught on Camera: Moment Forest Cove Townhome Toppled

This morning at 10:34 AM, the last remains of another Forest Cove townhome complex toppled to the ground. The HCFCD demolition contractor nibbled away at it last week and earlier this morning. Eventually, all but a narrow strip of the last townhome in the complex had turned into a pile of rubble.

That strip started to lean. Then, suddenly, one more touch from the excavator, and the building collapsed on itself with a billowing cloud of dust and a thunderous boom. When the dust cleared, only one last complex remained standing.

We are nearing the end of a process that started in 2018.

Sequence of Photos

As of Saturday, 7/16/22, one of the last three buildings was completely gone along with half of the second.
Early Monday, 7/18/22, demolition of the remaining portion of the second building started again.
As the excavator clawed away at the building, it started to lean.
Periodically, the excavator would pile more rubble under itself so it could then reach higher. Note falling doors, walls and floors, frozen in space by the camera’s fast shutter speed.
What took months to build came down in seconds. Note the severe bowing of the wall on the right.

Final Collapse Caught on Camera

At this point, I sensed the building would soon collapse. So, I switched from the drone to my Nikon which can shoot many more frames per second. And then it started…

With parts of the second and third floors removed, along with most of the truss structure in the attic, the remainder of the building started to collapse in on itself.
A chimney came tumbling forward.
The final collapse took less than 10 seconds.
Three minutes later, the dust had cleared.

Next Steps

Contractors will extract any recyclable waste from the rubble. Then, they will crush what remains so that it takes less space in a landfill. Finally, they will remove the concrete from the foundation and likely recycle that, too.

Eventually, this area will return to nature. However, what form that takes has not yet been determined. Typically, HCFCD partners with other organizations such as the Houston Parks Board to create and maintain improvements such as trails, parks or recreational space. In fact, the Houston Parks Board West Fork Trail currently ends behind the rubble in the photo above. The Parks Board plans to extend it to Edgewater Park at US59, so hikers and bikers can connect from the Kingwood Trail System to the Spring Creek Greenway.

Demo Date for Last Building

After this morning, only one Forest Cove townhome complex remains standing. That’s at 1020 Marina Drive near the community swimming pool. According to Amy Stone, a Flood Control District spokesperson, HCFCD will demolish that building starting August 1, 2022. More news to follow.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/18/2022

1784 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Beginning of End for Last of Forest Cove Townhomes

Today, 7/5/22, marked the beginning of the end for the last of the three remaining townhome complexes on Marina Drive in Forest Cove. Demolition began at 4:45 this afternoon on the complex nearest the Forest Cove community center. The job foreman estimates that removal of the two complexes shown below could take a week or more. By then, the third complex nearest the Forest Cove swimming pool should also be ready for demolition. Back in mid-June, Harris County Flood Control scheduled it for demolition on 7/14/22. So by the end of this month, Forest Cove could look very different.

Pictures Taken 7/5/22

The two complexes that started undergoing demolition today. These back up to the new Houston Parks Board Trail that will connect Kingwood with Precinct 3’s Edgewater Park at the NE corner of 59 and the West Fork.

Hurricane Harvey destroyed the townhomes almost five years ago, when approximately 240,000 cubic feet per second of stormwater inundated the homes to the third floors.

The homes became structurally unsound as you can see below.

Destruction wrought by Harvey.

HCFCD began buyouts of the 14 townhome complexes in this area back in 2019. The District completed 80% of the buyouts by February 2020. They expected to complete the remainder by the end of that year. But completing the buyouts took much longer than expected. This story explains why. Basically, HCFCD cannot tear town a complex until it has bought out all units within the complex. And some owners had left the area without forwarding addresses.

First bite into the first of three remaining complexes late this afternoon.
The second bite took out the corner of the structure.
Demolition will resume in the morning.

Harvey destroyed these townhomes so thoroughly that FEMA chose to film a video about the power of Harvey here.

Once prized for their river views, seclusion, and laid-back lifestyle, the remaining townhomes will come down this month and then HCFCD will let the area return to nature. It’s not clear at this time whether the county has plans to extend Edgewater Park this far.

More pictures and news to follow as the project progresses.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/5/22

1771 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Forest Cove Townhome Complex Ready for Demolition

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) has completed condemnation proceedings on the last unit in another townhome complex on Marina Drive in Forest Cove. They will schedule the units for demolition as early as next week.

Hurricane Harvey destroyed the units so completely that FEMA made them the centerpiece of a video after Harvey. Since then, they have become magnets for looters, arsonists, drug dealers and illegal dumping.

Forest Cove Townhomes Censored
Forest Cove Townhomes destroyed by Harvey on Marina Drive could soon be demolished. Red rectangle contains censored graffiti.

Amy Stone, a spokesperson for HCFCD said, “There were nearly 90 units in that community! All required appraisals, offers, negotiations, closings and demolitions.”

Reasons for Slow Pace of Buyouts

Demolition of the first units began on Timberline Court in March 2019. But HCFCD has had to navigate rough waters since then.

I previously reported that some owners abandoned their properties and that HCFCD could not locate them. Those units had to go through condemnation proceedings before demolition could begin.

Stone reports that two complexes remain. HCFCD closed on the last unit in one last month and completed the site inspection last Thursday. “We are waiting for the asbestos survey report to come back. We should have a demolition date by next week,” said Stone.

Asked about the other complex, Stone reported, “1020 Marina Dr. will be demolished once the last unit is purchased. This unit is currently in condemnation.”

HCFCD and FEMA like buyouts to be voluntary wherever possible. But in the case of missing owners, condemnation may be necessary. This is a big reason why buyouts take so long. HCFCD cannot demolish a building until they own all units within it.

Some Investors Never Learn

So here we are…1744 days since Harvey made the buildings structurally unsound.

Multi-family housing represents a poor choice for homes in such high risk neighborhoods. But before these units are even demolished, Chinese investors seek to build more, even closer to the river, about a mile downstream. Residents who bought condos in this area before Harvey tell me that they have spotted developers pitching this idyllic location to busloads of Chinese tourists in the area below.

I’m guessing Forest Cove is not on the tour.

Condos under construction in Kings Harbor last year. San Jacinto West Fork is just feet away.

Posted by Bob Rehak on June 8, 2022

1744 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.

Pics of Tornado Damage in Kingwood/Forest Cove

Early Sunday morning on January 9, 2022, an EF-1 tornado touched down along the Kingwood Diversion Ditch between Hamblen and Kingwood Drive. It damaged trees and homes on both sides of the ditch for several blocks. By early afternoon, tree crews were swarming over the area, making the streets barely passable.

Tornado or Just Strong Winds?

I asked one of the crews if they were sure a tornado caused the damage. They said yes, based on the type of damage they saw. The tops of trees had been twisted off like screw caps. See photos below taken on Sunday afternoon after the storm cleared out.

Note two garages and corner of one home damaged by toppled trees east of ditch.

While some trees were uprooted, the vast majority of the damage involved “topped trees.” Had straight line winds been the cause, you would see more uprooted trees. The damage would have been more widespread. And the trees would have been pushed down in a uniform direction rather than scattered like pick-up sticks.

Looking south along Kingwood Diversion Ditch. Note eight topped trees left of the ditch and one of the tops hanging from a wire over the ditch.
West of ditch on Forest Cove side. Note damaged garages, back corner of home, and trees still hanging from wires.
Close up of topped tree and blown-over fence.
Portion of fallen tree thrown through fence by winds.
Forlorn homeowner on crushed gable. “Where do I go from here?”

ABC-13 confirmed the strength of the tornado on its evening news tonight. According to ABC, the tornado came through at approximately 1:30 AM. According to residents I spoke to, the noise was deafening and pets started acting nervous about that time.

Dogs Knew Before You Did

This article from Psychology Today explains that dogs’ hearing is four times more sensitive than humans’. That means they can hear things four times farther away – sooner than we can. Canine hearing also picks up higher pitched sounds. If the noise sounds deafening to you, think how painful it must be for your pooch.

I live near Kingwood High School two miles away. At precisely 1:30, my dog started whimpering, trembling, and tried to jump in bed with me.

Storm Totals Compared to Record and Climate Norm

For the record, the storm that started Saturday afternoon and ended early Sunday morning dumped about 4.96 inches in my rain gage. Jeff Miller, an Elm Grove resident said he had 5.5 inches in his.

These are unusually high amounts for January. The all time record for January 8 was 5.89 inches, set in 1891, 130 years ago! Houston usually receives 3.4 inches for the whole month of January. Plum Grove on the East Fork received 6.88 inches in this storm – more than double the monthly average for the Houston area. Luce Bayou on 321 in Liberty County received an incredible 8.56 inches in the storm. Had either of those locations been the official recording station, this storm would have gone down in history.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/9/2022

1594 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Oil Field South of Forest Cove Little League Fields Producing Again

The Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC) had been making good progress on cleaning up the abandoned oil field between the Forest Cove Little League fields and the San Jacinto West Fork. However, it recently stepped back from the job when the mineral owners signed an agreement with a new operator to acquire several orphan wells.

Harvey’s Toxic Legacy

Floods from Hurricane Harvey destroyed the field and then the operator at the time, Noxxe Oil & Gas, went bankrupt. The company with a joke name (Exxon spelled backwards) turned out to be anything but a joke. It left behind a toxic legacy on the shores of Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for more than 2 million people.

New Activity Spotted at Site

A company called Southcoast Production, Inc. recently put a sign up at the entrance and began taking heavy equipment into the site.

From the air, I spotted what appears to be a workover rig pulling pipe at one of the old well sites.

The rig photographed yesterday was apparently pulling corroded pipe.
Photo from May 26, 2021 shows location of new work.

Huge Improvement, But Some Work Yet to Do

When the new operator took over the lease, the TRRC ceased its cleanup and plugging operations to let the new operator bring the site into compliance. The cleanup isn’t quite done yet. But whoever has been cleaning this site up, it looks and smells far better than it did last year.

“Before” photo from June of 2020.
Photo taken 11/1/2021 of same area but with wider lens.The blue/green storage tanks in the upper right are new.

Turning the Pumps Back On

Centerpoint recently brought electricity to the site so Southcoast could begin operating pumpjacks again.

It’s good to see someone taking responsibility for this oil field. In its post-Harvey condition, it was an environmental catastrophe.

Thanks to the TRRC and State Representative Dan Huberty for helping to accelerate the cleanup effort.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/2/2021

1526 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.

New Bayou Greenway Now Connects Kingwood, Forest Cove

The Houston Parks Board’s newest leg of the San Jacinto Bayou Greenway is nearing completion. Construction started near River Grove Park in Kingwood and is working its way west toward Harris County Precinct 4’s new Edgewater Park at US59.

First Leg Now Concreted, Others Under Construction

The first leg of the concrete trail connects River Grove Park and the Kingwood Trail Network to Hamblen Road in Forest Cove. From there, the trail snakes through streets in the Northshore neighborhood, such as Northshore Drive and Sunrise Trail. It currently stops just north of the Forest Cove little league fields on Forest Cove Drive. However, the trail will continue west; that’s just the extent of current construction. At the ends of streets that don’t connect, the Parks Board is building connector trails for hikers and bikers.

The only portion of the San Jacinto Bayou Greenway completely concreted to date links Woodland Hills Drive and Hamblen. Other portions of the trail are partially concreted, and some are still being cleared. Construction fences are still up, even in the areas with concrete, as crews have not yet finished installing benches and planting grass.

Not Yet Quite Bike Ready

Net: Don’t take your bike through there yet. These pictures taken this afternoon show the current state of construction.

Looking west from the entrance to River Grove Park in Kingwood toward Hamblen Road in Forest Cove at the new San Jacinto Bayou Greenway trail.
Closer view of same trail in same direction. Note the limited landscaping to date.
Reverse angle looking east toward River Grove from the end of Hamblen Road in Forest Cove.
Another leg of trail, not yet complete, connecting Northshore Drive and Sunrise Trail. Looking SW from Northshore.
Where second leg of trail exits onto Sunrise Trail.
Current end of construction activity at Forest Cove Drive just north of Little League Fields.

Trail is actively being cleared farther to the east, but it’s not yet passable. The cleared portion currently terminates at Marina Drive near the Forest Cove Pool, behind the townhomes destroyed by Harvey.

Map courtesy of Houston Parks Board.

While th San Jacinto Bayou Greenway project will help to revitalize the area, some residents who survived the storm and rebuilt their homes lament the loss of seclusion. However, avid hikers and bikers will no doubt will love the trail which will connect to the Spring Creek Greenway and take people up to the Woodlands. It represents a vast expansion of connected trails in the area and will rival the largest urban trail networks in the countryif it won’t be the largest.

That will put Kingwood and Forest Cove back in the news again in an immensely positive way. It will also create a magnet that improves home values again and attracts younger couples with children trying take advantage of Humble ISD schools.

This project has been in the planning stages since shortly after Harvey. It was just last month that the first leg of the trail connecting River Grove and Hamblen was cleared. Crews have made considerable progress since then.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/19/2021

1298 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Cleanup of Leaking Oil Tanks on Noxxe Lease by Forest Cove Little League Fields Complete

The Texas Railroad Commission has finished the cleanup of leaking oil storage tanks on the Noxxe Oil & Gas lease by the Forest Cove Little League fields. Several tanks remain, but they are empty and not leaking. According to a Railroad Commission spokesperson, another individual wants to take over the lease. That person intends to use the remaining tanks to help operate one or two wells that can still produce.

However, regarding a new producer, Gilbert Herrera, a spokesman for the Railroad Commission said, “I haven’t seen any P4 (transfer of wells) come through on the Noxxe wells in Harris County, so far.”

Before/After Pictures of Two Worst Areas

Worst Area
Worst portion of lease on 1/20/2021 as cleanup started.
Same area 11 days later on 1/31/2021. Tanks on right have been left intentionally for now and are empty.
Second Worst Area
Second worst area on 1/1/2020.
Same area on 1/31/2021 after cleanup. Note that five storage tanks are gone.

Industrial Litter Still Clutters Site

A drilling rig, travel trailers, trucks, drill pipe and more still remain on the site. Peter Fisher, District Director for the Railroad Commission said the Commission planned to salvage/auction those items. However, he could make no promises. “Sometimes we’re successful and sometimes we’re not,” said Fisher. It depends on the market.

Abandoned pipe and more still remains on Noxxe site.

Abandoned Wells Still Not Plugged

Abandoned wells on this site have not yet been plugged. Neither have wells on the western portion of the site near Marina Drive and Aqua Vista. The Railroad Commission says that “depending on well prioritization, approvals, rig scheduling, and so on, we have an estimated time of 14 to 19 weeks” for plugging.

Note oil sheen on ponding water next to San Jacinto West Fork, upper right.
Again, note the oily sheen on the water next to these abandoned wells. The San Jacinto West Fork/Lake Houston (lower left) provide water for 2 million people.

Much Work Still Yet to Do

“All eligible orphan wells for plugging will be submitted to Austin for approval. From there and dependent on the factors mentioned before, we will plug as many of the wells as possible in that area,” said Gilbert Herrera of the Railroad Commission. 

You can view all the “orphan wells” in that area on the Railroad Commission’s GIS map. An orphan well is one left behind by a bankrupt company.

Harvey forced Noxxe out of business. The company could not afford the cleanup. However, the Pew Foundation found that “So-called “orphan” oil and gas wells, which have been abandoned by defunct companies that cannot pay to plug them, are a growing problem in many states thanks to a recent slump in energy prices that has forced marginal operators out of business.”

“Nobody knows how many orphan and abandoned drilling sites litter farms, forests and backyards nationwide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are more than a million of them. Unplugged wells can leak methane, an explosive gas, into neighborhoods and leach toxins into groundwater,” said Pew.

How many wells are there around the Humble salt dome? Hundreds, if not thousands. See below.

Screen capture of Railroad Commission GIS database showing oil and gas wells in the Humble/Kingwood area. Note the circular outline that matches the shape of the Humble salt dome.

The Railroad Commission GIS database lets you toggle software switches to see which wells are active, dry, plugged, orphaned, etc. Hovering your cursor over a dot shows the current status of the well.

Drillers frequently find oil and gas around salt domes. Salt, which is buoyant within the earth, fractures surrounding rock. Oil and gas seep into those fractures where it collects in commercial quantities. Is there any doubt why this area was so attractive to oil companies over the years? Here’s a history of the Humble Oil field which was discovered in 1904.

Once again, thanks to State Representative Dan Huberty for working with the Railroad Commission to accelerate cleanup of this area once the problems became known.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/3/2021

1254 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Railroad Commission Completes First Part of Noxxe Cleanup in Forest Cove Already

The Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC) completed the first part of the Noxxie Oil & Gas post-Harvey cleanup on Tuesday, 1/19/21, just hours after the operation started. TRRC contractors began early in the morning near the Forest Cove Townhomes on Marina Drive. By 11 a.m., they had removed the heater treater; begun dismantling two storage tanks; and loaded up rusted pipe and twisted scaffolding. Before the end of the day, they had scarified the site and cleaned up after themselves. Scarification involves cutting and removing debris by breaking up the surface of the soil.

Before, During, After Pictures

Here’s what the Marina Drive area looked like before, during and after the cleanup there.

Noxxe Tanks by townhomes in Forest Cove
Noxxe Tanks by townhomes in Forest Cove before cleanup. June 27, 2020.
Noxxe Tanks by townhomes in Forest Cove
Removal of Noxxe Tanks by townhomes in Forest Cove on Tuesday morning. 1/19/2021
Removal of Noxxe Tanks by townhomes in Forest Cove
Removal of Noxxe Tanks by townhomes in Forest Cove. 1/19/2021.
Removal of Noxxe Tanks by townhomes in Forest Cove
Removal of pipes at same location. 1/19/2021.
Cleanup complete of Noxxe Tanks by townhomes in Forest Cove
Cleanup complete of Noxxe Tanks by townhomes in Forest Cove. 1/20/2021.

Plugging of Old Wells Scheduled in Two Weeks

Two pump jacks near the tanks remain. TRRC plans to remove those and plug the wells with a separate crew in a couple weeks, depending on the crew’s availability. That crew was responding to an emergency involving a potential blowout with some wells near Corpus Christi this week.

One of two remaining pump jacks near the Forest Cove Townhomes.

By Wednesday morning, operations had shifted to the far larger portion of the Noxxe field south and east of the Forest Cove little league fields. Dean Southward, a TRRC spokesperson and project manager, estimates cleanup of that area will take approximately two weeks.

The wells on the eastern portion of Noxxe’s lease will be plugged at the same time as the others near Marina Drive.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/22/2021

1242 Days since Hurricane Harvey