Tag Archive for: fort bend county

Hidden Costs of Flooding

When we think about flooding, most of us don’t think beyond the repair costs of homes. But there are more costs to communities that can remain hidden for years. Erosion, for instance, is one of the hidden costs of flooding that we rarely talk about.

You’ve heard me talk about the eroded sediment from sand mines that winds up downstream in the mouth bars of the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto.

The City, County, State and Federal Government have already spent more than $100 million to remove eroded sediment that is blocking the West Fork of the San Jacinto and much more remains.

Likewise, many of you have seen the work being done now to remove approximately 80,000 cubic yards of eroded sediment from Ben’s Branch.

Ben’s Branch became virtually blocked with sand after Harvey. Harris County Flood Control is now removing the excess sediment to restore conveyance of the channel.

We’ve all seen how such eroded sediment can back water up and raise flood levels. And we’ve all seen how much that can cost. Not just from the initial flood, but in terms of remediation.

Look At the Cost of Erosion From the Upstream Side, Too

Ditch erosion can affect homeowners in other ways, too. By threatening their property and community property. Lost property is yet another one of the hidden costs of flooding.

We’ve seen how ditch erosion destroyed riding trails in the Commons on Lake Houston.

Ditch erosion in Commons on Lake Houston. Photo from January 2019.

In Deer Ridge Estates, ditch erosion is creeping inexorably toward back yard fences.

Kingwood diversion ditch where it crosses past Deer Ridge Estates just north of Deer Springs Drive. Photo from Jan. 2019.

On a recent flight down the San Jacinto West Fork, I spotted erosion threatening the back yards of homes still under construction in the new Northpark Woods subdivision.

Erosion can threaten pipelines, too.

Pipelines undermined by erosion at Liberty Materials Mine near Conroe.

Let’s Play Hot Potato

Who is responsible for repairing the upstream erosion when it happens? In Harris County, we’re lucky, we have a flood control district that has assumed responsibility for that. But the ditch two photos above is in Montgomery County. So are the pipelines in the photo above.

Who is responsibly for repairing erosion in these cases? The County? The homeowners? The homeowner association? The developer? The sand mine? The pipelines? A flood control or drainage district? Everyone wants to assume it’s someone else’s problem. No one wants to assume responsibility.

But without someone stepping up, these homes will eventually be threatened. And with the exception noted above, few people or groups are stepping up.

Paul Crowson, a Montgomery County flood activist has posted about this subject on Facebook. Says Crowson, “The county, the flood control district, the neighborhood HOA, the POA, the City, the State, the developers, the engineers … all are passing the blame and responsibility around to each other.”

The problem exists everywhere. Crowson points to the case of Fort Bend County homeowners who are petitioning the Court there to assign responsibility for maintenance of drainage easements.

“These poor people (in the court case) have lost most of their yard, and are in danger of losing their home to the ravages of the drainage easement nightmares,” says Crowson. “Those nightmares are growing every day and will eventually swallow them and their home. Why does it matter to you? I’m thinking right now of Roman Forest, Tavola, New Caney, and Montgomery County.”

It’s Easier to Keep Up Than Catch Up

I would argue that it’s cheaper to prevent a disaster in the making than to remediate a disaster after the fact. Remember those homely homilies your parents and grandparents tried to instill in you? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A stitch in time save nine.

Congressman Dan Crenshaw says the Navy Seals have a similar saying for those who fall behind on those long training runs they take. “It’s easier to keep up than catch up.” They’re all true! And the same holds true for deferred maintenance.

When Deferred Maintenance Turns into a Disaster Area

Montgomery County does not have a flood control district. Nor does it seem especially eager to address problems, such as those in the photo above.

As we saw with the mouth bar on the West Fork that had been building up under water for decades, maintenance can be deferred for only so long.

Then a monster flood comes along like Harvey. It finds the weak points in systems…and boom. Deferred maintenance turns into a disaster area.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/28/2020 with input from Paul Crowson

913 Days after Hurricane Harvey

When Measured by Growth of Impervious Cover, Texas Has 9 of Top 20 Counties in U.S.

According to a recent New York Times article, nine of the 20 counties in the U.S. that have experienced the most development the last decade are in Texas. Prominent among them is Harris County. The article does not cite population growth. Rather, it relies on computer analysis of satellite imagery that detects the growth of impervious cover.

Analysis of Satellite Imagery Shows Land Newly Paved or Topped With Buildings

The Times cites the work of Santa-Fe-based Descartes Labs, which positions itself as a data refinery. The company trained a computer model to automatically identify newly impervious surfaces — land that appears paved or topped with buildings — in satellite imagery. It then produced dozens of paired images that show the effects of development. It also produced a map that shows where that development took place.

This Descarte map clearly shows the pattern in Texas. Each of the major cities looks like a bullet hole in the map with development splashing out ward…a ring of concrete.

Return of Suburban and Exurban Growth

The data suggests that the growth of suburbs and exurbs has returned. There was a brief hiatus of suburban development after the housing bust in 2008, which saw people returning to the inner city. But that trend appears to be over, according to this analysis.

I’m not sure if this should be a source of pride, alarm or both.

Texas Grows While Other Areas Lose Population

Many Rust Belt cities are experiencing population shrinkage. That presents another set of problems altogether. The Times article shows how several northern cities, including Detroit, are clearing thousands of dilapidated and abandoned homes. In the process, they are restoring pervious (natural) cover.

As luck would have it, another article in The NY Times the next day talked about a slowdown in U.S. population growth. Population grew at its slowest pace in decades in 2019. A decline in the number of new immigrants, fewer births and the graying of America accounted for the decline, which the Census Bureau estimated.

Given slow population growth on the national level, local growth in Texas and Houston must come from migration. I’m not talking about foreign immigration. I’m talking about one area attracting residents and businesses from another.

Texas Has Seven of Fifteen Fastest Growing Cities in U.S.

In marketing, if the market itself is not growing, the only way for a company to grow is to steal share from its competitors. And that is exactly what Texas seems to be doing. Markets such as New York and California are losing population while Texas gained more than 14% in the last decade. From 2010 to 2018, Texas had the largest population growth in America: 3,555,731.

Texas also had 7 of the top 15 fastest growing cities in the country between 2017 and 2018.

So clearly, from a marketing point of view, Texas must be seen as a desirable place to live by many people. We’re doing many things right.

Can Texas Meet the Challenge of Rapid Growth?

But in my 45 year career in marketing and advertising, I have seen many instances where companies had record growth one year only to have record losses later. It comes down to how you manage growth.

Can you deliver what you promise and keep product quality up as you grow?

Many areas can. Many areas can’t.

County officials face a conundrum: growing rapidly while maintaining quality of life. You want to attract growth, but you don’t want to be overwhelmed by it.

Montgomery Vs. Fort Bend Counties: Strategic Differences

Some compete for growth by relaxing regulations. For instance, this video from the East Montgomery County Improvement District boasts, “We don’t have rules that confine us.” The no-hassle upfront, anything-goes, follow-your-dream approach tempts many, especially those coming from other areas with onerous regulations.

Meanwhile, other fast-growing counties, such as Fort Bend, are adopting new flood plain regulations, designed to protect the quality of life they are selling.

Tougher Fort Bend County Regulations Went Into Effect New Year’s Day.

As of 1/1/2020, Fort Bend County adopted new Atlas 14 rainfall statistics and updated their drainage criteria manual accordingly to protect new homes AND existing downstream developments. Fort Bend is the fastest growing county in the region.

There you have it. Two opposite ends of the spectrum.

It will be interesting to see the outcomes that these two development strategies produce ten years from now.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/2/2020

856 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 104 since Imelda