Tag Archive for: Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium

Development Watchlist: New Caney ISD Prepping Land for High School #3 in Kingwood

New Caney ISD is planning to build a new comprehensive high school on a roughly 50-acre site between US59 and Sorters-McClellan Road, where a par-3 golf course used to be. The land is south of HCA Kingwood Medical Center and behind several car dealerships that face US59.

At the moment, this is the largest active development in the Kingwood area. Luckily for residents downstream, plans call for a large retention pond on the site

New Caney ISD High School #3, still unnamed, will be built where the par 3 golf course used to be in the center of the image above.

Photos of Site and Layout

The site for this high school is roughly 5-acres larger than Kingwood High School’s site. Clearing and grading of the land has already started. See pictures below.

Looking NE. Land for Future New Caney ISD High School #3
Looking East.
Looking South. Detention pond will go at the far end of this part of the site.

Importance of Detention Pond

A Bid Bulletin described the total project as a 337,000 square-foot, 3-story building with tilt-wall construction and a detention pond.

A building that large, with parking lots, and rubber grass on its playing fields would make make detention ponds critical.

Site Plan for New Caney HS #3 shows detention pond on south side of property (right) and taking up approximately 10% of the property. For a higher resolution PDF, click here.

Plans show that the retention pond will be located along the southern border of the property. The land naturally slopes to there.

Although width and length are not noted on this drawing, it appears to take up about ten percent of the site and have a depth of 6.66 feet. If those are accurate assumptions, that would mean the pond provides 33.3 acre feet of detention for a 50 acre site.

That equals .666 acre feet of detention per acre. The City of Houston requires .5 feet per acre for sites of this size.

But a white paper by the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium points out that many factors can influence the amount of detention needed to offset development. Those factors include the amount of impervious cover, the soil type and more. They can change the rate needed for protection of downstream residents more than 10X. There is not one-size-fits-all.

Until we learn more about the specifics of this site and project, we can’t know whether this plan provides enough detention. But this certainly is an encouraging start.

Now that the site is cleared though, New Caney ISD should expedite construction of the detention pond. The peak of hurricane season is two months away. Elm Grove showed us what can happen between clearing and the installation of detention ponds.

More About the High School

Community Impact newspaper reported earlier this year that the high school will open in August, 2022. The project will be built in two phases.

Artists renderings of the campus show a sleek, modern, open, light-filled design.

Aerial image shows high school will be built around an open courtyard giving more classrooms access to more sunlight. Rendering from New Caney ISD.
Artists rendering of lobby of New Caney HS #3 from New Caney ISD.
Front Elevation of the new high school from New Caney ISD.

For those new to the area, two independent school districts serve the Kingwood area. The Humble ISD serves the vast majority of the area. The New Caney ISD serves the parts outside of Harris County on the north and west.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/17/2020

1023 Days after Hurricane Harvey

San Jacinto River Watershed: Underfunded, Overdamaged

When I go to various flood mitigation meetings around town, I often hear – with some jealously and resentment – that the San Jacinto River Watershed seems to be getting the lion’s share of flood mitigation funding. This is not true, but it’s a popular misperception. Those who believe they are underfunded tell me constantly how unfair they think it is.

Flood Damage and Mitigation Funding Varies Greatly by Watershed

So I’ve done some research on this subject and would like to call your attention to two reports. The first is a regional report by the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium called Strategies for Flood Mitigation. It examines equity in funding between different watersheds. It found that the San Jacinto River Watershed has 3% of the region’s population, historically has received 0% of the region’s flood mitigation funding, and yet sustained 14% of the region’s damages during Harvey. That would seem to suggest that San Jacinto River Watershed residents suffered almost five times more damage per capita than other watersheds.

I wondered if there could be a correlation between underfunding of flood mitigation projects and excessive damage. That led me to another report that lists spending by watersheds in dollars: Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) annual federal briefing. It’s Flood Control’s annual report to the Federal Government about how Federal funds are being spent here. The link above is to the 2018 version, published last March. That was just BEFORE the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started its West Fork dredging project. Note also, it was BEFORE Harris County passed its $2.5 billion flood bond in August. So what follows is a snapshot of the way things were BEFORE Harvey, not now.

SJR Flood Mitigation Projects Underfunded Until Recently

A re-reading of that Federal Briefing confirmed my suspicions and the findings of the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium. The San Jacinto River watershed is by far the biggest in Harris County. With the exception of a few buyouts and flood gages, until now, it has received NO federal dollars for flood mitigation projects (at least through the County).

Source: Harris County Flood Control 2018 Federal Briefing. Harris County has 22 watersheds. The San Jacinto appears to be the largest.

By far, the vast majority of the money spent goes to capital improvement projects such as channelization and detention. Virtually all of that money is spent in six areas according to the Active Federal Projects Summary in the HCFCD Federal Briefing. They are:

  • Sims Bayou
  • Clear Creek & Tributaries
  • Greens Bayou
  • Brays Bayou
  • Hunting Bayou
  • White Oak Bayou

Previously, projects were completed for the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, Halls Bayou, Buffalo Bayou, Vince Bayou, Little Vince Bayou, and Cypress Creek. There are no capital projects listed for the San Jacinto River Watershed, past or present.

Higher Percentages of Budget than Damage

So how did the watersheds fare that are receiving federal funding? According to pages 24 and 25 of the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium  report:

  • Sims Bayou had 19% of the budget and 2% of the damage.
  • Clear Creek had 13% of the budget and 7% of the damage.
  • Greens Bayou had 8% of the budget and 7% of the damage.
  • Brays Bayou had 23% of the budget and 18% of the damage.
  • Hunting Bayou had 8% of the budget and 1% of the damage.
  • White Oak Bayou had 14% of the budget and 3% of the damage.

With No Budget, SJR Tied for Third Highest Amount of Damage

Compared to the six creeks and bayous above, the San Jacinto River had 0% of the budget and 14% of the damage. Here’s how it looks in graph form, taken from the Flood Mitigation Consortium report.

The Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium Report dramatizes the need for equity in funding throughout the region. For a complete breakdown of all watersheds, see the table on page 25 of the report.

What can we deduce from this?

Flood mitigation spending, without a doubt, reduces damage.

The San Jacinto River watershed is by far the most underfunded compared to others.

Vigilance Needed

People in the Lake Houston Area need to fight future underfunding. We have been too quiet and therefore neglected for far too long. We must remain vigilant in coming years to ensure that the projects we have been promised (additional dredging, detention and floodgates, plus better ditch maintenance) are in fact delivered.

Harris County and the federal government together are spending $1.342 billion dollars on capital projects for Sims Bayou, Clear Creek, Greens Bayou, Brays Bayou, Hunting Bayou and White Oak Bayou. The San Jacinto currently gets only one twentieth of that due to the current Corps dredging project.

Before you call Judge Emmett and your county commissioners, I would like to point out that they have already committed to a more equitable distribution of project dollars from the $2.5 billion flood bond passed in August and that the Lake Houston area should get its fair share in the future. Phone calls at this moment are not necessary. Vigilance is. We can’t change the past, but together we can change the future.

Posted by Bob Rehak on October 24, 2018

421 Days since Hurricane Harvey


Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium Issues Recommendations for San Jacinto Watershed

WhataBurger in the new HEB shopping center during flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Courtesy of John Knoerzer.

The Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium issued a region-wide 64-page report on April 5, 2018. It begins with a discussion of the pros and cons of various flood mitigation strategies in general. Then it looks at strategies that apply to each watershed within the region and the equity of funding for each watershed.

The San Jacinto watershed, they say, contains 3% of the region’s population, gets 0% of the budget, and had 14% of the region’s damages.

The Consortium’s discussion of recommendations for the San Jacinto watershed begins on page 48 and continues on page 49. Because the complete report is more than a 130 megabyte download, I quote their recommendations  for us below:

  • In-depth engineering studies and science-based hydrologic and ecological assessments to determine the cost, benefits and risks associated with the following proposed flood mitigation strategies:
    • Making structural alterations to Lake Houston dam and spillway
    • Dredging along the San Jacinto River and in Lake Houston
    • Construction of a Montgomery County reservoir system / fourth reservoir
  • Stricter regulation of sand mining operations, acquisition and complete restoration of land associated with past sand mining operations. Enact stricter state regulations and enforce penalties to shut down illegal mine operations that do not have required permits; strict enforcement of existing rules; require full restoration and/or create an in lieu fee program to finance restoration of closed and abandoned sand mining sites.
  • Stricter development regulations for the watersheds in the San Jacinto River Basin
  • Outreach to stakeholders and communities in the San Jacinto River Basin to increase awareness and facilitate greater transparency in reservoir operation and management and development of flood mitigation strategies.
  • Increased deployment of green infrastructure strategies including conservation easements, land acquisition and LID as population growth and development continues at a rapid pace. Creation of a regional LID guidelines template for use by local and county governments and LID performance criteria needed.
  • Create a San Jacinto River Community Advisory Council that meets regularly with public operators and functions similarly to community advisory councils in Houston Ship Channel industrial communities.
  • Stricter floodplain development regulations extending beyond the 500-year floodplain based on Atlas14 rainfall estimates

The entire report is a good read. It’s well designed and filled with helpful illustrations. People seriously interested in flood mitigation should download and read the whole survey. It’s extremely thoughtful and balanced.

Here is the Houston Chronicle’s take on the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium’s report.

Posted April 6, 2018, 219 Days After Hurricane Harvey.