Tag Archive for: Halls

Halls Bayou Has Come a Long Way, But Still Has Long Way to Go

A popular misperception says Halls Bayou has received no flood-mitigation funding. Yet it has received $175 million since 2000. $65 million of that happened since Harvey.

Channel widening, stormwater-detention basins and neighborhood drainage improvements have reduced flood risk somewhat, but several factors – including the need for more funding – make mitigation difficult. HCFCD has many projects still seeking federal assistance.

The Bond Program approved by voters in 2018 includes more than $110 million for the Halls Bayou watershed. That money could help attract another $236 million in federal matching grants for a total of $346 million. But many projects have yet to receive grants and start construction.

Halls cuts diagonally across the northern part of Harris County between Beltway 8 and Loop 610 North. It joins Greens Bayou before the Ship Channel.

From HCFCD.org on 7/24/2022. Halls, a tributary of Greens Bayou, is the darker shaded area.

Background: Halls Ahead

Halls received an extraordinary amount of damage during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Among all 23 Harris County watersheds, it ranked second only behind Greens Bayou during that storm. But Greens has four times the area and three times the population. (Greens had 15,590 damaged structures; Halls had 12,820.)

As a result, HCFCD launched many studies of Halls drainage after Allison. They culminated in the 2013 Halls Ahead Plan. But HCFCD lacked money to fully implement it and still does. All unfunded Halls Ahead projects carried forward into the 2018 Bond Program and many were able to start as you will see in the pictures below. Several have even finished. However…

A Phasing Study designated 58 flood risk reduction projects in 12 phases, with estimated costs between $100 million and $150 million per phase

Flood Control executives recently traveled to Washington to plead for more help from the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps now has a pilot program to help economically disadvantaged areas and Halls certainly qualifies. Halls has the highest percentage of vulnerable, Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) residents of any watershed in Harris County (71%).

Complicating Factors

Blocked roadside ditches trap floodwater in neighborhoods. City of Houston and Harris County Precincts are responsible for roadside ditches, not HCFCD.

Halls is plagued by a combination of factors that make flood mitigation difficult:

  • Silted-in roadside ditches
  • Aging stormwater infrastructure
  • Developments built to older standards
  • Homes frequently built at street level
  • Dense population that leaves little room for mitigation projects
  • Structures built in floodplains that have to be bought out before many mitigation can begin (see below).

Flood History in Halls Watershed

Much of the Halls Bayou watershed developed during or after the 1950s. Take this area immediately east of what became I-45. It was farmland before then.

Google Earth image from 1953.
Halls Bayou 1978
Same area in 1978.
Floodplains today. Cross hatched = Floodway. Aqua = 100-year floodplain. Brown = 500-year. Based on data developed after Allison. Floodplains will expand even farther after new updates.

Homes and businesses built in Halls Bayou floodplains created the flood risk. They also make widening channels or building detention basins difficult because of time-consuming, expensive buyouts.

Vital Stats

These statistics help put Halls Bayou flood problems in perspective. Here’s how Halls ranks among 23 Harris County watersheds on:

  • Watershed size – #16 (42.3 square miles)
  • Population – #10 (152,358 in 2020 census, down 5% from 2010)
  • Population density – #6 (3,602 people/square mile)
  • Dollars per capita in flood mitigation spending – #5 ($1151 per resident)
  • Dollars per square mile – #4 ($3.9 million dollars per square mile between 2000 and the end of last year).
  • Damaged structures – #4 (25,691 structures during five major storms since 2000 [Allison, Tax Day, Memorial Day, Harvey and Imelda])
  • Damage per square mile – #1 (607.4 structures/sq. mi.)

That last point makes recovery difficult for communities, especially less affluent ones. It may help explain the decrease in population.

Allison, Harvey Dramatize Need for Mitigation

HCFCD has documented flooding along Halls 14 times since 1989. But the two worst storms were Allison (2001) and Harvey (2017). Allison damaged 12,820 structures in the watershed. But Harvey damaged fewer – 11,831.

It’s fairly safe to say that without many mitigation improvements made prior to Harvey, Harvey damage would have been worse. However, rainfall distribution patterns make comparisons between the storms difficult.

The following table from HCFCD’s final Harvey report compares rainfall associated with severe, recent storms for various time periods. Tropical Storm Allison exceeds Harvey’s rainfall in the 6, 12 and 24-hr periods. But in the 2-day period, Harvey produced 6.0 inches more than Allison and 8.9 inches more over 4 days.

From HCFCD Final Harvey Report

Photos of Stormwater Detention Projects from 7/19/22 Flyover

Last Tuesday, I flew most of the length of Halls Bayou with two fellow members of the Harris County Community Flood Resilience Task Force, Ken Williams and Bill Callegari. Let’s take a look at several Halls projects already completed or under construction – starting upstream and working east.

Helms Street Basins

East Helms runs between these two small basins just south of Aldine Mail Route Road. HCFCD completed these last year. They hold 119 acre-feet. That’s a little less than 3″ of stormwater falling over a square mile.

Looking NE. Helms Street Stormwater Detention Basins, Phases 1 & 2.


I last reported on this project in March 2022. It’s still under construction.

The $6 million stormwater detention basin project will provide regional mitigation benefits. 

The basin will hold 180 acre-feet of stormwater. That’s about 3.5 inches of rain falling across a square mile. It will be a wet-bottom basin with a vegetated shelf.

Looking S at new detention basin. Between Halls Bayou at far end and Isom Street in foreground. Aldine Mail Route Road is under the camera position.

This basin is part of a larger mitigation project that will also extend and enlarge a channel north to the Western Homes subdivision along Aldine Mail Route Road.

Keith Weiss Park

One of the hidden gems of Houston is Keith Weiss Park east of Aldine-Westfield Road. The area is really a series of large connected detention basins disguised as a nature park with hike and bike trails, soccer fields, piers and boardwalks. City of Houston owns the park.

The Keith Weiss project removed 1,770,000 cubic yards of soil to create detention basins that hold approximately 963 acre feet of stormwater storage. That’s enough to hold a foot of stormwater falling across 1.5 square miles.

Google Earth shows that excavation started around 2006 and was substantially completed by 2010.

Wide shot looking east from over Aldine-Westfield Road. Halls Bayou flows away from camera. See close-ups of the three detention ponds below.
Western-most basin. Halls Bayou in bottom center.
Center pond. Still looking east toward US 59.
Eastern-most pond.

Channel Improvements

HCFCD is making channel improvements along Halls in many locations. See project C-41. The area below lies between Keith Weiss Park and US59.

Looking SE along Halls toward US59. According to the HCFCD website, channel conveyance improvements and an additional detention basin are still in preliminary engineering.

Bretshire Stormwater Detention Basin

The Bretshire Stormwater Detention Basin on Halls Bayou added approximately 635 acre feet of additional stormwater storage upstream of Jensen Drive at US 59. It holds a foot of stormwater falling across one square mile.

Looking East across Bretshire Stormwater Detention Basin toward US59. The Fiesta store is by 59, left of center. Downtown is out of frame to the right.

A large part of a subdivision had to be bought out before construction of this basin could begin. HCFCD substantially completed this basin in 2015.

Hall Park Basin

HCFCD also had to buy out a large part of a subdivision to build the Hall Park basin on the opposite side of US 59. Flood Control substantially completed this project in 2018.

Looking NE across US 59 toward the Hall Park basin and Halls Bayou.

Hall Park holds 835 acre-feet. That’s enough to hold a foot of water falling across 1.3 square miles.

This project involved relocating a City of Houston sanitary sewer line and removing approximately 1.2 million cubic yards of soil.

This project required many buyouts that took almost a decade to complete. Roads shown inside the basin have been removed.

As part of its Bayou Greenways 2020 project, the nonprofit Houston Parks Board is designing and constructing the Halls Bayou Greenway – which includes a hike and bike trail, landscaping and neighborhood connections – along the southern edge of the stormwater detention basin. The full Halls Bayou Greenway will provide nine miles of publicly accessible open space from Brock Park to Keith Wiess Park.

In many cases, such stormwater detention basins are disguised as parks. So, many people don’t even recognize them as basins.

Hopper and Little York Basins

Slightly east of 59 at Hopper and Little York, HCFCD constructed two smaller basins in 2021 along a tributary of Halls. Together they hold approximately 200 acre feet. That’s about a foot of rain falling over a third of a square mile. Or four inches across a whole square mile.

Looking west toward 59 at Hopper Basin. Halls tributary cuts diagonally through pond in foreground.
Looking S along the same tributary (in shade at left) at Little York basin. Little York runs along the bottom of the frame.

Such projects hold water back during storms until it can be slowly and safely released later when water in the bayou has receded.

Holding Back A Foot of Rain Falling Across Almost 5 Square Miles

Altogether, the detention basins in this post will hold almost a foot of stormwater falling across 5-square miles.

Halls Bayou has many other projects in various stages. For a complete listing, see the HCFCD website. Or review this presentation.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/23/2022

1790 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Another Massive Detention Pond Going In Next to Halls Bayou

Construction has begun on another massive detention pond along Halls Bayou. It stretches south from Isom Street to the bayou between Chrisman and Aldine-Westfield Roads. It covers approximately 26 acres and when complete will hold 180-acre feet of stormwater to reduce the risk of flooding. This is just one of 11 projects comprising the Halls Implementation Program. Together they have a total current value of $212 million dollars.

Looking NNW across the new detention pond. Construction started in August 2021. HCFCD expects completion by March 2022.

Such basins take in excess stormwater during heavy rain events and then release it slowly back to the channel when the threat of flooding has passed. Part of the basin will have a wet bottom and another part will have a vegetated shelf. Yet another part will go in between Isom and Aldine Mail Route Road, although that portion has not yet begun construction. (See below).

Map on left shows current extent of construction work. Eventually, project will also include channel conveyance improvements (right) for a tributary that will be directed into the new pond.

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) lists the project as C-25 on its website. But the Flood Bond Program ID is P518-11-00. Ultimately, this will become part of a much larger project area that includes P118-21-00. Together, they will improve drainage in a large part of east Aldine.

Each of these projects falls into Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s Precinct 2. The description that accompanies the project in the flood-bond spreadsheet says, “This project could reduce the risk of flooding for over 90 buildings and could reduce the 1% floodplain for over 100 acres.” The HCFCD spreadsheet and website indicate a total cost of more than $14 million.

But keep this in mind. Project C-25 will work in conjunction with two proposed Harris County Engineering Department projects: neighborhood drainage improvements in the Western Homes subdivision and proposed roadway and drainage improvements along Aldine Mail Route Road. The detention capacity in the pond you see here will accommodate drainage improvements in those areas without flooding other areas. Thus, the pond will really help more than 90 structures.

The project shown in these photos is P-518. P-118 is still in preliminary engineering review.

C-25 is a partnership project. HCFCD received an approximately $9.5 million Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Approximately $5.4 million comes from local funding.

Photos of Work to Date

Looking NE from the SE corner of the construction. Halls Bayou, center, runs along the southern edge of the new basin. The detention basin in the top center was developed by TxDoT. Another phase of this project will expand north into those trees in the upper left.
Looking north from over Halls Bayou. A large part of this basin will have a wet bottom, which contractors are beginning to excavate now. Only detention capacity above the permanent waterline counts toward the total of 180 acre feet. So this pond will have a depth of 7-8 feet from the top of bank to the waterline.
Reverse shot looking SE from Isom Street. The TxDoT basin and Keith Weiss Park are in the upper left of this shot.
The scale of the workers in this shot shows the depth of excavation as of 10/13/21.

This HCFCD presentation explains more about the project, a related project (P118-21-00/C-28) and their benefits.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/13/2021

1506 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Surprise! Surprise! Halls, Greens Watersheds Get $422 Million of Flood-Mitigation Funding, Not “ZERO.”

First in an Eight-Part series on Flood-Mitigation Funding in Harris County

Recently, many local leaders, citizens and media have claimed that two largely minority and low-to-moderate-income (LMI) Harris County watersheds – Halls and Greens Bayous – have gotten no flood-mitigation funding. The actual data shows the exact opposite of what many people have been told, i.e., that racial bias affects the distribution of flood mitigation funds. 

Halls and Greens have received $422 million since 2000. And they received $200 million of that since Harvey. Meanwhile, Kingwood has never had one Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) capital improvement project.

FOIA Request Shows Where Money Has Actually Gone

Information, newly available through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request, reveals that Greens and Halls Bayous, have received 16% of all Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) funding since 2000 and 18% since Hurricane Harvey. That’s almost one fifth of all flood-mitigation funding for 23 watersheds in the whole county!

Data based on information provided by Harris County Flood Control in response to FOIA request

But the popular perception is that flood mitigation money is all going to affluent neighborhoods like those in Kingwood at the expense of low-to-moderate income areas, such as Greens and Halls.  Local media have helped spread this misinformation:

From the twitter feed of a Houston Chronicle writer who covers flooding.

FOIA Request Reveals Flaws in Narrative

One Harris County commissioner frequently claims Greens and Halls are being discriminated against in the allocation of flood-mitigation funding. He says residents in those watersheds are at the “back of the bus” and if commissioners don’t fix that, “We’ll have blood on our hands.” 

That sounded extreme. So, to see how bad the problem was, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in early March. Out of 23 watersheds: 

  • Since 2000, Halls and Greens rank #8 and #3 respectively in flood mitigation “dollars received.” 
  • Since Harvey, Halls and Greens rank #11 and #2 respectively

While #11 and #8 may sound “middle of the pack” for Halls, keep in mind that Halls ranks #16 in size. The entire watershed is only 42 out of 1,776 square miles that make up Harris County. 

Halls actually ranks #3 among all watersheds in “dollars/square mile” 
since 2000 (eclipsed only by Brays and White Oak).

Since 2000, Halls has received more than $3 million per square mile. Compare that to $0.5 million for the San Jacinto watershed, a frequent target of Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and his followers. 

Here’s what all watersheds have received and where they rank, along with other measures, such as:

  • Watershed area
  • Population
  • Density
  • LMI population 
  • Spending per capita
  • Spending per square mile
  • Structures damaged in floods
Current as of end of March 2021. Note: data excludes maintenance spending. Spending shows only capital-improvement flood-mitigation projects. To see the original HCFCD data, click here. For a high resolution, printable PDF of my summary sheet above, click here.

You can look at this data in dozens of ways. And I will. However, any way you cut it, it does not support discrimination against the poor or a racial bias in funding. If you didn’t look any further, you could use this data to support the opposite point of view, i.e., that funding discriminates against more affluent neighborhoods. However…

Spending Actually Closely Tracks Damage

Halls and Greens Bayou watersheds contain large percentages of low-to-moderate income (LMI) households. Versus other watersheds, Halls ranks #1 in LMI households (71%) and Greens ranks #6 (57%).

Of all the rankings on all the measures, the measure that seems to track most closely with funding is “properties damaged.” One would hope for that! It’s a perfectly rational, non-biased basis for allocating funds. 

Data shows that the Flood Control District is spending the most money where flooding has damaged the most structures. 

Dollars Flow to Damage

See below.

Flood-mitigation funding by watershed arranged from highest to lowest with spending and damage rankings.

To underscore that point, consider that:

  • Greens ranks #3 in funding since 2000 and #2 since Harvey. It also had the 2nd most damage in four major floods (Allison, Tax Day, Memorial Day, and Harvey).
  • Halls ranks 3rd in spending per square mile since 2000 and 4th since Harvey. It also had the 4th most damage in all four storms. 

Together, Halls and Greens have received $422 million since 2000. That’s hardly “nothing.” Hardly “back of the bus.” And their high rankings hardly make an argument for racial or income bias.

Crucial Role of Tropical Storm Allison

Flood-mitigation studies, funding, and construction can take years and even decades. Tropical Storm Allison, 20 years ago this month, played a role in the rankings above. Compare the watershed and rainfall maps below. The heaviest rainfall in Allison fell directly over Halls and Greens Bayous. Thus, both of these watersheds experienced major damage two decades ago.

Map of Harris County Watersheds. Note the location of Halls and Greens in the upper left quadrant of Beltway 8. 
Allison rainfall map. Source: HCFCD via NOAA. Rain was heaviest within the northeast quadrant of Beltway 8. It contains Halls and Greens Bayous. The 15” band also tracked WNW across the upstream portions of Halls and Greens.

Projects Identified Earlier Are Farther Along 

That actually helps explain why they rank so high in funding today. During Allison, Greens ranked #1 in damage (15,590 structures) and Halls ranked #2 (12,820). 

Many projects identified decades ago, such as those in Halls and Greens, received sporadic funding before the 2018 flood bond. Surveys and engineering reports may have been completed or “rights of way” acquired. But many costly construction projects had to be postponed until money became available.

Before 2018, the Flood Control District only had $60M per year to spend across all of Harris County. Then, when voters approved the flood bond in 2018, Halls and Greens projects were “shovel ready” and could start immediately.  In essence, they had a head start and it shows in funding!  

Also, in 2019, commissioners adopted an “equity” prioritization plan that accelerated spending in LMI watersheds. So, Halls and Greens got an extra boost. 

That’s not to say these watersheds have gotten everything residents wanted or needed. But then, who has? 

Numbers Contradict Narrative

Those who watch Commissioners Court are treated month after month to tales about how flood-mitigation spending has discriminated against people in low-income watersheds with high percentages of LMI households. Halls and Greens are repeatedly held up as examples. 

The FOIA data does not support that theory. It shows that low-income watersheds are not being ignored. And higher income watersheds are not getting all the money. Anyone who says they are is not looking at the numbers.  

In fact, data from the FOIA request revealed that the Kingwood area has had exactly ZERO Flood Control District capital improvement projects in the last 20 years. The often-cited Buffalo Bayou watershed has had exactly TWO capital Flood Control District capital improvement projects in the last 20 years.  

Those who make allegations of racial bias ignore projects on the ground. 

To learn more about recently completed projects or projects currently under construction in Halls and Greens Bayou watersheds, see these previous posts:

Tomorrow, I will examine flood-mitigation funding in six watersheds with the lowest income rankings versus six with the highest. 

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/21/2021 based on HCFCD data supplied in response to a FOIA request.

1392 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.