Tag Archive for: Harvey Damages

More West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge Repairs Scheduled

This post is a bit off topic but it does relate to Hurricane Harvey. Harvey damaged the West Lake Houston Parkway bridge. So you can add this to the list of the area’s damages from Harvey.

Houston Public Works will conduct its final 5-month-long bridge repair project on the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge beginning Monday, August 3. The project consists of repairing bents 25-28 underneath the bridge. 

What is a Bent?

A “bent” is the combination of the cap and piles. They act as supports for the entire bridge. Here’s an easy-to-read and well illustrated primer on bridge inspection that describes the purpose of bents. (See photo below of the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge bents.)

Bents underneath the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge. Photo taken 9/16/2018, one year after Harvey. Note the flood debris still caught in the bents. This is a random photo and not intended to show the damaged bents.

Cost More than $4 Million

The cost of the project is $4,385,197 and will be funded through the Dedicated Drainage and Street Renewal Fund. The contractor for the project is NBG Contracting, Inc. The work is expected to be completed by Saturday, January 9, weather permitting.

Road Closures and Schedule

On Monday, August 3, work will begin at 7:00 a.m. by closing the outer lanes of the bridge. Two-way traffic will be maintained on the inner lanes. Construction activities are expected to take place Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Crews will occasionally work from Sunday at 5:00 p.m. though Monday at 5:00 a.m. when work requires closure of one side of the bridge. During these occasional work hours, pedestrian sidewalks along both sides of the bridge will be barricaded and closed for safety.

Please be aware of flagmen and orange traffic cones in place on-site assisting with traffic flow through the construction zone. All lanes of the bridge and pedestrian sidewalks will reopen following the completion of the project on Saturday, January 9, weather permitting.

This project follows the completion of repairs done by Houston Public Works this spring and the temporary repairs last October after three bearing pads slipped from their concrete beams. The work completed this month are the final repairs needed for the bridge to ensure the longevity of the infrastructure. 

For more information, please contact Mayor Pro Tem Martin’s office at (832) 393-3008 or via email at districte@houstontx.gov.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/21/2020 with thanks to Josh Alberson for piloting the boat

1057 Days after Hurricane Harvey

SJRA Board to Meet Friday in Closed Session on Pending Harvey Litigation

Friday, July 10, at 11 a.m., the San Jacinto River Authority Board of Directors will meet in a closed session to discuss pending Harvey litigation with their lawyers and consultants.

Kingwood Greens Evacuation During Harvey by Jay Muscat
Kingwood Greens Evacuation During Harvey by Jay Muscat

Special Meeting with No Action on Agenda Items

A meeting notice put out by the SJRA says they will hold the “special” meeting via telephone conference call due to COVID. The notice also said:

There are no items on the agenda for action by said Board of Directors. Accordingly, there will not be an opportunity to provide public comments during the meeting. 

The notice provided a phone number for LISTENING PURPOSES ONLY. 

(936) 588-7199, Conference ID is 660572


AGENDA

  1. CALL TO ORDER (OPEN SESSION)
  2. CLOSED SESSION – The Board of Directors will adjourn to Closed Session for consultations with the Authority’s attorneys, pursuant to Texas Government Code, Section 551.071, regarding pending litigation related to Hurricane Harvey. No action will be taken during or following Closed Session.
  3. RECONVENE IN OPEN SESSION – The Board of Directors will reconvene in Open Session.
  4. ADJOURN

The publication of the phone number meets a technical requirement for public agencies to conduct public board meetings. But it sounds as if they will immediately go into executive session and adjourn the meeting as soon as they come out.

This made me curious about the status of pending litigation.

Cases Slowed Due to Covid

SJRA is fighting several different cases. According to one lawyer following them, the Medina case appears to be the most active. Attorneys in that case just filed an agreed motion to modify the scheduling order. That sets the SJRA’s “plea to the jurisdiction” hearing in November, 2020.

In Texas, a “plea to the jurisdiction” challenges the trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case. Two SJRA pleas argue that the court should dismiss the case, not that venue should change.

For the full text of the pleas, click on these links:

3 Firms, 9 Lawyers Defending SJRA

The second plea introduces more arguments and develops them more fully. Three firms and nine lawyers signed the supplemental plea. (And the SJRA complains about legal costs!)

They argue that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a valid claim to which SJRA is not immune.

“Indeed, the evidence conclusively demonstrates,” they argue in their conclusion, “that no constitutional taking occurred. The Court should therefore grant SJRA’s Plea to the Jurisdiction and dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice.” [Emphasis added.]

(Aside: No constitutional taking? Did they just agree with plaintiffs’ arguments? Plaintiffs allege UNconstitutional taking. Curious wording there!)

Pillars of SJRA’s Argument

To support the dismissal plea, the SJRA argues, in part, that:

  • “SJRA’s engineers established a Gate Operations Policy intended to reduce flows in the river.”
  • The River Authority followed its Gate Operations Policy.
  • The Policy reduced downstream flows during Hurricane Harvey.
  • Other sources – over which SJRA has no control – converge with the West Fork San Jacinto River and contributed to flooding.
  • Very little, if any, of the floodwaters that inundated Plaintiffs’ properties passed through the Lake Conroe Dam.
  • Plaintiffs cannot prove that flooding on individual properties was caused by SJRA actions.
  • SJRA did not intentionally take any action certain to flood any plaintiff’s property.
  • The plaintiffs cannot even show the first element of a “takings” claim – that SJRA’s acts caused damage to their property.

If the judge does NOT dismiss the case, and if COVID allows, the trial will proceed in 2021.

Pleas NOT Good Bedtime Reading

If you flooded during Harvey and want a good night’s sleep, don’t read these documents before bedtime. Here’s just one of the claims that had my brain in turmoil at 3 a.m.

“Texas law makes clear that a dam operator does not commit a taking when it does not release water from the dam in such a way that it increases the flow into the river or negatively changes the character of the flows in the river.”

SJRA Supplemental Plea

The SJRA’s own documents show that it released almost exactly one-third of the water coming down the West Fork between Humble and Kingwood during Harvey. The volume they released at the peak – all by itself – would have been the ninth largest flood in West Fork history … and the sixth largest since Lake Conroe was built almost 50 years ago.

“Very little, if any, of the floodwaters that inundated Plaintiffs’ properties passed through the Lake Conroe Dam.” Really? How can these lawyers refer to their claims as indisputable on page after page?

Hmmmm. I guess that’s why they make a $1000/hour.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/10/2020

1046 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.

Camille Pagel’s Hurricane Harvey Experience and Plea to Continue Lowering Lake Conroe

Harvey and the 80,000 CFS SJRA release during the storm destroyed virtually everything Camille Muñoz Pagel and her family had. The SJRA is now considering whether to continue lowering Lake Conroe seasonally and temporarily until other flood mitigation measures can be implemented. Pagel wants to share her experience in the hope that the SJRA will continue the policy which provides extra safety against flooding for people downstream.


How the Pagel Family Lost Most Everything They Had

This morning I reached a boiling point. AJ Corso from Montgomery has been on my poop list since last week’s meeting in front of the SJRA. His poster asking to “restore my dream” with his red boat in the foreground makes me want to scream. It’s not helpful, I know, but it seems so outrageous that we should even have to argue about this issue of safety at all.

That people are upset because they can’t put their bloody boats in the water for a little bit, while we downstream literally put ALL of our prized belongings on our yard is unfathomable.

One of the SJRA board members lives across the street and I hope he remembers what this was like and can reason peacefully with Conroe residents. It’s not a forever solution and it can save lives.

Deerwood Country Club on Sunday August 27, 2017. “The water level is chest deep here – about 5 feet,” said Pagel. The SJRA issued a press release at noon on that day saying they were releasing record amounts of water. By next morning, you couldn’t even see the golf course and the release rate would more than double.
Water in the Pagel home reached 4.5 feet after the release. “Almost every belonging we had was below 4.5 feet,” said Pagel.
“My kids didn’t get to jet ski. They got to gut their kitchen instead of being in school.” — Camille Pagel.

“I can’t imagine a world,” said Pagel, “where you see families lose everything and can only think of the time you lost jet skiing or boating.” 

“If these pictures can help Conroe folks see that this is about more than pleasure boating, please share them,” said Pagel.

— Camille Muñoz Pagel 

Well, Camille, I can’t imagine going through what you went through. So here they are world.


Last SJRA Board Meeting Before Big Vote

The next SJRA board meeting on February 20 will be your last chance to comment on their policy of lowering Lake Conroe seasonally until other flood mitigation measures can be put in place. For more details about the meeting and the policy, see the Lake Lowering page on this web site.

Please come. At the last board meeting, Kingwood people were outnumbered at least 20 to 1 by red-shirted residents from Lake Conroe.

January SJRA board meeting. Lake Houston area people are wearing white shirts in the foreground. Lake Conroe people are wearing red shirts.

Other Ways to Register Your Support

If you can’t make the meeting in person, please consider emailing the SJRA board about your Harvey experience. Please consider also signing this petition.

If you would like to share your pictures and story with Lake Conroe residents, please also consider sending them to me for publication via the Submissions page of this web site.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/30/2019 based on input from Camille Pagel

884 Days since Hurricane Harvey