Tag Archive for: Huffman

Friendswood Clearing 553 Acres in Huffman

Friendswood Development Company has started clearing 553 acres west of Huffman-Cleveland Road. It will eventually extend from Northwood County Estates on the north to Cypress Point on the south. Plat records show that Friendswood has named the development “Sila.”

Long, Narrow, Dense Homesites

The new residential community will contain an unspecified number of homesites, most long and narrow. This will certainly increase the percentage of impervious cover relative to the surrounding area.

Detail from Sila Section 3 plat approved by Houston Planning Commission in 2023.

Existing homes sit on larger, heavily wooded lots. So, this and other new, nearby developments will change the character of the area considerably. Along with that will come more traffic and congestion.

To put that in perspective, I talked to one homeowner in nearby Northwood Country Estates who owns a five-acre lot.

Forty-five of the lots indicated above could fit on his property.

Drainage Plans

Friendswood appears to be almost halfway done with clearing land for Sila. Consistent with best practices and construction plans, contractors appear to be clearing one section at a time, installing perimeter catchment ditches, erecting silt fence, and stabilizing land before moving on to the next area.

Detail from Sila drainage impact analysis.

The drainage analysis also claims that the development will provide more than the minimum amount of required detention-basin capacity. The minimum required is .65 acre feet per acre. But the engineering firm BGE says it will provide .67.

The minimum requirement was established by Harris County Flood Control District in 2019 after Hurricane Harvey. So, it should accommodate 100-year rainfalls projected under Atlas 14, NOAA’s current standard for rainfall estimates.

Approximately the northern half of this area has been cleared to date.

Approximately Half of Land Cleared So Far

The pictures below, all taken on 2/3/24, show the areas cleared so far.

Looking west over Huffman-Cleveland Road at extent of clearing. Curvature in road is caused by wide-angle-lens distortion.

The yellowish runoff in the foreground of the photo above is from Saint Tropez another new, but different development seen in the background of two pictures below.

Note the ditches that channel runoff away from homes in Northwood County Estates in upper right.

A 1.5 inch rain the night before I took these photos caused the ponding water you see.

Reverse angle. A series of three connected stormwater retention basins will flank the main entry road. Area to right (south) has not yet been cleared.
Looking east toward Saint Tropez across Huffman-Cleveland Road. Friendswood appears to have planted grass in foreground to reduce erosion.
Silt fence protects neighbors in other areas cleared earlier.

Proposed Lake Houston Mitigation Bank

The Sila property will drain into hundreds of acres that are part of the proposed Lake Houston Mitigation Bank.

Looking W at wetlands and floodplain between Sila and the East Fork San Jacinto.

LH Ranch has proposed creation of the wetlands mitigation bank here.

East Fork San Jacinto River and Lake Houston Park beyond.

The preservation of so much land will help protect homebuyers from flooding. It will also provide wildlife habitat and an exceptional recreational amenity. Here’s the prospectus for the mitigation bank presented to the Army Corps. Corps approval still appears to be pending as of this writing.

Areas of Concern

Two areas of concern, however, exist near the land most recently cleared. Contractors have not yet erected silt fence or dug protective ditches behind some of the neighboring homes on Davidson Lane in Northwood County Estates.

Looking S. Neighboring homes in upper right were still unprotected from runoff when I took this picture on 2/3/24. Water flows from left to right toward East Fork San Jacinto out of frame on the right.
Looking W. Note how runoff is draining across neighbor’s property. A larger rain could have caused damage.

Neighbors in Northwood County Estates are also concerned with how existing drainage will tie into Sila’s drainage. Elevations on county drawings and Sila’s drawings differ in places. So residents are asking for confirmation that existing ditches will continue to drain properly.

Ditch at end of Davidson Lane in Northwood Country Estates.

For the most part, with the exceptions noted above, Friendswood seems to be responsibly navigating the perilous early phase of development between clearing and the installation of drainage.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/4/24

2250 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.

Colony Ridge Buying Up Floodplain Land in Huffman

Colony Ridge Land, LLC, developer of the world’s largest trailer park in Liberty County, is buying up Harris County property in the floodplain of the East Fork San Jacinto. Since the property in the Cypress Point subdivision was originally platted, flood maps changed in 2001 and are in the process of changing again. Most of the properties face serious flood risk that the current flood maps may not communicate.

Land Remains Uncleared

Development has not yet started. The land is still heavily wooded…so much so, in fact, that dirt roads developed in the 1980s have become overtaken by trees and undergrowth. They are barely passable according to one person I talked to.

Colony Ridge has acquired at least 19 (but not all) properties within red area.
What the partially developed area looked like in 1988. Note unpaved roads nearest river.

Back in the late 1980s, the original developer cleared space for roads and platted the land going down to the East Fork. But today, paved roads stop about a quarter mile short of the river. From the air, those old dirt roads look like a slight indentation in the forest canopy.

Looking NE from over the utility corridor that forms the southern limit of the area. East Fork on right flows toward camera.
Looking NE from farther north. Old roadway appears as a crease in the jungle.
Still looking NE. Note how pavement on Birchwood Drive stops short of entering area.
Reverse angle looking S toward Lake Houston visible as blue streak below horizon in upper left. Lake Houston Park on right.

The Big Question

Why did the original developers stop short of paving roads all the way to the river? The answer likely has something to do with floodplains. Note in the image below how several of the lots border or lay within the floodway. Many more lay within the 100- and 500-year floodplains.

How Bad Could Flooding Be?

But those floodplain maps are outdated and can mislead. High-water marks established by HCFCD and contour maps by the U.S. Geological Survey suggest this property has flooded seriously at least 8 times in the last 20 years.

Elevation profile from USGS National Map

From the East Fork to the end of Oaknoll Drive, the elevation rises from approximately 42.5 feet to 67 feet. The 24.5-foot difference might sound like a lot. But consider this.

In 1994, the flood of record for the East Fork in this area (before Harvey), crested at 76.2 feet. That would have put the highest property near Oaknoll under 9 feet of water. The lowest property near the river would have been under 33.7 feet of water.

Then came Harvey. At the nearest gage, the East Fork crested at 81.2 feet.

That would have put the highest and lowest properties under 14.2 feet and 38.7 feet of water respectively.

All figures were computed using the elevation profile function in the USGS National Map, and cross referencing the results with the Harris County Flood Warning System gage at FM1485.

Even though most of the acquired properties are shown in the 500-year flood plain, most of them have been under water eight times in the 20 years since 1994.

Approximate high water marks from HarrisCountyFWS.org gage at FM1485 and East Fork.

In fact, most of the undeveloped lots likely flooded in an unnamed and already forgotten flood in April of this year.


Official Floodplains Expanding

Floodplains change with better understanding of the climate, upstream development, and better measurement technologies, such as LIDAR. Our current flood maps were developed after Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. But we’ve gotten a lot smarter about flood mapping since then.

That’s why Harris County Flood Control District and FEMA are updating flood maps for this area. The floodplains you see above will likely expand by 50% to 100% according to preliminary guidance from Harris County Flood Control. FEMA is in the process of certifying revised maps and should release them later this year or early next for public comment.

From MAAPnext.org.

Are Readings from FM1485 Analogous to Cypress Point?

Give or take few feet, the flood depths cited above are probably in the ballpark. Even if the high-water marks at Cypress Point are a few feet lower, they still represent serious flooding.

HarrisCountyFEMT.org shows that the width of the floodplain at FM1485 and Cypress Point, lower left, does not vary significantly.

One of the region’s leading hydrologists who has studied this area extensively felt the flood heights at FM1485 would translate well to Cypress Point where Colony Ridge is acquiring property. Colony Ridge has purchased at least 19 properties in the affected area. The map below shows where they are.

Note how virtually all purchases happened after Imelda, which would have put even higher properties under almost six feet of water.

Another property valuation report shows how the land value decreased 73% after Imelda in 2019. Colony Ridge purchased most of the properties in 2020. Bargain hunting?

Homes on Stilts Likely Unaffordable for Colony Ridge Target Market

It’s not clear what Colony Ridge plans to build on this property. However, the company has a history of selling land to Hispanic immigrants, then letting them clear their own lots and bring in trailer homes.

Many may not have a firm grasp of English. Few likely understand flood risk, especially the nuances of flood maps in flux. And Colony Ridge typically “owner finances,” meaning buyers don’t go through banks which would require flood studies and flood insurance before making a mortgage loan.

Alleged abuses are so common that whole websites have been set up to chronicle them.

Under today’s guidelines for developing land in floodplains, especially this deep in floodplains, homebuilders would likely have to elevate homes on stilts. And elevating homes 35 feet high would likely make them cost prohibitive for most of Colony Ridge’s primary target market.

Watch this one closely to make sure that no rules get broken.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/4/23

2166 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.

Nine Crenshaw Flood-Related Earmark Requests Approved by Various House Committees

U.S. Congressman Dan Crenshaw made nine flood-related earmark requests for 2024. And according to his office, several House of Representative Committees have approved all nine. They include:

  • $1.75M – Taylor Gully Flood Mitigation Project
  • $1.75M – Goose Creek Channel Conveyance Improvements
  • $3.6M – Highlands, Huffman & Crosby Roadway Reconstruction and Drainage Improvements project
  • $1.83 – San Jacinto River Wastewater System Replacement
  • $4M – Kingwood Diversion Channel/Walnut Lane Bridge
  • $1.12M – FM1488 Area Street Rehabilitation and Drainage Improvement Project 
  • $3M – Tamina Economic Development Planning Project
  • $7M – Ford Road Improvement Projects
  • $700,000 Montgomery County Bridge Project 

A committee also approved a request by Crenshaw NOT related to flooding – $1.65M for the Montgomery County Active Shooter Defense Training Facility. That means all 10 of Representative Crenshaw’s 2024 requests received funding, although not all received the full amount requested.

Project Descriptions

For descriptions of all 10 earmarks requested by Crenshaw, see below.

1. Taylor Gully Flood Mitigation Project

Recipient: Harris County Flood Control District

Requested: $8 million 

Committee Approved: $1.75 million. See Interior List.

Purpose: To reduce flood risk in the Kingwood area.  This area experienced widespread flooding from recent storm events, including Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda.  This project will create a detention basin and improve stormwater conveyance to minimize flood risks. Engineering studies show that completion of this project will result in substantial reductions in flooding along Taylor Gully.  The studies show that this project will remove the 100-year floodplain from more than 276 structures and 115 acres of flood area.

2. Goose Creek Channel Conveyance Improvements and Stormwater Detention Project

Recipient: Harris County Flood Control District

Requested: $8 million

Committee Approved: $1.75 million. See Interior List.

Purpose:  This project is designed to reduce flood risk within the Goose Creek Watershed by creating a detention basin and improving stormwater conveyance. The project is estimated to remove approximately 28 acres of inundated land, up to 77 structures, and 1.44 miles of inundated roadways from the 100-year event. Preventing flooding will avoid the need for more costly recovery efforts after flooding events.

3. Highland / Huffman / Crosby Roadway & Drainage Improvement 

Recipient: Harris County, Texas

Requested: $3.6 million 

Committee approved $3.6 million. See Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development List.

Purpose: Reconstruction of multiple poorly paved roads in subdivisions throughout the Highlands, Crosby, and Huffman areas of northeast Harris County. Existing gravel roads and inadequate drainage will be replaced with asphalt pavement, driveway culverts, and roadside ditches that will greatly improve residents’ quality of life. The projects will also improve accessibility for law enforcement and emergency services, reduce flood risk, and bring the local infrastructure to a standard acceptable for long-term County maintenance. 

4. San Jacinto River Wastewater System Replacement Project

Recipient: Army Corps of Engineers

Requested: $1.8 million

Committee Approved: $1.83 million. See Energy and Water List.

Purpose: To increase the reliability of the San Jacinto River Authority Woodlands Division wastewater conveyance system and repair damage from recent storms. List stations were damaged by flooding during Hurricane Harvey and have yet to be repaired. Both on-site lift stations, the control building, and the emergency generator were flooded and need to be replaced. This request would fund the demolition of the existing structure and build new systems. 

5. Kingwood Diversion Channel – Walnut Lane Bridge Project

Recipient: City of Houston

Requested: $4 million 

Committee Approved: $4 million. See Homeland Security List.

Purpose: The project includes the widening and reconstruction of Walnut Lane Bridge in Kingwood. This bridge, in its current configuration, will restrict flood flows unless widened to accommodate the future expansion of the Kingwood Diversion Channel currently being designed by the Harris County Flood Control District. The purpose of the overall project is to route drainage from Montgomery County to Lake Houston and reduce flood damage to residents of Kingwood along Bens Branch. The funding is needed to construct improvements needed to facilitate the expansion of the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and rebuild the Walnut Lane Bridge.

6. FM1488 Area Street Rehabilitation and Drainage Improvement Project 

Recipient: City of Conroe

Requested: $1.12 million

Committee Approved: $1.12 million. See Transportation, and Housing and Urban Develop List.

Purpose: The project will fund roadway resurfacing, drainage improvements, and storm sewer upgrades of roadways connecting to FM1488 near IH-45 (southern part of Conroe). The City of Conroe has experienced severe weather and rainfall which causes considerable wear and tear on the roads and drainage network. The project will benefit residential areas, including the Arella Forrest at Woodland Senior Living Center and Stillwater neighborhood. It will also improve access to the WG Jones State Forest, which serves a community located in a Historically Disadvantaged Community Tract. 

7. Tamina Economic Development Planning Project

Recipient: Montgomery County

Requested: $3 million 

Committee Approved: $3 million. See Transportation and Housing and Urban Development List.

Purpose: The Tamina area is not served by modern street and stormwater management systems. The streets are in disrepair and the area drains very poorly, creating an elevated risk of flooding. The first phase of economic development planning, which this request would support, is to complete detailed engineering and environmental studies, provide new driveways and culverts, and re-grade all of the ditches to allow them to drain. 

8. Ford Road Improvement Project 

Recipient: Montgomery County 

Requested: $12 million 

Committee Approved: $7 million. See Transportation List.

Purpose: Support Ford Road improvements from US 59 in Montgomery County to the Harris County line. The current road is undersized and serves as one of only three evacuation routes for the Kingwood area. All three routes have drainage issues and Ford Road is only a two-lane road. The proposed project would make Ford Road a four-lane road, improve local drainage, and improve driver and pedestrian safety in the corridor.

9. Montgomery County Bridge Project 

Recipient: Montgomery County 

Requested: $900,000

Committee Approved: $700,000. See Transportation List.

Purpose: Provide funding for five rural wooden bridges in Montgomery County that are past their design life and need to be replaced. The bridges were not built to current criteria and increase the risk of flooding by backing up water during large storms. One bridge serves as the only way in and out of a subdivision presenting a safety hazard. The funding request is for engineering, surveying, and permitting services to develop construction plans to replace five bridges.

10. Active Shooter Defense Training Facility

Recipient: Montgomery County 

Requested: $2.3 million 

Committee Approved: $1.65 million. See Commerce, Justice, Science List.

Purpose: Purpose: To assist with the operations of our regional active shooter rapid response training facility by purchasing training supplies/aids, equiping graduates with medical response supplies, and ballistic equipment for actual threats. To date, graduates include 1,600 law enforcement personnel, fire and EMS first responders. 

Next Steps

Being approved by a committee doesn’t mean the Crenshaw earmarks are “done deals” yet. The full House of Representatives and Senate must still approve them. And then the President must sign the Appropriations bill into law. So, things could change between now and the end of the year. Final amounts could vary. More news to follow on the Crenshaw earmarks.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/24/23

2155 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Los Piños Now Selling Lots in Huffman; Saint Tropez Still Clearing, Grading

Several different developments are being carved out of a larger 3738-acre tract once owned by LH Ranch in northern part of Huffman.

Two on the east side of FM2100 have come a long way since I first photographed them seven months ago. Last July, I flew over Los Piños and Saint Tropez. At the time, Los Piños was paving streets. Saint Tropez had just broken ground and started clearing.

On 3/5/23, I flew over both again and drove through Los Piños.

Saint Tropez is in upper portion of map at FM2100 and Meyer Road. Los Piños is south of Saint Tropez.

Los Piños now has a welcome center open that trumpets “owner financing.” And Saint Tropez looks to be in the final stages of clearing and grading. Let’s look at some “then-and-now” photos for both areas.

Los Piños

July 2022
Los Pinos
Los Piños Phase I in July 2022
March 2023
Los Piños Phase I looking west, March 5, 2023
Los Piños Phase I looking east, March 5, 2023

The 130-acre Los Piños Phase I tract represents only 0.34% of the larger LH Ranch Tract from which it is carved. 

Saint Tropez

Looking SW

Megatel, the developer had just broken ground the month before I first flew over St. Tropez in July 2022.

Saint Tropez in July 2022. Looking SW from NE corner.

Here’s how the property looks today from the same angle.

Saint Tropez looking SW from NE corner, March 5, 2023
Looking SE from Over FM2100
Saint Tropez in July 2022, looking SE from NW corner
Same angle seven months later. Saint Tropez in March 2023.

From FM2100 to the far end of the development is about a mile. The owner, Megatel plans to build a 1,000-acre, 4500-home community around a giant manmade lagoon with white sand beaches, a water park with surf simulator, and an entertainment district.

The press release announcing the groundbreaking last year in June stated that Megatel anticipated completion of Phase I sometime in the first quarter of 2023. They have a long way to go in the next three weeks! Rising interest rates and the recession in the housing market may have slowed plans down.

Los Piños Drainage Plans Claim No Adverse Impact

Both developments naturally drain southeast toward tributaries of Luce Bayou. You can see a channel leading toward them in the photo below. But at this writing, I only have drainage plans for Los Piños.

For a more detailed description of the plans including drainage, see the post I wrote about these developments in early August 2022.

Looking SE from Saint Tropez in foreground toward Los Piños (upper right) and Key Gully/Luce Bayou out of sight in background.
Drainage channels from Saint Tropez (upper left) and Los Piños (foreground) come together and veer right toward Key Gully and then Luce Bayou.

Preston Hydrologic developed the drainage plans for Los Piños and claimed the side slopes of the channels would be grass-lined to reduce/prevent erosion.

The developer may have to replant grass to reduce erosion. Los Piños photo taken 3/5/2023.

While the upper portions of channel banks have some grass, it appears that grass on the lower portions has washed away. Significant erosion is visible on channel banks and culverts between these linear stormwater detention basins are filling with silt.

For the complete Los Piños drainage analysis, click here. The engineering company claims it has 25% more stormwater-detention-basin capacity than necessary. That should actually reduce flood risk downstream, assuming the plans are accurate. Preston claims Los Piños will have no adverse impact.

Wetlands are interlaced throughout this area. And wetlands mitigation will be part of the plans for developments on both sides of FM2100, according to the Army Corps.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/5/2023

2014 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.

3738-Acre Property Developing Near Huffman

On 7/22/22, I photographed two new developments at different stages of completion east of Huffman-Cleveland Road and south of the Grand Parkway. Both are being carved out of a 3,738-ac tract owned by LH Ranch LTD.

A third part of that tract, west of Huffman-Cleveland Road, is in the planning stages and submitting plats for approval.

General Location

The first two developments are immediately east of Huffman-Cleveland Road and south of Meyer Road. See red area below.

Red outlined area contains the two new developments. The third area is to the west (left) of the red box.

One of the new developments will become a “lagoon community” called Saint Tropez. Another will become a residential community called Los Pinos. The third will also become a residential community.

Saint Tropez

Megatel Homes has begun clearing land for what it says will become a $2 billion lagoon community spanning 1,000 acres.

Looking SW from over Meyer Road at the first part of what will become Saint Tropez.

According to Megatel, the development will eventually feature 4,500 homes, an enormous manmade lagoon with white sand beaches, paddle-boarding, kayaking, a swim-up bar, surf simulator, a water slide tower, a playground, cabanas, soundstage, splash park, and more.

An entertainment district will offer a restaurant, bar, teen arcade, bowling alley, and a children’s immersive indoor play area. That will certainly change the character of the rural Huffman area.

The development will feature both single and multi-family housing. Single-family homes will range in size from 1,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet and sell for between $350,000 to $700,000 each.

Full construction plans and a drainage analysis are not yet available. At this time, the Harris County Engineering Department has only issued a permit for clearing the land, but it shows a general layout.

Plan submitted to Harris County Engineering to obtain clearing permit. Intersection of Meyer Rd. and FM2100 in upper left.

Los Pinos

South of Saint Tropez, the second development is much further along. For it, I have obtained both construction plans and a drainage analysis via a FOIA Request.

Looking SE from over FM 2100. Note the large, linear detention basin in the foreground running diagonally through the frame.
Drainage Features

Phase One of the 130-acre Los Pinos Project will have approximately 250 single-family residential lots. The 1/3rd-acre lots will have about 30% impervious cover.

Plans claim that the total detention storage will exceed Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) minimum storage requirements. They require 270.4 acre feet, but the developer will provide 366.3 – 26% more.

Phase One sits in the FEMA’s unshaded X zone (higher than the 500-year flood plain). So there is no requirement for floodplain mitigation.

Preston Hydrologic, Inc., which conducted the drainage analysis, says, “The proposed detention basin will reduce the maximum sheet flow depths downstream of the development, for storm events up to and including the 1% AEP storm.” AEP means annual exceedance probability. And 1% refers to a 100-year storm.

The tract drains to Key Gully and two unnamed tributaries within the Luce Bayou watershed. This development falls outside Houston’s city limits in unincorporated Harris County.

Looking east from over FM 2100. Note a second large linear detention pond on the right bracketing the development.

Water in this area naturally flows toward the southeast where it enters Luce Bayou. The detention ponds that bracket the development are designed to contain rain falling on the development and water trying to flow across it.

Map from Preston Hydrologic’s drainage analysis shows layout of detention basins.

Six interconnected, dry-bottom detention basins will mitigate the impacts of development, according to hydrologists. The lots in proposed Phase 1 will drain into Ponds 2 and 6. Ponds 1, 3, 4, and 5 will intercept runoff from undeveloped land.

Peak flow estimate indicates ponds should hold a 100-year rainfall and cut peak outflow roughly in half (red vs. blue curve)
Claims No Adverse Impact

Hydrologists claim the development will cause “no adverse impacts” compared to the pre-project drainage conditions of the receiving streams in the Luce Bayou watershed. That includes downstream properties within the City of Houston.

They also estimate that overland sheet flow will not cause any adverse impacts downstream of the project site. In fact, the hydrologists claim that the proposed project will reduce peak flow rates and runoff volumes to areas downstream. That, they say, will result in reduced ponding depths in the Huffman Hills subdivision and adjacent properties.

Small Part of Future Development

The 130-acre Los Pinos Phase One tract represents only 0.34% of the larger LH Ranch Tract from which it is carved. The hydrologists caution that future phases will require future studies of their own. They indicate that future uses of the LH Ranch tract may include additional single-family residential development, commercial development, and a wetlands mitigation bank.

Wetlands Mitigation

Plans considered by the Army Corps in January of 2021 show wetland mitigation areas on both the west and east.

The mitigation bank proposal showed that 25% of the LH Ranch tract would be set aside for mitigation.

The LH Ranch tract bridges two watersheds. The western portion drains to the East Fork. The eastern portion drains to Luce Bayou. Both eventually drain into Lake Houston. Much of the land was originally wetlands.

Image from same general area taken on January 2021 when tree canopy did not obscure ground. Note standing water.
Will Increased Runoff Increase Erosion?

The side slopes of the ponds will be grass lined and have backslope interceptor swales to reduce erosion.

Preston Hydrologic believes that the increased runoff from Los Pinos Phase One will not increase erosion in Key Gully. They base that opinion on three factors: a USGS estimate of soil-erosion potential in the area, reduced peak flow, and slower water velocity at the peak.

Potential Problems

Section 5.3 of the drainage analysis cites an inventory of potential problems. Among them: Colony Ridge. Preston’s report says, “Currently, a large developing area adjacent to the Harris-Liberty County line may create problems for water quantity and quality. This development is large-lot rural and uses underground septic systems located in the effective floodplain area of Luce Bayou. Additionally, it is possible that inadequate drainage infrastructure is being provided in the area, which could lead to a possible increase of floodwater peak flow rates downstream in Harris County.”

For the complete drainage analysis, click here.

Other LH Ranch Property West of FM 2100

West of FM 2100, LH Ranch LTD and Friendswood Development applied to the Houston Planning Commission for plat approval of a 927-acre parcel on 8/4/22. This parcel is immediately west of the two projects discussed above. It drains into the East Fork on the left edge of the map below.

No further details are available at this time. I will watch it closely in the future months. One thing is clear: Huffman will never be the same.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/9/22

1806 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.

RV Park Being Built in Luce Bayou Floodway, Floodplain

An angry Houstonian wrote me earlier this week about a new RV park. It lies mostly in the floodway of Luce Bayou next to Huffman/Cleveland Road – near rotting shells of abandoned homes, repeatedly flooded. This is inside the City of Houston. So the City permitted it, not Harris County.

“The Retreat” Will Debut This Year

The developer bills it as an RV and camping resort called The Retreat. Copy says, “The premier destination is planned to include RV camping sites, cabins, tiny homes, wagons, and elevated yurts. Families, couples, and groups of all ages can enjoy fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, walking trails, boating, outdoor games, lounging at the pool, and more!” Sounds idyllic until you drive around in the surrounding neighborhoods and see all the flood wreckage.

Is This Type of Development Safe for This Location?

I’m sure the developer will argue that:

  1. The RVs are technically vehicles that can be moved out of harm’s way when floods come up.
  2. Any permanent structures are built on higher ground in the 500-year floodplain.
  3. A retention pond will offset any increase in runoff.

But do these arguments really hold water?

  1. Will owners have time to evacuate everyone?
  2. Will the ground be high enough after floodplain maps are redrawn?
  3. How much water will the detention pond hold back if the river exceeds its banks?

See more below.

Enough Evacuation Time?

Imelda dumped 6.4 inches of rain in ONE HOUR. And 3.8 inches in 30 minutes. Upstream at FM1485, water came out of the East Fork by two miles. It moved so fast, it washed homes off foundations and swept cows into ditches where they died.

During Harvey, people up and down the West Fork woke up in the middle of the night with water coming into their homes.

An architect who designs RV resorts told me it can easily take a novice half an hour to lower the trailer; disconnect electricity, water and septic lines; and hitch up a truck – in ideal conditions.

Now imagine you’re doing it during an intense rainfall and moving to the exit with a hundred other campers…at night…onto a two lane blacktop road…as the bridge goes under water…and the kids are crying.

How High is High Enough?

According to the Weather Channel, just two feet of water is enough to carry away most vehicles. They also say that water levels in flash floods can rise a foot in just five minutes. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and potential stalling. Finally, they say that water flowing at just 7 mph has as much force per unit area as wind in an EF5 tornado.

During Imelda, Archie Savage and Rosemary Fain, who live upstream, documented water bridging from the East Fork San Jacinto to Luce Bayou. If that happened again, campers could find themselves potentially cut off from escape routes.

Worse, flood maps have not yet been updated from Harvey and Imelda. The new 100-year flood is based on roughly 30-40% more rainfall. So floodways and floodplains in updated maps will soon expand beyond those shown below.

Moreover, thousands of acres upstream in Liberty County are being clearcut and developed without detention ponds. That will almost certainly increase the speed and level of floods, which can already be bad at this location. And even when flood maps ARE updated, they won’t reflect the impact of all the clearcutting at Colony Ridge.

The following images tell the story.

Photos and Maps

This image shows the location of the developer’s property between Luce Bayou and Huffman-Cleveland Road. The inter-basin transfer canal cuts across the bottom of the frame and FM2100 cuts diagonally through the upper right. Lake Houston is out of frame at the bottom.
FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer shows the extent to which the floodway and floodplains of Luce Bayou infringe on the property. All but the northwest corner near the letter “I’ is currently in a floodplain or floodway. That could soon change when flood maps are updated from Harvey.
FEMA’s base flood elevation viewer shows that in a 100-year flood, about three quarters of the property would go under 5 or more feet of water. Another 10-20% would go under 1-4 feet. Again, these maps are based on pre-Atlas 14 data.
The Retreat RV Resort and Campground
The lower part of the property is just a few feet about the river level.
Looking south toward the Huffman-Cleveland Road Bridge over Luce Bayou.
The detention pond actually appears to be several feet lower than the bayou. That won’t hold back much water in a flood. Note the green color.

No Prohibition, But Plenty of Warnings

Evidently, no laws or regulations prohibit this type of development. Chapter 19 of the City Code of Ordinances contains floodplain regulations but does not address recreational vehicles. Chapter 29 addresses recreational vehicles but does not address floodplains.

However, a website called RVParkUniversity.com which advises RV Park investors says, “RVs do float – but they’re not designed to. Floodplain and RVs do not get along well. So if you’re looking at buying an RV park that has “floodplain” shown on the survey, it cannot be taken lightly. Flood plains destroy your ability to obtain a loan, find a future buyer, and create huge liability for you with your customers.”

Also, the Texas Water Development Board advises people camping near water to ask the park operator about flood warnings and evacuation plans. The State does have regs that govern RV parks in floodplains. The problem is, the rules are easily circumvented. For instance, people can not leave campers in the same location for more than 180 days. But nothing prevents owners from getting around that by moving them to the next pad. In this way, temporary recreational amenities become permanent residences.

Up and down the East Fork, developers are building more such facilities.

Yesterday, I posted about how we often sow the seeds of our own disasters. This could be one of those cases in the making. Are we putting people in harm’s way without anticipating the speed or magnitude of the next big flood?

Posted by Bob Rehak on February 26, 2021

1277 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 526 since Imelda

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.

Mobile Hurricane Harvey Recovery Center Coming to Huffman April 15

Houston City Council Member Dave Martin reminds residents of an upcoming Mobile Hurricane Harvey Recovery Center event taking place in Huffman tonight. Intake specialists will be available to assist families with guidance on recovery programs and resources under the City of Houston Homeowner Assistance Program. 

Melissa Sturgis #1
Harvey Damage. Photo courtesy of Melissa Sturgis.

The event will take place on/at:

  • Monday, April 15
  • 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.,
  • May Community Center
  • 2100 Wolf Road, Huffman, TX 77336

Take Survey First: Online, By Phone or In Person

If you were affected by Hurricane Harvey, please take the Harvey Recovery Survey before the upcoming event:

The Recovery Survey directs residents to the appropriate recovery program and helps prioritize those with urgent needs. The survey requires no documentation and takes less than 15 minutes to complete. While priority will be given to low- and moderate-income homeowners, assistance is available to homeowners of all income levels. An Intake Specialist will contact you after you complete the Survey regarding next steps. 

If you need assistance filling out the Survey, please call 832-393-0550 or visit one of the stationary HRC’s. The closest is at: Northeast: 9551 N. Wayside, Houston, Texas 77028.

It is open Monday and Tuesday, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturday from 9:00 to 3:00 p.m. These centers are closed on Sundays. For a map, please click here

$1.17 Billion in Assistance Available

The City received the $1.17 billion for housing recovery through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State of Texas General Land Office. The recovery funds include the HoAP, which offers five program options including: 

  • Reimbursement for completed repairs
  • Homeowner-managed rehabilitation
  • City-managed rehabilitation and reconstruction
  • Buyouts
  • Interim mortgage assistance.

For more information, regarding this project please contact the Houston Recovery Center by calling 832-393-0550. 

Posted by Bob Rehak on April 15, 2019

594 Days since Hurricane Harvey