Tag Archive for: infrastructure

Where Flood-Mitigation Dollars Have Really Gone

An analysis of Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and partner spending since 2000 reveals striking contrasts between watersheds in terms of where flood-mitigation dollars have gone.

Watersheds vary as much as 130 to 1 since 2000 and almost as much since Harvey. Most watersheds remained relatively constant in the rankings during the different time periods. However, a few have shifted up or down a few positions as land was acquired for projects or construction kicked off.

Data below includes spending by HCFCD and its partners from 1/1/2000 to 6/30/2023.

Main Takeaways from the Data

The big stories:

  • Since 2000, the top four watersheds received more flood-mitigation dollars than all 19 others put together. The top four include: Brays, Greens, and White Oak Bayous, and Cypress Creek.
  • Since Harvey the top four received 48%.
  • The distribution of funds continues to show the impact of Harris County’s Equity Prioritization framework.

Harris County’s Equity Prioritization gives weight to race and low-income areas, but not flood damage, the severity of flooding, or protection of infrastructure.

San Jacinto Gets Above Average Damage, Below Average Funding

The San Jacinto ranks below the averages (before 2000 and since Harvey) for flood-mitigation dollars – despite ranking 8th in damaged structures among all 23 watersheds. Damage totals include five major storms (Allison, Memorial Day, Tax Day, Harvey and Imelda).

Compiled from HCFCD Federal Reports

Watersheds Ranked by Funding Since 2000

Here’s how the funding looks in graphs and tables. All data was obtained from HCFCD via FOIA requests.

Data obtained from HCFCD via FOIA requests. Includes Harris County and partner spending.

Here’s the actual data if you want to see exactly how much your watershed received.

From 1/1/2000 through 6/30/23

Watersheds Ranked by Funding Since Harvey

Now let’s look at the how spending shifted after Harvey. Not much, at least relatively speaking.

Includes Harris County and partner spending. San Jacinto climbed two spots, but it is still barely above the median and far below the average.

Here are the actual totals for each watershed shown in the graph above.

Spending from 17Q3 to 23Q2 inclusive.

Feet above Flood Stage

Now let’s look at the severity of flooding. The chart below measures feet above flood stage at different Harris County gages.

Flood Stage is the level at which a river, stream or channel comes out of its banks.

I compiled this chart from data in the Harris County Flood Warning System website.

That 20+ feet above flood stage at the San Jacinto West Fork and US59 was the highest I found in the county.

Damage to Infrastructure

That 20+ feet destroyed Kingwood College, Kingwood High School, all of the businesses in Kingwood Town Center and Kings Harbor, the southbound lanes of US59, the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge, Memorial Hermann’s new Convenient Care Center, sewage treatment plants, and a senior housing complex.

Lone Star College
Harvey flooded 6 of 9 buildings at Lone Star College/Kingwood. Repairs cost a total of $60 million.
I-69 damage and repairs
I-69 Bridge replacement after Harvey. Repairs took 11 months creating massive delays and detours.
UP Bridge
Union Pacific Railroad Bridge that parallels US59 was destroyed and required complete replacement.
Alspaugh’s Hardware during Harvey
New HEB shopping center 1.5 miles from the San Jacinto West Fork was under more than 7 feet of water during Harvey.

Six years after Harvey, many of the commercial areas in Kingwood still haven’t fully recovered. Anchor stores remain empty in three of five shopping centers on Kingwood Drive between Town Center and US59.

Achieving True Equity

While I’m sympathetic to the plight of poorer neighborhoods, I cringe at the self-serving definition of equity used by a Democratic-dominated Commissioners Court to deny funding to the hardest hit area in the county.

We need a system that’s fair to all, not just some. Anything less will perpetuate racial distrust. This is a public safety issue and public safety should not be politicized.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/30/23

2223 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.

Plum Grove, Splendora, Liberty, Others Receive HUD Grants Through GLO

GLO Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, M.D., announced yesterday more than $43 million in HUD grants for 44 infrastructure projects stemming from 2019 Disasters. The $43 million is the combined total of grants made to counties and cities stretching from the Rio Grande Valley to southeast Texas.

Counties where 2019 community development block grant disaster-relief (CDBG-DR) money will be distributed for infrastructure projects.

The infrastructure-project grants will help communities recover from the 2019 South Texas Floods as well as Tropical Storm Imelda, which devastated SE Texas.

List of Recipients

The funds will be used to improve streets as well as water and drainage facilities in:

  • Counties:
    • Cameron
    • Chambers
    • Harris
    • Hidalgo
    • Jefferson
    • Liberty
    • Montgomery
    • Orange
    • San Jacinto
    • Willacy
  • Cities
    • Beaumont
    • China
    • Combes
    • Daisetta
    • La Feria
    • La Villa
    • Laguna Vista
    • Liberty
    • Mercedes
    • Mission
    • Nome
    • Old River-Winfree
    • Orange
    • Palmview
    • Pasadena
    • Pine Forest
    • Pinehurst
    • Plum Grove
    • Port Arthur
    • Port Isabel
    • Primera
    • Rio Hondo
    • Santa Rosa
    • Splendora
    • Vidor
    • West Orange
    • Woodloch 

“Here to Help”

“Consecutive disasters have devastated communities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Southeast Texas, but the Texas General Land Office is here to help,” said Commissioner Buckingham. “These critical infrastructure awards will divert floodwaters away from homes, increase the resiliency of communities to respond to natural disasters, and restore peace of mind when the next storm hits.”

Texas GLO 2019 Disaster-Recovery Funds

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) is administering $227,510,000 in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) related to 2019 flooding. This is separate from the $750 million in mitigation funding related to Harvey and Harris County.

Out of the $227.5 million, GLO allocated $61,430,000 in disaster recovery funds for infrastructure projects. They will assist disaster relief, long-term recovery, and restoration of infrastructure for local communities. The rest of $227 million was allocated to grants that help individuals recover.

GLO announced the opening of the application for eligible counties and cities on March 15, 2022. Applications closed on August 1, 2022. Each applicant was eligible to submit a total of two applications. All activities had to contribute to the long-term recovery and restoration of infrastructure.

The GLO recognizes that repair and enhancements of local infrastructure are crucial components of long-term recovery and viability of communities.

To learn more, visit https://recovery.texas.gov/2018-floods-2019-disasters/programs/2019-disasters-infrastructure-competition/index.html.

Plum Grove Drainage Improvements – $1,000,000

Tropical Storm Imelda released an unprecedented 3-day total rainfall amount of 28 inches on Plum Grove. That limited the city’s ability to provide an immediate response due to the inundation of flood water. As a result, this project will provide much-needed drainage improvements within Orange Branch Creek which is located in the middle of the city and runs from the northeast down to the southeast. The project will install culverts and restore roads.

Splendora Lift Station Drainage Improvements – $596,625

Imelda flooding submerged the Pinewood Lift Station site, as well as its emergency generator and electrical switchgear located at the northern intersection of Pinewood Drive and First Street. Loss of both primary and emergency back-up power led to a sanitary sewer overflow at Pinewood lift station. Vehicular access, including emergency vehicle access, was not possible because of the depth of flooding in the area. This project includes drainage and generator improvements at the Pinewood Lift Station.

Construction will include the following activities:

  • Regrade ditch and install double headwalls
  • Install reinforced concrete pipe culverts under First Street with road restoration and ditch regrading 
  • Install new natural gas generator and automatic transfer switch
  • Install an elevated metal platform, staircase and skid for generator

Liberty Water, Sewer Improvements – $1,000,000

The project will provide for water and sewer line improvements located within the eastern side of the city along Beaumont Road, Minglewood Road, Glenn Street and Tanner Street. These should reduce overflow concerns for residents and businesses along these streets. The project will make improvements to sewer lines and water lines and remove and replace existing lift stations with gravity sanitary sewer lines.

Descriptions of Other Grants

For a full description of other grants in this batch, see the GLO website.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/22/2023 based on information from the Texas General Land Office

2031 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1280 Days since Imelda

Perry Homes Taking Bids on More Detention Ponds for Woodridge Village

Note: This post has been modified to delete the mention of storm drains. On closer examination of older photos, it appears that the storm drains were installed before January 20th.

Perry Taking Bids on New Detention Ponds

Perry Homes is taking bids on additional detention ponds, as you can see from this document by LJA Engineering, their engineering firm for this property.

In a letter Perry’s lawyer sent to the City Attorney on October 17, 2019, Perry Homes promised the City they would accelerate construction of those. They were originally scheduled for Phase 1.

Status of Detention Pond Construction

The letter by Perry’s lawyer laid out a timetable. Perry Homes was supposed to have finished the S2 detention pond in 30-45 days.

As of last Thursday, they were still doing touch-up work on detention pond S1. Specifically, they were removing soil that had eroded into the pond since last May.

Woodridge Village S1 Pond still has no grass on shoulders almost a year after substantial completion. Last week, workers were trying to repair sidewall erosion and remove sand from pilot channel.

Grass still has not grown on the sides of either the S1 or S2 ponds.

Woodridge Village S1 detention pond still has no grass despite substantial completion before the May storms last year. Photo taken 2/13/2020.
Woodridge Village S2 pond as of 2/13/2020 still shows little grass.

Perry’s letter to the City promised construction of a berm between S1 and S2. Work on the berm connecting S1 and S2 looked like it had not begun yet as of last week.

Area between S1 and S2 where berm should be. Photo taken 2/13/2020. I can’t see it in this photo, but in fairness, resident Jeff Miller feels Perry is building this area up slightly.

Work on Three Northern Ponds Still Not Started

Perry still has less than 25% of the promised detention capacity constructed. Work on the three northern detention ponds has definitely not begun yet as you can see from the photos below. I took all of them on 2/13/2020.

The N1 detention pond should go in the foreground in the northwest corner of the site.
Montgomery County partially excavated this pond decades ago to count as detention for other development. Perry Homes must deepen it to create additional detention for this site. This is the N2 pond in the middle of the western side.
The N3 Pond will go above the S2 pond shown in the foreground here. It should stretch almost all the way back to the far tree line.

How Long Will It Take to Build Ponds?

Neither Perry Homes, nor LJA engineering has published bid requirements for the ponds. The only thing we currently have to go on for a construction timetable is J. Carey Gray’s letter to the City.

In it, Perry committed to developing each of those ponds within 250-280 days. Assuming construction remains on schedule and that the deadlines are sequential, not concurrent, Perry should complete the remainder of the ponds in 2.3 years.

If the work on S2 is any indication, consider this. Perry had substantially completed the S2 pond before Imelda. As of today, they have gone 109 days past a 45-day self-imposed deadline. They still don’t have a maintenance road around it. Nor do they have grass established on the sides of it. Both are Montgomery County requirements.

Implications for Future

The end of Perry’s letter says, “…we will continue to consider alternatives that provide more robust mitigation.” Presumably that was a veiled reference to a potential buyout by the City of Houston or Harris County Flood Control. No one is talking about that alternative at the moment…if it exists. A spokesperson for the City this afternoon said only, “We support any alternative that reduces flooding.”

On one hand, it’s exciting that Perry is finally moving forward with work that should have been completed long ago. But on the other…

… the additions to infrastructure signal that hopes for a buyout by the City of Houston and/or Harris County Flood Control – to provide more robust mitigation – have vanished or are fading quickly.

We should not forget that even if Perry succeeds in building additional ponds, they are based on old rainfall statistics. The NOAA Atlas 14 rainfall statistics – on which new flood maps are being redrawn – require about 40% more detention capacity.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/18/2020

903 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 151 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.