Tag Archive for: investigation

Liberty County Launches Major Investigation into Colony Ridge Irregularities

Wayne Dolcefino announced this afternoon that Liberty County Judge Jay Knight has confirmed the county will launch a major investigation into the controversial Colony Ridge Development. Dolcefino is one of the country’s leading investigative journalists.

Flooding Concerns at Heart of Investigation

The massive housing development between the San Jacinto East Fork and Luce Bayou has sparked flooding concerns for tens of thousands of families both nearby in Plum Grove and downstream as far as Lake Houston.

The probe will focus on the accuracy of soil reports and drainage plans used to justify approval of the neighborhoods.

Wayne Dolcefino

Plum Grove hired Dolcefino to fight years of neglect by county officials as floods washed out roads and damaged most of the structures in the tiny town.

The investigation comes after a widening investigation by Dolcefino Consulting and one day after publication of a post in ReduceFlooding.com titled Flooding of the Fifth Kind: By Government Neglect.

“Right before the new year, two inches of rain in Colony Ridge produced flooding. Creeks in Plum Grove were full to the brim. That’s raising alarm bells,” said Dolcefino.

Pictures of flooded lots WITHIN Colony Ridge also raised alarms. They show that water is not soaking in or running off the way it should.

Flooded lot 24 hours after a 2 inches of rain in two days. Resident keeps throwing sand into the ponds, but it’s not helping much.
A newly developing portion of Colony Ridge.
Another newly developing portion of Colony Ridge. Much of the area has been carved out of wetlands. See USGS map below.
Note water surrounding the house.
New lot next to drainage ditch won’t even drain.
When water won’t soak in, people suffer.

Soil Types Are Key Issue

There is evidence to suggest that LandPlan Engineering mischaracterized the type of soil in its drainage plans for Colony Ridge. Their calculations assumed the soil had a high rate of infiltration when it actually had a low rate.

So instead of water soaking into the ground, it runs off. The presence of so many wetlands in Colony Ridge before development should have been a tipoff.

Most of the wetlands in Colony Ridge before development are gone now, but the problems remain. This USGS map shows where they were. Some areas just should not be developed.

By misrepresenting soil types, LandPlan Engineering understated the amount of detention and drainage capacity needed by 6X to 9X, according to TXDoT guidelines.

Had LandPlan properly represented the soil, Colony Ridge would have had to put in more detention ponds and widen ditches to prevent flooding. But that would have been costly for the developer.

Harris County Flood Control officials worry the drainage problems in Colony Ridge increase flood risk in Harris County. So do downstream residents. I talked to one in Harris County today who has flooded repeatedly since Colony Ridge started clearing land. She is disabled and can’t afford to move. Neither can she afford to stay.

Missing Reports Another Part of Investigation

Liberty County also admits that many of the drainage analysis reports – required by county ordinance – are missing. The county made the admission after Dolcefino Consulting filed formal requests to see the records used by former Liberty County engineer Louis Bergman to recommend approval of the large development.

Liberty County Attorney Matthew Poston confirmed to Dolcefino that 19 missing reports will be part of the investigation.

Hopefully, the investigation will also explain why virtually all the surviving reports are labeled “preliminary.” The county could not supply ReduceFlooding.com with any documents showing changes to or final approvals of the plans.

“We want to see what Bergman signed, and if the investigation proves claims about the soil are untrue that could be a big problem,” Dolcefino said. The former county engineer has refused comment.

His daughter is the new District Attorney for Liberty County. One can only hope that she recuses herself from any part of this investigation.

If damning evidence exists in reports the county DID supply, one can only imagine what’s in those the County can’t or won’t produce.

How the Other Half Lives

Colony Ridge developers “owner financed” many of the lots in the sprawling neighborhood, in part, because many residents do not have driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers. Nearly 97 percent of the foreclosures in Liberty County last year came from Colony Ridge.

Said Dolcefino, “This is the first step in holding Liberty County officials accountable before another neighborhood is approved. We need to know why these documents are missing, and we are going to get to the bottom of this one way or the other.” I second that.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/4/2020 based in part on information from Wayne Dolcefino

1224 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.

TCEQ Issues Notice of Violation to Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village Development

In response to complaints filed on October 23, 2019, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Houston Region Office issued a Notice of Violation to the developers of Woodridge Village. Figure Four Partners, LTD, a Perry Homes subsidiary, owns Woodridge Village, which contributed to the flooding of Elm Grove Village and North Kingwood Forest in May and September of 2019.

History of Uncorrected Violations by Perry Homes

The TCEQ originally investigated Woodridge Village in response to complaints filed after the May 7, 2019, flood. At that time, the Commission found that Perry Homes, et. al., had failed to implement and maintain effective Best Management Practices. They found that sediment-laden discharges had affected at least 2.5 miles of Taylor Gully. TCEQ sent that violation to its enforcement division.

Findings of a second investigation released today indicate that the violations continued after the first investigation.

Page 5 of the report states that pollution prevention measures implemented after the first investigation “did not appear sufficient to prevent sediment-laden discharge…”

The investigator observed tainted discharge 2.5 miles down Taylor Gully to the point where it disappears into woods and then joins White Oak Creek, Caney Creek, the East Fork, and Lake Houston. Said another way, the discharge appears to be polluting waters of the State of Texas and the drinking water for 2 million people.

Sediment laden water from Taylor Gulley where it joined the East Fork of the San Jacinto on January 11, 2020.

Investigations, such as the TCEQ’s, represent a snapshot in time. The investigator in this case visited the site on October 25, 2019. Unfortunately, observations by local residents indicate that the sediment-laden discharge continues.

TCEQ Requiring Structural Controls for Sediment

TCEQ is requiring Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors to install sediment controls on all areas under their operational control at Woodridge. “There must be adequate structural controls to minimize sediment discharges from the site,” says the TCEQ in “Recommended Corrective Action” on page 7 of the 77 page report.

Perry Contractors Also Investigated

The release of findings today indicates that four Perry contractors at this site were also investigated by the TCEQ: D&J Construction Inc., Rebel Contractors Inc, Texassite LLC, and Double Oak Construction Inc.

No New Structural Controls Appear To Be In Place Yet

No additional structural controls appear to have been installed since the last investigation on October 25th. Sediment-laden runoff from the area of wetlands on the northern section of property continues unabated, although grass planted in other areas may be helping slightly.

Looking SE toward Taylor Gully, Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest from the northwest corner of Woodridge Village. Everything slopes toward the detention pond in the upper left, but no structural controls to reduce runoff are in place. Photo taken 1/20/2020.

Unfortunately, grass planted last summer has been destroyed by new construction activity around the southern detention ponds – the area of highest concern, where water from the site enters Taylor Gully through the double culvert seen in the picture below.

Contractors have destroyed the grass and backslope interceptor swales previously constructed around the S2 detention pond.
Erosion continues to etch the walls of the S2 detention pond which should be covered with grass by now. It was substantially complete in August of last year.
Construction of the S2 pond continues months after Perry Homes promised the City of Houston construction would be complete. The pond should have been complete by the start of December.

What Next for Troubled Perry Homes and Woodridge Village?

A story in the Houston Chronicle earlier this week reported that Perry Homes was seeking a bailout for this “floodplain property” from Harris County, Montgomery County and the City of Houston. Harris County commissioners reportedly considered the proposition in executive session on Tuesday this week. However, no decision or action has yet been announced. It should also be noted that Perry Homes’ engineering company, LJA, denies a floodplain even exists on this property.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/30/2020

884 Days After Hurricane Harvey 133 After 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.

Army Corps to Investigate Potential Wetland Violations on Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village Site

The Army Corps of Engineers is investigating whether Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors violated Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act. The Corps has regulatory authority for any fill material dumped into waters of the U.S. Those include perennial tributaries and adjacent wetlands.

No Record of Request for Jurisdictional Determination

When developers encounter wetlands, normally they seek a jurisdictional determination from the Corps. They want to ensure they are not violating the Clean Water Act. However, neither Perry Homes nor their subsidiaries (PSWA and Figure Four Partners) apparently sought such a determination. Neither did LJA Engineering, according to Corps records.

In June, a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request filed with the Corps of Engineers turned up NO RECORDS of any such request for the Woodridge property. See below.

Army Corps response to June 5, 2019, request for records pertaining to a request for jurisdictional determination on Woodridge Village Wetlands.

The LJA Engineering Drainage Analysis never even mentions wetlands. Wetlands are highly protected because of their ability to filter and retain floodwater, among other things. This multipage article by the USGS describes all the functions of wetlands and legislation affecting them.

Elm Grove Director Requests Investigation

In October, 2019, Beth Guide, a director of the Elm Grove Homeowners Association, went a step further than my FOIA request. She asked the Corps to investigate the legality of the loss of Woodridge Village wetlands. On November 13, 2019, US Congressman Dan Crenshaw received a letter from the Corps stating that the Corps was, in fact, investigating Ms. Guide’s request.

Corps Seeking Access to Property

The Corps is currently contacting Perry Homes (or subsidiary, Figure Four Partners) for access to the site. The Corps characterized the investigation as “an open purported unauthorized activity investigation.”

Colonel Timothy R. Vail, the Corps’ District Commander said, “…we continue to gather all the facts to determine if there is a violation of any of our statutes and if so, determine what might be the appropriate resolution.”

Presence and Importance of Wetlands

Numerous residents near the property noted the wetlands in question. The wetlands also appear in the USGS National Wetlands Inventory.

From the USGS National Wetlands Inventory

For the full text of the letter from the Corps to Congressman Crenshaw, click here.

Ms. Guide believes loss of these wetlands played a role in three floods which struck Elm Grove on May 3, May 7 and September 19 of this year. Before the loss of the wetlands, none of the surrounding neighborhoods ever flooded, according to nearby neighbors. Some of them lived in their homes for more than 30 years.

Typically, wetland vegetation slows down runoff. On the other hand, clearcutting/filling wetlands accelerates runoff. This simple science experiment shows how.

Accelerating runoff reduces the time of accumulation for floodwaters. That means more water reaches ditches faster and at the same time; none is retained upstream. That, in turn, makes floods peak higher.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/16/2019

809 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 58 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.