Tag Archive for: Kings Forest

Concerns Over Proposed Cypress Creek Flood Tunnel Outfall Location

The Kings Forest Community Association (KFCA) board has expressed concerns about the outfall location for the proposed Cypress Creek flood tunnel. Phase 2 of the tunnel study showed two potential outfalls in the Humble/Kingwood Area: one immediately upstream from the I-69 bridge, the other farther downstream near River Grove Park.

KFCA does not oppose the tunnel. But it does want assurances from the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) that it will have NO adverse impact on:

  • The community’s flood risk
  • Potential damage to homes and businesses
  • Oilfield infrastructure
  • Water quality in Lake Houston
  • Bridges

Further, KFCA requested that “no adverse impact” be demonstrated with the latest flood data compiled after Harvey and that the data be based on mitigation improvements already in place, not planned efforts that could fall through for funding or political reasons.

KFCA concerns have to do with flood peaks shifted by both a tunnel and upstream development that could cause altered peaks to coincide and heighten flooding even more.

Feet Above Flood Stage Highest at US59 And West Fork

HCFCD has a long-standing policy of not supporting flood-mitigation projects for one area that would make flooding worse in another. But the KFCA board fears that the location of the outfall could make flooding worse in the Humble/Kingwood Area.

Said the board, “The tunnel would add stormwater to Lake Houston at a location that experienced the highest flooding in northern Harris County and had some of the heaviest damage as a result.”

worst first
Chart showing feet above flood stage at 33 gages for misc. locations in Harris County during Harvey.

Potential Damage to Homes/Businesses

The heat map below shows cumulative flood damage since 1978. The Humble, Kingwood, Huffman area appears to have sustained even more damaged than Cypress Creek to the west.

Historical flood loss map of Harris County since 1978. Source: MAAPnext.

Proximity to Humble Salt Dome/Oilfield Infrastructure

Additionally, the outfall location(s) contain hundreds of active and abandoned oil-and-gas wells around and over the Humble salt dome. The map below, from the Railroad Commission of Texas, shows their locations and density. The proposed Cypress Creek Tunnel would have to snake its way through these if it goes beyond US59. 

Active (green) and abandoned (white) wells over and around the Humble Salt Dome. Source: Railroad Commission of Texas.

The 240,000 Cubic Feet Per Second shooting through this area during Harvey destroyed wells, tanks and pipes, exposing the public to pollution. The photos below illustrate damage to the Noxxe lease in Forest Cove near the West Fork.

Noxxe
Photo taken June 2020.

Water Quality

The photo below shows pollution in Lake Houston from flood-damaged oil field assets.

Oil on water by abandoned Noxxe lease in Forest Cove

It took the Railroad Commission 4.5 years to clean up this mess after the operator declared bankruptcy. Yet the proposed Cypress Creek tunnel would outfall into the headwaters of Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for two million people.

Bridges

The Union Pacific Railroad Bridge had to be replaced after Harvey, affecting rail traffic for years. Reconstruction took until April 2020.

The I-69 Southbound Bridge was out of commission for 11 months due to scouring of the bridge supports. This caused detours and massive delays for tens of thousands. Repairs cost TxDoT $20 million. 

I-69 repairs
TxDoT repairs to the I-69 bridge cost $20 million.

The West Lake Houston Parkway bridge also required extensive repairs after Harvey.

The Request: Demonstrate No Adverse Impact Using Latest Data Before Proceeding

The Kings Forest letter said, “While we are sensitive to the flooding issues along Cypress Creek, we believe that letting a Cypress Creek flood tunnel outfall at this location is not wise. It could lead to further damage and potential environmental/health dangers.”

The letter ended with a plea for HCFCD to demonstrate “no adverse impact” before proceeding with Phase 3 of the tunnel study and again at some future point if the Phase 3 study recommends construction of the flood tunnel.

“We also request that your “no adverse impact” evaluation reflect actual, current conditions,” said the directors. “Please DON’T base the evaluation on planned mitigation measures, which might not happen for political reasons.” 

“Also, please DON’T base the evaluation on outdated conveyance data for the San Jacinto West Fork,” they continued. “Montgomery County is the second-fastest growing county in the region. It allows new subdivisions to use hydrologic timing surveys to avoid building floodwater detention basins. In 2019, Harris County Engineering and Flood Control proposed eliminating that practice, but MoCo Commissioners voted no. As a result, the Humble/Kingwood area faces constantly increasing flood risk from thousands of upstream acres being developed without sufficient mitigation.” 

Those new developments shift flood peaks in a way that could potentially coincide with an altered peak from Cypress Creek.

See the full letter here.

To review HCFCD’s flood tunnel studies and leave a public comment, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/23/22

1851 Days since Hurricane Harvey

In the interest of transparency, I should disclose that I am a member of the KFCA board.

HCFCD Completes Removal of Another 10,000 Cubic Yards From Bens Branch

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) contractors have completed removal of virtually another 10,000 cubic yards of sediment that had accumulated in Bens Branch between Rocky Woods Drive and Kingwood Drive. While a little cleanup work and equipment removal remains, we can call this job “well done.”

Scope of Work Completed

HCFCD widened and deepened half mile stretch of the creek/ditch. Flood Control also re-sloped the banks, straightened the flow lines, replaced backslope interceptor drains, restored the original conveyance of the ditch, and replanted grass.

Tens of Millions in Nearby Damages during Harvey

During Harvey, dozens of homes flooded along both sides of this channelized stream. So did Kingwood High School and the old H-E-B shopping center north of Kingwood Drive. The shopping center is still mostly vacant because of flood damage. And the Humble ISD spent $70 million to restore Kingwood High School which flooded to the second floor.

Approximately 1000 Truckloads of Sediment Removed

Given that your average dump truck holds about 10 cubic yards, contractors removed about a 1000 truckloads of sediment during this phase of the Bens Branch project.

While the truck traffic got intense at times, contractors finished months ahead of schedule. They originally scheduled completion for early July.

Before/After Photo Essay

The first photo below was taken in January before the start of the project. I shot the rest on April 16.

Bens Branch at Rocky Woods in January 2021 before start of clean-out project.
Bens Branch at Rocky Woods after completion of project on April 16, 2021. The greenish tinge on the slopes is hydro mulch. Hydro mulch is grass seed embedded in a gelatin which can be sprayed on the slopes. Nutrients in the gelatin help ensure that grass will begin to grow in the least amount of time possible, hopefully before heavy rains can erode the slopes.
In fact, new grass shoots are already poking out of this ground. This new drain at Laurel Garden replaces one that had collapsed and become almost totally blocked. The average service life of galvanized corrugated metal pipe is up to 40 years.
New entrance to drain behind maintenance road on side of ditch.
Note the warning. Waste dumped in these drains blocks them and contributes to neighborhood flooding. Even if waste does not block the drain, it can wind up in Lake Houston or Galveston Bay.
Looking back upstream toward the new drain at Laurel Garden.
This shot dramatizes the proximity of Kingwood High School to the ditch. Looking downstream. Notice Lake Houston in the background in the upper left.
Looking upstream from Town Center
Looking downstream from the middle of the Bens Branch project toward Town Center.
Only removal of the temporary crossing and three pieces of equipment (lower left) remain. Every building in the background flooded during Harvey.

No More Bens Branch Projects Scheduled At This Time

This was the fourth and final phase of Bens Branch restoration. Previous projects addressed Bens Branch from:

HCFCD says it has no plans at this time to address the portion from the Y to the West Fork near Kings Harbor.

No one can guarantee that this work will prevent a future flood, but it will certainly make one less likely.

Thanks to the women and men of HCFCD and their contractors who kept the Bens Branch project moving through the pandemic. And to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service which provided partial funding.

Thanks also to the Bear Branch Trail Association, Kingwood Service Association and Kings Forest CA. All helped provide access to the project area across their property.

Onward to other projects such as Woodridge Village Detention, Taylor Gully restoration, and Diversion Ditch expansion. More on those in future posts.

Posted by Bob Rehak on April 17, 2021

1328 Days since Hurricane Harvey

HCFCD Will Begin More Work on Ben’s Branch Starting January 19

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) will begin repairing the next section of Ben’s Branch on January 19. The repairs will take place in the channel between Kingwood Drive and the natural portion of Ben’s Branch at the end of Rocky Woods Drive.

Project limits for next phase of Ben’s Branch clean out. Kingwood High School in lower center of frame.

Project Purpose

Jose Predraza of Stuart Consulting is coordinating the project. He said, “The purpose of this project is to restore the conveyance of Ben’s Branch. It has been reduced over the years due to erosion and sedimentation. The project will include implementing erosion repairs, repairing side slope failures, repairing or replacing outfalls, rectifying flow lines, and removing excess sediment.”

Contractors will remove approximately 22,000 cubic yards of sediment deposited by floods over the years.

Continual cycles of deposition and erosion have clogged, deformed and narrowed the creek.

The Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis showed that Ben’s Branch had been reduced to a 2-year level of service in places. That means, it will flood in a 2-year rain.

The analysis did not specify whether this was one of those places, but outside the natural portion of the stream, this is currently the most constricted part. Other parts of the channel have already been restored, i.e., from Woodland Hills Drive to Northpark Drive and south of Kingwood Drive to the YMCA.

Red lines represent approximate outlines of original high banks near Rocky Woods. Area between red lines has filled with sediment and then the creek has eroded down through it again repeatedly. Photo 1/8/2021.

“Erosion repairs include the placement of fill material, placement of 3”x5” granular fill, and the placement of grade #1 riprap,” continued Pedraza. “Channel cross sections will be reconstructed with a maximum 5:1 (H:V) slope where necessary. This project will be conducted wholly within the existing channel right-of-way.”

Schedule

Pedraza estimates construction will last 145 days – not quite five months. If weather cooperates, contractors should complete the work in early June.

The project originally was scheduled to start in October 2020. But several delays occurred.

  • Initially, rain delayed completion of the survey.
  • Then, geotechnical investigations led to additional design time.
  • Finally, getting approval to cross CenterPoint’s power-line easement took additional time.

Access Routes

Trucks do not have enough room to turn around within the work area, so one-way traffic will be the rule. Trucks will enter the work area by coming up Woods Estates Drive to Cedar Knolls and entering the greenbelt from there. They will then follow the Centerpoint easement to the work area. Finally, they will exit by going south toward Kingwood Drive, cutting across the ditch, and coming out behind the old H-E-B.

Contractors will then haul the excavated dirt to nearby TCEQ-approved landfill sites outside of the .02% annual chance (500-year) flood plain.

Daily schedules are being coordinated with Kingwood High School start/stop times to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety.

Benefitting Residents, Schools and Businesses

When complete, the creek will be able to handle much more water than before without coming out of its banks…as much as it could when Friendswood originally excavated it.

This will be a vast improvement, especially for those who live near the creek in Kings Forest and Bear Branch, many of whom flooded during Harvey.

The work should reduce the flood risk for Kingwood High School also. The school first flooded in 1994. During Harvey, the building flooded to the second floor. It suffered $67 million dollars in damages and lost another $10 million in contents. The Humble ISD had to close Kingwood High for seven months and bus kids to another high school where they alternated “shifts” with the students from that high school.

Kingwood High also flooded during Imelda, but had less damage.

Finally, the work will also benefit the shopping center on the northwest corner of Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway. Every store in the center flooded badly during Harvey. Many businesses still have not returned. The center nearly flooded again during Imelda. Water flowed through the parking lot and was inches from coming into stores.

Paths along the high banks represent the original edges of the channel. Everything between them has filled in over time, reducing conveyance. Photo 1/8/2021.

Funding

The Ben’s Branch project will be funded through the HCFCD maintenance budget and a grant from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/9/2021

1229 Days since Hurricane Harvey

HCFCD to Begin Next Phase of Ben’s Branch Clean Out in October

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and its contractors met today with representatives of Kings Forest, the Bear Branch Trail Association and Kingwood Service Association to discuss the next phase of the Ben’s Branch clean out. On the south, the project lies entirely within the Creekwood Nature Area between Kingwood High School and the old H-E-B shopping center. Rocky Woods Drive forms the northern extent of the project. This will extend northward the work already completed south of Kingwood Drive.

Project extent outlined in red. Kingwood High School is at bottom center; Town Center on right; Kings Forest on left and Bear Branch at top of frame.

Maintenance Objective: Restore Conveyance

The objective: to restore conveyance of Ben’s Branch and reduce potential for flooding in Kings Forest, Bear Branch, the Kingwood High School, and Kingwood Town Center.

The ground these men are standing on is all deposited sediment that needs removal to restore conveyance. The original channel bank is the higher slope behind them. The other side has a similar problem.

Sediment has restricted the flow of the channel gradually during the last three decades. It now contributes to flooding.

Tucked into the tree line on either side of Bens Branch, you can see the maintenance roads that formed the top of the original banks.

During Harvey, many homes on both sides of the stream flooded. Many also flooded again during Imelda.

Walking along the creek today, the first thing one notices is a craggy channel with sides that seem to have slumped into the stream. Flood control surveys, however, show that is not the case. The channel filled with sediment. Then the stream eroded down again through the accumulated sediment.

Continual cycles of deposition and erosion have clogged, deformed and narrowed the creek.

Approximately 15,000 Cubic Yards of Sediment To Be Removed

Getting the channel back to its original state will require removal of approximately 15,000 cubic yards of sediment. However, engineers have not yet determined the exact number.

The scope of work will include replacement of damaged drain pipes that carry water to the ditch.

The job is still in its planning stages. Actual dirt work should begin sometime in October.

Funded with Help from USDA NRCS

A grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will help HCFCD fund the project. Contractors will haul the excavated dirt to nearby TCEQ-approved landfill sites outside of the .02% annual chance (500-year) flood plain.

Looking north. The project will NOT extend into the natural portion of Ben’s Branch at the top of the frame, near Rocky Woods Drive. It will affect only the man-made portion of the channel.

Downstream, the project will stop at Kingwood Drive. Note below how the channel under the Kingwood Drive bridge is virtually twice as large as the channel in the foreground.

Looking south over Ben’s Branch toward Kingwood Drive and the portion of Ben’s Branch restored earlier this year. Note how constricted the channel in the foreground is.

When complete, this project should make the channel north of Kingwood Drive as wide as it is south of Kingwood Drive. It’s all about getting the channel back to its designed carrying capacity.

An exact timetable for the project is not yet available, but it will take several months.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/4/2020

1102 Days after Hurricane Harvey