Tag Archive for: kings harbor

Kings Harbor Now Harborless After Flood

May 27, 2024 – A sweeping line of sand deposited by the early May 2024 flood has left Kings Harbor harborless. Kings Harbor is one of Kingwood’s most popular destinations for eating out – whether you arrive by car, foot or boat.

The lakefront side of restaurant row is now shut in by sand collecting trash and logs swept downstream. The restaurants there, such as Chimichurri’s, Sharky’s, Raffa’s, and Zammitti’s, serve outstanding food and even more outstanding views. But at the moment, it’s not quite the romantic place for a marriage proposal at sunset. See the pics below.

Looking south from over waterfront restaurants at sand deposited by storm.
Looking SW toward West Lake Houston Parkway
Reverse angle. Looking north toward restaurant row and apartments beyond.

Dredging Costs Tough on Small Associations

Perhaps dredging companies are offering “buy one, get one free” deals next month.

Seriously, mobilization costs for dredging are so high that it makes sense to spread those costs over as many jobs as possible. By working together, the Kingwood Service Association and Kings Harbor could cut their mobilization costs in half.

Origin of Sand?

During the flood, I clocked the speed of debris floating in the water near this location. It was moving at 5-6 MPH, exactly the same speed as water moving through sand mines upstream on the West Fork. That’s more than enough to transport sand as you can see below from this industry-standard Hjulström curve.

River speed shown in blue. Size range for sand shown in red.

Did all the sand come from West Fork sand mines? No. The speed was also enough to erode riverbanks as you can see above. But the sand mines between US59 and I-45 expose approximately 33 times more sand to erosion.

Yesterday, I posted about the likely source for the sand blocking the Kingwood Diversion Ditch at River Grove Park. The same arguments apply here.

We need sand, but we also need to make sand miners operate more responsibly.

Posted by Bob Rehak on May 27, 2024

2463 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.

Digest: Updates on Six Lake Houston Area Flood-Related Stories

Below is a quick digest of six flood-related stories affecting the Lake Houston Area.

Dredging is a Slow Go

Mechanical dredgers are slowly working their way through the channel south of Royal Shores. It connects the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto. Without dredging, the dredging equipment itself would not be able to make it through the channel.

However, the pace of the dredging is painfully slow. You can see the progress by comparing the two pictures below. I took them 22 days apart.

Taken on July 11, 2021
Taken on August 2, 2021.
Google Earth shows they went a little more than 600 feet in a little more than three weeks.

At about 200 feet per week with about 2,000 more feet to go, they should reach the East Fork in about another ten weeks.

Several boaters have commented on how the dredges can wait hours for a pontoon to ferry dirt back to the placement site. Their net takeaway: very inefficient. During a July 8 meeting at the Kingwood Community Center, Stephen Costello called this method of dredging “unsustainable.” He’s sooooo right. We will run out of luck long before we run out of places to dredge.

Mechanical dredging (shown in the photos above) is far slower and less efficient than hydraulic. Great Lakes hydraulic dredges removed 500,000 cubic yards of sediment from the mouth bar area in just two months – July and August of 2019. DRC’s mechanical dredges removed another 600,000+ cubic yards in the 19 months between January 2020 and July 2021.

Interestingly, Google Earth shows that when the dredgers reach the East Fork, they will be closer to the Triple PG Sand Mine in Porter than the current placement area south of River Grove Park. The Triple PG mine will also be less than half the distance of a mine that the Army Corps previously pumped spoils to from the mouth bar– the Eagle Sorters Mine on the West Fork.

Hmmmm. Triple PG. A placement area for East Fork spoils? A return to hydraulic dredging? Interesting thoughts.

Seasonal Lowering of Lake Conroe

Seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe has started as planned. SJRA is releasing 75 cubic feet per second, according to their dashboard.

Seasonal release is shown as a City of Houston (COH) Diversion.

When the lowering started on August 2, a day late, the lake was at 200.87. So releasing 75 CFS has brought the lake down .19 feet, a little more than 2 inches. Barring large rainfalls, this rate should reach the objective of 200 feet by September 1.

The Lake Conroe Association is still fighting the lowering in Montgomery County District Court. Judge Mike Mays set a hearing date for Tuesday, August 24, 2021 at 2PM.

Tropics Heating Up

Five Day Tropical Weather Outlook from National Hurricane Center

The National Hurricane Center shows two areas of concern in the Atlantic as of 2PM, Friday August 6th.

A few hundred miles south of the Cabo Verde Islands, a tropical wave (orange area) and a broad area of low pressure could turn into a tropical depression by late this weekend or early next week. Formation chance through 5 days…medium…60 percent.

Another tropical wave approaching the Lesser Antilles is a lower threat. NHC predicts development, if any, of this system will be slow and occur early next week. Formation chance through 5 days…low…20 percent.

NOAA Issues Mid-Season Hurricane Outlook

Another forecast released two days ago by NOAA says that atmospheric conditions are still conducive for an above-average hurricane season. See their predictions in the right hand column below. These numbers include the five named storms so far this season.

Attorney General Lawsuit Against Triple PG Mine Still Active

Craig Pritzlaff of the TCEQ assures me that despite visible lack of progress in the Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Triple PG mine for illegal discharges, the AG has not dropped the case. “Indeed, very few, if any, cases referred to the AG for civil prosecution are ever dropped,” he says. “Litigation, particularly environmental litigation, is a complicated and lengthy process. That process was further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted court dockets across the State throughout 2020 and into 2021.”

Condos 250 Feet from 250,000 CFS

A Chinese developer is building yet more condos even closer to the West Fork in the Kings Harbor neighborhood.

See new construction bottom center. Lai finished the units at the right earlier this year.
The nearest unit above will be about 250 feet from the San Jacinto West Fork.

During Harvey, more than 250,000 cubic feet per second came through this area. It flooded homes and businesses more than 10,000 feet from the river.

The developer is also hoping to sell/develop that grassy area in the bottom center of the photo for $1.45 million.

I guess money has a short memory.

That concludes this month’s digest.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/6/2021

1438 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.

January Digest of Flood-Related News in Lake Houston Area

From construction developments to political developments, here’s your January digest of ten stories that could affect flooding or flood mitigation in the Lake Houston Area.

1. New Caney ISD High School #3

This site is located between Sorters-McClellan Road and US59 south of the HCA Kingwood Medical Center. New Caney ISD is building a new high school on the site of the old par 3 golf course behind the car dealerships that front US59. Construction crews are still pouring concrete for foundations and parking lots. Not much happened between flyovers on December 7 and January 1. But then, not much happens anywhere during the holidays. The two photos below show the progress. Construction of the detention pond is nearing completion. However, contractors still need to plant grass to reduce erosion before spring rains arrive.

New Caney ISD High School #3 site as of December 7, 2020
As of January 1, 2021.

New Caney ISD has not posted a project update since last September. Projected occupancy for the building is still Fall 2022.

2. Kingwood Cove Golf Course Redevelopment

I first talked about Ron Holley’s redevelopment of the Kingwood Cove (formerly Forest Cove) Golf Course in April last year. Since then Holley says he has been working with engineers, community groups and regulators to accommodate different interests.

Now, the development is back on the planning commission agenda for this Thursday. Holley is seeking approval of his latest General Plan and Plat. Neither show any detention ponds. The only place they could go would be in “Reserve C.” The General Plan shows that to be in the floodway and 100-year floodplain. Both could soon expand.

The West Fork floodway cuts through the southern part of Holley’s property.

The City raised an issue regarding compliance with regulations governing the re-plat of golf courses at the 12/17/2020 Planning Commission meeting. The City requested information relating to Local Government Code 212.0155.

That regulation requires, among other things, that:

  • Public notice of the re-plat be printed in newspapers
  • The Forest Cove Property Owners Association is notified
  • Residents have an opportunity to voice their opinions at public hearings
  • Owners of all properties within 200 feet of the new plat be notified in writing via US Mail.
  • If 20% of the owners object, the re-plat must win the approval of 3/5ths of the planning commission.
  • The developer proves there is adequate existing or planned infrastructure to support the new development.
  • The new subdivision will not adversely affect health, safety traffic, parking, drainage, water, sewer, or other utilities
  • The development will not have a materially adverse effect on existing single-family property values.
  • The new plat complies with all applicable land-use regulations and restrictive covenants and the City’s land-use policies.

That’s a lot to do over the holidays. So the general plan may need to be withdrawn and resubmitted after all the information has been produced. We should know more by Wednesday afternoon.

3. Dredging

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s January newsletter stated that Disaster Recover Corporation has removed 385,000 cubic yards from the West Fork Mouth Bar out of an estimated total of 400,000 cubic yards.

Then he alluded to dredging another 260,000 cubic yards from the area north of the mouth bar.

He also alluded to a Second Phase: dredging the San Jacinto East Fork and other locations in Lake Houston.

Finally, Martin discussed maintenance dredging. “Additionally,” he says, “during Phase Two of the project, City of Houston, Harris County, HCFCD, SJRA, and Coastal Water Authority (CWA) will develop and execute a plan for the City of Houston or CWA to assume long-term dredging operations on Lake Houston. This effort will include determining funding for dredging operations in perpetuity.”

4. Appointments to SJRA Board

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Wil Faubel and Rick Mora, M.D. and reappointed Kaaren Cambio to the San Jacinto River Authority Board of Directors. Their terms will expire on October 16, 2025. 

Kaaren Cambio of Kingwood is a field representative for United States Congressman Dan Crenshaw. She is a former member of Women’s Business Enterprise National Investment Recovery Association, Pipeline Contractors Association, and the Houston Pipeliners Association. Cambio received a Bachelor of Business Administration from San Diego State University.

Wil Faubel of Montgomery is President of Borets US Inc. He is a veteran and senior executive in the Oilfield Services industry with more than forty years of service. He has both domestic and international experience and is a lifelong member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and a former board member of the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association. Faubel received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Southern Methodist University.

Rick Mora, M.D. of The Woodlands is a partner at US Anesthesia Partners and Chief of Anesthesiology for Memorial Hermann Pinecoft Surgery Center. He has served as chair of the Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and is a founding Board member of the non-profit, Los Doctores de The Woodlands. Mora received his MD from the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine.

5. Forest Cove Townhome Buyouts

Harris County Commissioner’s Court will vote today on an item to exercise eminent domain on seven townhomes in the Forest Cove complex. The entire complex was destroyed after Harvey and many owners simply walked away from their properties without leaving forwarding addresses. Flood Control has been unable to find the owners after years of trying. Several may have moved out of the country. Eminent domain on these last few properties will clear the way for demolition of the entire complex and restoration of the area to nature or park land.

The once proud and idyllic townhomes in Forest Cove next to West Fork.

6. Woodridge Village

The purchase of Woodridge Village from Perry Homes is not on today’s Commissioner’s Court Agenda. However, all energies are reportedly still positive. It’s just taking time to work out the complex three-way purchase arrangements.

7. Romerica

Houston PlatTracker shows that the Romerica people may have acquired more land. But so far, they have not returned to the planning commission for approval on the latest iteration of the developer’s plans. No news is good news in this case.

8. Lake Houston Spillway Improvement Project

The City is close to finalizing the Preliminary Engineering Plan. Sources say the benefit/cost ratio looks very positive. We may see the final recommendations this month.

Engineers have examined several alternatives to add more gates to the Lake Houston dam or to increase its spillway capacity.

9. Noxxe Cleanup

The Railroad Commission could start plugging wells, removing storage tanks, and cleaning up the abandoned Noxxe lease in Forest Cove soon. The project manager has submitted work orders for final approval.

Small part of Noxxe lease next to Forest Cove baseball fields.

10. Kings Harbor New Construction

New condos are going up in Kings Harbor faster than Flood Control can tear down the ones in Forest Cove down. And they’re even closer to the river!

See new concrete pads (left center) and new construction (right foreground).

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/5/2020

1125 Days after 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.

Going Up the Down Escalator – As HCFCD Demolishes West Fork Townhomes, Developer Builds More

Have you ever walked up a down escalator? I’m sure that’s what it must feel like to work for the Harris County Flood Control District at times. As you work to improve public safety, you sometimes fight others eroding it in the process of making a buck. Consider this comparison.

Forest Cove Buyouts V. Wanbridge New Construction

Flood Control just bought out and demolished a six-townhome complex on Timberline Drive in Forest Cove. It was the culmination of a three-year process.

Meanwhile, a short distance downstream, Wanbridge is building 14 more – even closer to the same river that destroyed the Forest Cove Townhomes. Wanbridge even designed its townhomes on the same principles used in Forest Cove (garage and storage on ground floor/living space two stories up). Let’s see how that worked out for Forest Cove property owners.

Forest Cove Complex Torn Down after Floods and Fire

Here’s what the Forest Cove complex looked like before being demolished recently.

Part of six-unit Forest Cove Townhome flooded by Harvey and then burned on July 4th, 2019. Photo taken July 11, 2020.
Here’s what that site looks like today, 1100 days after Harvey FIRST destroyed the complex.

Finally, a vacant lot that can return to nature!

Six Down, But Fourteen Up

Meanwhile Wanbridge is building six new units in Kings Harbor even closer to the river. That is in addition to three units just completed in the upper left, and five just completed in the lower left (some of which are out of frame).

Forest Cove Townhome Buyouts Part of a Much Larger Project

The six-unit building recently demolished in Forest Cove is part of much larger buyout project. It comprises approximately 80 homes. So far, HCFCD has demolished the following Forest Cove townhome buildings:

  • 1030 Marina Dr.
  • 1040 Marina Dr.
  • 1050 Marina Dr.
  • 1060 Marina Dr.
  • 1102 Marina Dr.
  • 803/805 Timberline Ct.
  • 707 Timberline
  • 930 Aqua Vista  

However, the following buildings still have privately-owned units that HCFCD is trying to purchase ASAP:

  • 1106 Marina Dr.
  • 1110 Marina Dr.
  • 1020 Marina Dr.
  • 960 Marina Dr.
  • 980 Aqua Vista (mostly destroyed)

HCFCD has now bought out and demolished eight out of 14 buildings (see map below).

Map to Forest Cove Townhome buyouts. This once-thriving complex housed approximately 80 families before Harvey.

Five Buildings Still Left Standing…Kinda

Building sheared in half by 240,000 cubic feet per second at peak of Harvey. Residents reported feeling lucky to escape with their lives.
How Harvey chewed up the inside of Forest Cove Townhomes
Floodwaters reached well into the second stories of these units.
Note how the water pressure destroyed garage doors. Also note abandoned scooter.

As I edited pictures from this morning’s photoshoot, I noticed the little girl’s scooter perched precariously on the collapsing porch. A child lived here! It was her family’s home. Their dream. And I’m sure the scooter was the girl’s cherished possession. Perhaps a birthday or Christmas present.

For whatever reason, that scooter got to me. It made me realize the futility and danger of going up the down escalator.

Public Policy Implications

From a public policy point of view, it seems like it would be safer and cheaper to buy up properties near rivers and turn them into parkland – before people build on them.

Parks generally improve the value of surrounding properties. In contrast, the inevitable eyesores created by repeat flooding cost us all. Consider:

  • Taxpayer subsidies for flood insurance.
  • Multiple payouts on insurance claims, also subsidized by taxpayers.
  • Eventual buyouts, paid for by taxpayers.
  • Demolition, paid for by taxpayers.
  • Eventual restoration of the green space, at taxpayer expense.
  • Salaries of public employees to manage this process in Washington, Austin and Houston.

Leaving these spaces green would have cost little compared to the ultimate financial and emotional costs of repeat flooding. But some people like going up that down escalator.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/2/2020

1100 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.

Three Years Later, Pretending Harvey Never Happened

Now that we’re past the third anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, some developers would like to pretend the storm never happened. Where money can be made, they have memory loss in abundance and common sense in short supply.

New Townhomes Feet from West Fork in Kings Harbor

I previously blogged about new townhomes under construction in Kingwood’s Kings Harbor. Technically, these townhomes may meet most of the requirements of the City of Houston. They have garages and the equivalent of indoor/outdoor living spaces on the ground floor (which are already walled off from garages). The main “living floor” starts about ten to twelve feet up. (See below and Chapter 19 of the City’s Floodplain Ordinances.)

These new townhomes are just feet from the floodway of the West Fork in the background.

Detention Pond Just Feet From the Water

The barren area to the left of the six-unit complex is a detention pond. Only problem: it’s virtually in the floodway. See additional shots below.
A retaining wall separating this property from water cuts in from the left edge of the picture (see shot below also). Flood experts advise against putting detention ponds so close to a river because they fill up quickly in a flood and fail to hold water back, which is their purpose.
The retaining wall mentioned above.

Currently In 1% Annual-Chance Floodplain

The new construction currently lies within the 1% annual chance (100-year) floodplain. When the new flood maps are updated based on Atlas-14, both the floodway and floodplains will likely expand.

Source: FEMA National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer. Aqua color equals 1% Annual Chance Flood Zone (aka 100-year flood plain). Red circle indicates location of new townhomes.

Are 164 More Units On the Way?

The developer, Wanbridge, claims to have purchased the grassy area in the middle of the photo below as a “land bank” for 164 condos. A previous iteration of the developer’s website claimed it would be a multistory complex.

But why does Wanbridge claim to own that 2.2 acre grassy patch, when Harris County Appraisal District says it belongs to Rocky Lai’s Sunrise Kings Harbor LP? And if Wanbridge had a contract to purchase the land, why did Lai recently put it up for sale and post a sign on the property?

Other Problems

  • How will you evacuate people in the middle of the night if the next flood comes without warning like Harvey did?
  • How do you reconcile building just feet from a river that flooded homes and businesses more than two miles inland?
  • Why is there no building permit displayed at this site?
  • Why is there no stormwater pollution prevention permit displayed at this site?
  • Why are there no silt fences around the dirt work?

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/1/2020

1099 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.

2.21 Riverfront Acres in Kings Harbor Listed for $1.6 million

This morning, a For-Sale sign went up in Kings Harbor on vacant land between Chimichurri’s and the construction I reported in July. Houston Area Realtors (HAR.com) shows this property listed for sale at $1,600,000.00. After Harvey, Harris County Appraisal District valued it at $650,000. Now that most Harvey damage in the area has been repaired and there are few visible reminders of the devastation, you’ll likely see more attempts to cash in like this before flood maps are revised.

Big Money for Flood-Prone Property

Below is the sign that went up this morning.

Sign erected on 2.21 riverfront acres in Kings Harbor on 7/31/2020

The Houston Area Realtors website shows that the owner wants $1.6 million for it.

Source: https://www.har.com/search/dosearch?for_sale=1&streetaddress=kings+harbor.

That’s $724,000 per acre! Harris County Appraisal District shows its total value listed at only $700,000.

Source: https://arcweb.hcad.org/parcelviewer/

Rocky Lai and Associates own Sunrise Kings Harbor.

Flooding Potential

USGS shows the elevation of the property at about 10 feet above the river, which it fronts on. Note the the drop in the elevation profile below.

Source: https://viewer.nationalmap.gov/advanced-viewer/. Those two sharp dips in the elevation profile on the right are the streets that the green line crosses. Lai’s property is the big hump in the middle between 52 and 53 feet.

FEMA shows that the land is currently in the 100- and 500-year floodplains.

Source: https://hazards-fema.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=8b0adb51996444d4879338b5529aa9cd. Cross-hatched = floodway. Aqua = 100 year floodplain. Brown = 500-year floodplain.

Mr. Lai, who reportedly bought the property in foreclosure, must be hoping that people won’t remember the flooding history of this property and that they will fall in love with the view. Since Harvey, the only major thing that has changed is that all visible signs of flooding have been repaired.

Value of Property Tied to Flooding

According to Harris County Appraisal District, Mr. Lai evidently bought the property in 2008. HCAD lists the last five years of appraised value at:

  • 2016 $1,003,014
  • 2017 $1,200,000
  • 2018 $650,000 (Year after Harvey)
  • 2019 $697,580
  • 2020 $700,319

Note how the appraised value dropped almost 50% after Harvey. Now, Mr. Lai is trying to sell the property for about 2.5X the post-Harvey appraised value – less than three years later. Not enough has changed downstream to reduce flood risk by that much. But many people have forgotten how bad Harvey was by now. And most of the visible scars of the flood have been repaired. So here’s a refresher course for the Kings Harbor area.

Source: https://www.harriscountyfws.org/GageDetail/Index/755?From=7/31/2020%202:44%20PM&span=24%20Hours&r=1&v=surfaceBox&selIdx=0

In the last 25 years, floods have reached the street level of Mr. Lai’s property three times. Harvey was one of those. Harvey exceeded the height of his property by almost FIVE feet.

Flooding three times in 25 years is a far cry from any true 500-year flood plain.

Flood Maps Being Revised

FEMA last updated flood maps in this area in 2007. Mr. Lai benefited from a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) for his property in 2008, the year he bought it. (See blue notation in floodway map above.) This means the property was likely raised out of the floodway by bringing in fill or moving it from a nearby location.

However, the County and FEMA are in the process of revising flood maps AGAIN in the wake of Harvey. Revisions have not yet been made public and probably won’t be for a year or two. But reportedly, both the 100- and 500-year floodplains are expanding – rumors say by about 50%. That means Mr. Lai’s property could soon be back in the 100-year flood plain. And that may be part of the reason for the sudden desire to sell the property.

Implications for Construction

If reclassified into a different flood zone, different regulations would apply for construction that could raise a buyer’s costs.

After flood map revisions, any buyer of this property would likely be forced to elevate buildings on a pier-and-beam foundation so that water could flow underneath them.

Condos built on adjacent property by Wan Bridge were permitted by the City of Houston because the ground floors were used only for garages. But those permits were issued before flood-map revisions.

Lai’s Kings Harbor property is also on the cut-bank (eroding) side of a large meandering river. If water gets behind the retaining wall, much of his property could wash downstream in the next big flood. (See comparable situation below.)

Bulkhead and Forest Cove townhome destroyed by Harvey upstream from Kings Harbor.

Several people in the townhomes above narrowly escaped with their lives during Harvey. The flood swept several buildings off their foundations.

Erecting condo or townhome units on Mr. Lai’s property, as has been rumored for several years, would be dangerous. Doing so would likely risk the lives of unsuspecting buyers or renters as well as the principle of investors.

Lives and More Lost in Last Flood

Every apartment building, townhome and business for two miles north of Mr. Lai’s property flooded during Harvey. Twelve seniors died at nearby Kingwood Village Estates as a result of injuries sustained during Harvey evacuations or the heartbreak of losing their homes.

I discussed Mr. Lai’s property with a flood expert. The expert almost came out of his shoes. He said, “Who’s going to evacuate all the families in a flood like Harvey? It would be impossible. Those people would be out of luck.”

People love water views so much that they sometimes forget how dangerous floodwaters can be. Buyer beware.

US59 during Harvey. Photo by Melinda Ray.

Posted by Bob Rehak on July 31, 2020

1037 Days after 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.

Why We Fail to Learn the Lessons of History: Money Has a Short Memory

It was a cosmic coincidence. Last week, I was downloading pictures of townhomes devastated by Harvey in Forest Cove, when I received an email by a Kings Harbor resident. She was worried about identical townhomes now under construction in Kings Harbor.

The Kings Harbor townhomes under construction are about four miles downstream from Forest Cove, where many people barely escaped Harvey with their lives.

According to former Forest Cove townhome resident Jennifer Parks, Harvey swept five of those buildings into the West Fork. Yet the new Kings Harbor townhomes are up to FIVE times closer to the river.

Here We Go Again

The new townhomes are going up less than 200 feet from a river that destroyed everything in its path less than three years ago with 240,000 raging cubic feet per second.

Five of the Forest Cove townhomes were swept into the river during Harvey. Harris County Flood Control is buying out and tearing down the rest which have become uninhabitable.

Now we have new townhomes going up in Kings Harbor – based on an identical design.

New townhome construction near the Kings Harbor parking garage.
That’s the West Fork and the West Lake Houston Parkway bridge in the background.
Every apartment building, townhome and business within two miles north of this location flooded during Harvey. Twelve seniors died at Kingwood Village Estates 1.2 miles north of here as a result of injuries sustained during Harvey evacuations or the heartbreak of losing their homes.
Some new construction has been elevated to the 500-year flood plain (brown). But many new units are in the 100-year flood plain (aqua), about 190 feet from the floodway (cross-hatched). Source: FEMA national flood hazard layer viewer.

Cautionary Tale Just Upriver

The Forest Cove townhomes you see below were the lucky ones. Harvey’s floodwaters swept five off their foundations and into the river, according to former resident Jennifer Parks, who flooded eight times in five years.

Almost three years after Harvey, many Forest Cove townhomes have yet to be bought out and demolished, including those that subsequently burned.
Floodwaters reportedly reached 17 to 22 feet into these townhomes, to the second, and in some cases the third floor.
They left little but mold and reminders of a distant past.
Today, the units that remain have become dumping grounds that the City cannot keep up with.
Is this the future of Kings Harbor after the next big flood?

Chinese-Controlled Company Behind New Kings Harbor Townhomes

A company called Wan Bridge is developing the new townhomes in the Kings Harbor area.

Wan Bridge has also announced plans to build 400-600 sf studio “lakeside” units priced from $190,000 in this area.

According to current residents, the Chinese-controlled company brought in vans and limos full of Chinese investors to tour the area every weekend for a year.

Foreign investors may be unfamiliar with the flooding history of such properties and even less familiar with the resources to investigate flooding history. Therefore, they may be especially vulnerable. Current residents have heard that the investors likely have no intent to live here and that they will rent the properties out.

The Trick to Permitting

After Harvey, how can owners possibly get permits to construct such properties? Turns out it’s simple. Even under the City’s new “stringent” Chapter 19 regulations. People will not live on the ground floor; that space is reserved only for vehicles.

Entire ground floor taken up by garages.

A spokesperson for the City of Houston said that, to get permitted, the first living floor needs to be at least two feet above the 500 year flood plain. Putting cars on the ground floor evidently creates the elevation needed.

Ironically, the people in Forest Cove thought that living one floor up made them safe, too.

Tangled Web of Chinese-Controlled Companies Behind New Construction

Wan Bridge is part of a tangled web of Chinese-controlled companies

Source: Texas Secretary of State Direct.

Harris County Appraisal District shows that another company called Forney 56 LLC owns some of the property above (where the concrete will soon be poured). Jackson Su is the registered agent for Forney 56 and also a managing partner of Wan Bridge. Forney is a city outside of Dallas where Wan Bridge has another development.

The reference to “Wan” in the name likely stems from Bin Wan, the company’s CFO.

From CorporationWiki.com

Another man listed on the Wan Bridge website, Ting Qiao, holds the title of President and CEO of Wan Bridge. He’s also listed as manager of Ting Qiao Capital Management LLC.

Interestingly, Wan Bridge Group also has an interest in The Villas At Kings Harbor – just a block away from the townhomes shown above. There, Wan Bridge urges prospective tenants to Tour the Property Virtually AND Sign a Contract Virtually. That’s a convenient way to avoid answering difficult questions.

New Wan Bridge construction at Villas at Kings Harbor. Note elevation relative to street.

I spent half a day trying to untangle this web of companies and feel as though I just scratched the surface. More to follow.

Only one thing is certain at this point. If floodwaters ever ravage these townhomes and apartments the way they did in Forest Cove, the people responsible for constructing them will be well insulated. From a legal point of view, at least.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/11/2020

1047 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.

Conveyance of Lower Ben’s Branch Nearly Restored

A flyover of the lower portion of Ben’s Branch on March 6, 2020, revealed that Harris County Flood Control has nearly restored its conveyance, even if some sediment still needs to be hauled off.

With most of lower Ben’s Branch cleaned out, the Kingwood Library (left), Kingwood Greens (right), and The Enclave (background) can now breathe much easier.

Among Hardest Hit Areas During Harvey

During Hurricane Harvey, some of the hardest hit areas in Kingwood bordered Ben’s Branch. Ben’s Branch cuts diagonally through Kingwood from St. Martha Catholic Church on the north to Town Center, Kingwood Greens, The Enclave, Kingwood Village Estates and Kings Harbor on the south. Post-Harvey surveys showed significant sediment buildup along the creek which reduced conveyance.

Twelve seniors in Kingwood Village Estates died after Harvey as a result of injuries sustained during the storm or the stress of losing their homes.

In August of last year, Harris County Flood Control began cleaning out the creek.

The project scoped by HCFCD is to remove approximately 80,000 cubic yards of sediment between the red line at Kingwood Drive and the YMCA at the bottom right of the circle.

Flood Control estimated they would need to remove 75,000 to 80,000 cubic yards to restore the conveyance. Despite a setback called Tropical Storm Imelda, the project has been moving along nicely.

Looking west from the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge at Ben’s Branch before the project started. To get a sense of scale, that’s a HCFCD surveyor in the yellow jacket!
The same area today (looking west from a helicopter over the WLHP Bridge (lower left).

Here’s how the rest of the project looks.

East of the WLHP Bridge (foreground), some sediment is still drying along the banks before removal. However, the channel is open again for business.
The long stretch behind the Kingwood Town Center Apartments has been restored.
The stretch just south of Kingwood Drive by ReMax still needs clean-out and touch up.
The area just east of the YMCA is still being actively excavated.
Same area, still being actively excavated near YMCA.

Merchants and residents alike should breathe much easier during the upcoming hurricane season.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/10/2020

924 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Photo of the Day #298

Looking north toward Kingwood Greens and the Kingwood Country Club’s Forest Course. Note how Hurricane Harvey deposited a fresh layer of sand several feet thick on the islands and back channels of the West Fork of the San Jacinto. Photo taken two weeks after Harvey.

Photo of the Day #296

This shot was taken from west of the West Lake Houston Parkway bridge, looking east. Note several feet of sand deposited by Hurricane Harvey on the islands and backchannels…and how the river makes an S-turn at this point. Photo take two weeks after Harvey on 9/14/2017.