In the 2023 runoff election for Mayor of Houston, John Whitmire won by a landslide. Kingwood voted for Whitmire at much higher rates than the city as a whole. He won 91.4% of the votes in Kingwood – a 10.6 to 1 margin of victory over Sheila Jackson Lee, compared to 1.9 to 1 for the City as a whole.
Most of Undecideds Sided with Whitmire
Whitmire enjoyed a 7% lead over Lee in early polls, but picked up most of the undecideds. He finished with a convincing 65.26% to 34.74% victory, not quite a 2:1 margin.
Citywide, Whitmire won by a margin of 60,275 votes. In Kingwood, he beat Jackson Lee by 8,734 votes – 14.5% of his citywide margin.
That’s remarkable for two reasons.
Kingwood has only 3% of the City’s population (about 70,000 out of 2.2 million).
Kingwood had 5% of the total voters in the runoff.
Among the City’s 1.2 million registered voters, turnout was a meager 16.92%. But among Kingwood’s 44,000 registered voters, turnout was 23.86% – 7 percentage points higher.
Ten of Kingwood’s 12 precincts had turnout in the top quintile of all precincts.
So, Kingwood had higher turnout than most areas and those who voted preferred Whitmire overwhelmingly.
Meaning of Whitmire Win
Whitmire ran a positive campaign focused on crime, the economy, drainage/infrastructure, city services and bringing Houston together.
Kingwood is traditionally Republican. Kingwood’s overwhelming endorsement of the moderate Democrat may herald a sea change in local politics. Here, in this election, in this place, at this time, voters buried partisan politics and reached across the aisle to support centrist viewpoints that benefit the majority.
Kingwood has 12 voting precincts.
Here are the totals for each candidate in each precinct from HarrisVotes.com. See how your neighbors voted.
Whitmire vs Lee in Kingwood
S. J. Lee
JW Win %
Kingwood Tallies & Totals vs. Citywide in Whitmire/Lee runoff.
It appears to me that Sheila Jackson Lee’s winner-take-all politics of polarization backfired on her this time. I haven’t yet had time to check other Republican-leaning areas, but in Kingwood, it seems that Republican’s arms didn’t stretch to her extremes.
The Candidate Now Has a Mandate
While Whitmire could have won the City convincingly without Kingwood, he won it dramatically with Kingwood. He will start the job with a broad mandate.
Whitmire still has huge challenges to face. Now comes the hard part of governing a city saddled with debt.
On June 29, 2021, Harris County Commissioners approved two contracts for preliminary engineering on Taylor Gully and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch. The Taylor Gully project includes looking at Woodridge Village in Montgomery County to possibly expand detention-pond capacity there. See more below.
Taylor Gully Project
Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) awarded Idcus, Inc. a $180,555 preliminary engineering contract to develop up to five conceptual alternative scenarios for modifying Taylor Gully. HCFCD and Idcus will then select three scenarios for more detailed analysis. Idcus must perform the work within 300 days of the Notice to Proceed.
The alternative modeling scenarios may include:
Preferred Channel Alternative: This would look at improving the slope, width and lining of channel in conjunction with the existing detention on the Woodridge Village site. This purpose: to determine if the existing detention and proposed channel improvements suffice to mitigate flooding.
Expanded Detention: This would look at expanding the existing stormwater detention on the Woodridge Village site so that no channel improvements are necessary.
Alternative Channel/Detention: This would look at a combination of the two scenarios above. It would determine the amount of additional detention and channel improvements necessary to ensure no adverse impact all the way to Lake Houston.
Optimization Alternative: Building on the alternatives above, this effort would examine additional alternatives to produce a no-adverse-impact solution while maximizing the flood mitigation and minimizing construction costs.
Deliverables for the alternatives include:
Channel and basin layouts
Estimates of benefits for various levels of storms (100-year, etc.)
Cost estimates for right-of-way acquisition, engineering and construction management.
Performance metrics, i.e., estimated acreage of land inundation, number of structures in floodplain, number of structures flooded and miles of inundated roadway.
A scoring matrix to rank the alternatives.
The scope also includes, when necessary:
Hydrologic and hydraulic analysis
Environmental site assessment
Subsurface utility exploration
Finally, Idcus will hold two public engagement meetings near the beginning and end of the project and consult with community groups such as KSA.
Kingwood Diversion Ditch
HCFCD entered into a contract with Neel-Schaffer, Inc. for $437,685 for preliminary engineering on the Kingwood Diversion Ditch. Within 300 days,Neel-Schaffer must:
Evaluate existing site conditions, previous studies, other projects that could affect this one, topography, rights-of-way, utilities, and soil surveys.
Evaluate existing bridges
Conduct and H&H analysis to assess existing and proposed conditions (from 2-year to 500-year storms).
Analyze Channel Improvements including the:
Impact of TIRZ #10’s latest design to replace the Northpark Bridge
Diversion structure at the confluence of Bens Branch and the Diversion Channel
Drop structures in lieu of a concrete lined channel to minimize high velocities due to the steep grade between Walnut Lane and Deer Ridge Estates Blvd.
Develop phased construction plans based on available funding, potential impacts and benefits.
Conduct two public engagement meetings and coordinate with community groups.
HCFCD may also require Neel-Schaffer to provide addition services when necessary, such as:
Geotechnical investigations, i.e., bridge borings
“Jurisdictional” determination. Does this channel fall under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps? If so, channel design may need to be altered.
Determination of detention pond requirements
Exploration for subsurface utilities
Obtaining permits from the Corps
Providing Landscape Architect services
For Complete Text of Contracts…
The first half of each link below contains contract details such as compensation. The second half contains the scope of work.
First in an Eight-Part series on Flood-Mitigation Funding in Harris County
Recently, many local leaders, citizens and media have claimed that two largely minority and low-to-moderate-income (LMI) Harris County watersheds – Halls and Greens Bayous – have gotten no flood-mitigation funding. The actual data shows the exact opposite of what many people have been told, i.e., that racial bias affects the distribution of flood mitigation funds.
Halls and Greens have received $422 million since 2000. And they received $200 million of that since Harvey. Meanwhile, Kingwood has never had one Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) capital improvement project.
FOIA Request Shows Where Money Has Actually Gone
Information, newly available through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request, reveals that Greens and Halls Bayous, have received 16% of all Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) funding since 2000 and 18% since Hurricane Harvey. That’s almost one fifth of all flood-mitigation funding for 23 watersheds in the whole county!
But the popular perception is that flood mitigation money is all going to affluent neighborhoods like those in Kingwood at the expense of low-to-moderate income areas, such as Greens and Halls. Local media have helped spread this misinformation:
FOIA Request Reveals Flaws in Narrative
One Harris County commissioner frequently claims Greens and Halls are being discriminated against in the allocation of flood-mitigation funding. He says residents in those watersheds are at the “back of the bus” and if commissioners don’t fix that, “We’ll have blood on our hands.”
That sounded extreme. So, to see how bad the problem was, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in early March. Out of 23 watersheds:
Since 2000, Halls and Greens rank #8 and #3 respectively in flood mitigation “dollars received.”
Since Harvey, Halls and Greens rank #11 and #2 respectively
While #11 and #8 may sound “middle of the pack” for Halls, keep in mind that Halls ranks #16 in size. The entire watershed is only 42 out of 1,776 square miles that make up Harris County.
Since 2000, Halls has received more than $3 million per square mile. Compare that to $0.5 million for the San Jacinto watershed, a frequent target of Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and his followers.
Here’s what all watersheds have received and where they rank, along with other measures, such as:
Spending per capita
Spending per square mile
Structures damaged in floods
You can look at this data in dozens of ways. And I will. However, any way you cut it, it does not support discrimination against the poor or a racial bias in funding. If you didn’t look any further, you could use this data to support the opposite point of view, i.e., that funding discriminates against more affluent neighborhoods. However…
Spending Actually Closely Tracks Damage
Halls and Greens Bayou watersheds contain large percentages of low-to-moderate income (LMI) households. Versus other watersheds, Halls ranks #1 in LMI households (71%) and Greens ranks #6 (57%).
Of all the rankings on all the measures, the measure that seems to track most closely with funding is “properties damaged.” One would hope for that! It’s a perfectly rational, non-biased basis for allocating funds.
Data shows that the Flood Control District is spending the most money where flooding has damaged the most structures.
Dollars Flow to Damage
To underscore that point, consider that:
Greens ranks #3 in funding since 2000 and #2 since Harvey. It also had the 2nd most damage in four major floods (Allison, Tax Day, Memorial Day, and Harvey).
Halls ranks 3rd in spending per square mile since 2000 and 4th since Harvey. It also had the 4th most damage in all four storms.
Together, Halls and Greens have received $422 million since 2000. That’s hardly “nothing.” Hardly “back of the bus.” And their high rankings hardly make an argument for racial or income bias.
Crucial Role of Tropical Storm Allison
Flood-mitigation studies, funding, and construction can take years and even decades. Tropical Storm Allison, 20 years ago this month, played a role in the rankings above. Compare the watershed and rainfall maps below. The heaviest rainfall in Allison fell directly over Halls and Greens Bayous. Thus, both of these watersheds experienced major damage two decades ago.
Projects Identified Earlier Are Farther Along
That actually helps explain why they rank so high in funding today. During Allison, Greens ranked #1 in damage (15,590 structures) and Halls ranked #2 (12,820).
Before 2018, the Flood Control District only had $60M per year to spend across all of Harris County. Then, when voters approved the flood bond in 2018, Halls and Greens projects were “shovel ready” and could start immediately. In essence, they had a head start and it shows in funding!
That’s not to say these watersheds have gotten everything residents wanted or needed. But then, who has?
Numbers Contradict Narrative
Those who watch Commissioners Court are treated month after month to tales about how flood-mitigation spending has discriminated against people in low-income watersheds with high percentages of LMI households. Halls and Greens are repeatedly held up as examples.
The FOIA data does not support that theory. It shows that low-income watersheds are not being ignored. And higher income watersheds are not getting all the money. Anyone who says they are is not looking at the numbers.
In fact, data from the FOIA request revealed that the Kingwood area has had exactly ZERO Flood Control District capital improvement projects in the last 20 years. The often-cited Buffalo Bayou watershed has had exactly TWO capital Flood Control District capital improvement projects in the last 20 years.
To learn more about recently completed projects or projects currently under construction in Halls and Greens Bayou watersheds, see these previous posts:
Tomorrow, I will examine flood-mitigation funding in six watersheds with the lowest income rankings versus six with the highest.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/21/2021based on HCFCD data supplied in response to a FOIA request.
1392 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.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Screen-Shot-2021-06-19-at-10.28.30-AM-1.png?fit=1112%2C804&ssl=18041112adminadmin2021-06-21 16:50:242021-06-22 14:57:40Surprise! Surprise! Halls, Greens Watersheds Get $422 Million of Flood-Mitigation Funding, Not “ZERO.”
The Houston Parks Board’s newest leg of the San Jacinto Bayou Greenway is nearing completion. Construction started near River Grove Park in Kingwood and is working its way west toward Harris County Precinct 4’s new Edgewater Park at US59.
First Leg Now Concreted, Others Under Construction
The first leg of the concrete trail connects River Grove Park and the Kingwood Trail Network to Hamblen Road in Forest Cove. From there, the trail snakes through streets in the Northshore neighborhood, such as Northshore Drive and Sunrise Trail. It currently stops just north of the Forest Cove little league fields on Forest Cove Drive. However, the trail will continue west; that’s just the extent of current construction. At the ends of streets that don’t connect, the Parks Board is building connector trails for hikers and bikers.
The only portion of the San Jacinto Bayou Greenway completely concreted to date links Woodland Hills Drive and Hamblen. Other portions of the trail are partially concreted, and some are still being cleared. Construction fences are still up, even in the areas with concrete, as crews have not yet finished installing benches and planting grass.
Not Yet Quite Bike Ready
Net: Don’t take your bike through there yet. These pictures taken this afternoon show the current state of construction.
Trail is actively being cleared farther to the east, but it’s not yet passable. The cleared portion currently terminates at Marina Drive near the Forest Cove Pool, behind the townhomes destroyed by Harvey.
While th San Jacinto Bayou Greenway project will help to revitalize the area, some residents who survived the storm and rebuilt their homes lament the loss of seclusion. However, avid hikers and bikers will no doubt will love the trail which will connect to the Spring Creek Greenway and take people up to the Woodlands. It represents a vast expansion of connected trails in the area and will rival the largest urban trail networks in the country – if it won’t be the largest.
That will put Kingwood and Forest Cove back in the news again in an immensely positive way. It will also create a magnet that improves home values again and attracts younger couples with children trying take advantage of Humble ISD schools.
Yesterday, a reader, Donna Hanna Dewhirst, sent me pictures of a dredging operation beginning in the channel that cuts through Walden on Lake Houston. Today, I photographed it from the air.
Walden Project Kicks Off
Typically, in a project with wet dirt like this, contractors “de-water” it by letting it drain on the banks for a while. Once dry, they haul it away. HCFCD sent dirt from Ben’s Branch to a cleaning facility to ensure they weren’t transporting any dangerous bacteria or organisms living in the mud. From there, it’s reused in landscaping and other projects.
Reader Jeff Bayless volunteered, “This is called Rogers Gully and drains a large part of Atascocita. This is actually the 2nd time they have removed sediment from this location. They finished the first round right before Imelda and lined the banks with riprap and fresh top soil further upstream all the way to Framingham Road. Had it looking good then Imelda hit and washed all their new soil back into the downstream parts by the County Club. This also made the mouthbar in the lake larger and shallower. My fear with the large mouthbar is if Atascocita gets a Kingwood May 7 type flash flood, the mouthbar will push drainage water into the homes along this gully. Hopefully the mouthbar removal is a real project that will happen before flooding occurs.”
Meanwhile, more channel repairs have started in Kingwood within the last few weeks. They consist primarily of erosion and outfall pipe repairs. Repairs are so numerous, HCFCD had to group them into a a series of smaller projects to expedite bidding and repairs. The project include:
G103-41-00-X008: Two damage sites (5622 and 5622A) consisting of slope erosion, toe line repair, and channel scour.
G103-38-00-X020: Three damage sites (5416, 5680, and 5682) consisting of bank sloughing and erosion repair.
G103-38-01-X014: A series of voids on the southern side of the channel. One void is very large and the concrete paving has begun buckling. Another void is above an outfall pipe that will need to be replaced. Access is limited and encroachments are present.
G103-38-00-X021: Slope erosion has progressed and will eventually begin to affect the concrete channel lining. Also, some sediment has built-up and needs to be removed.
G103-38-01-X010: One damage site consisting of slope erosion.
To see the locations of these channels, zoom waaaaay in on the map.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/13/2020 with photos from Donna Hannah Dewhirst
899 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/20200213-RJR_8133.jpg?fit=2048%2C1365&ssl=113652048adminadmin2020-02-13 19:09:192020-02-13 20:50:01HCFCD Launches Channel Repair Projects in Walden on Lake Houston and Kingwood
Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin announced that Kingwood Storm-Water Line Inspections will continue and improve.
Houston Public Works will inspect junctures more critically. Martin’s office elaborated no further.
How It Works
“Most inspections already conducted have been clear,” said Martin. “Only a few spots needed debris removal.” The City, he says, addresses areas with debris in the lines prior to moving on to the next neighborhood. They use specialized equipment and “confined-space” personnel to remove the debris. To date, the City has inspected nearly 150,000 linear feet, or approximately 28 miles, of storm-water lines.
Order of Priority
The City has completed Elm Grove, Hunter’s Ridge, North & South Woodland Hills, Bear Branch, Forest Cove, Greentree Village, and Kings Crossing. This week, Houston Public Works started on Kings Point. Houston Public Works now expects to complete one community each week.
When Public Works finishes in a community, they post photos from their storm-water line inspection to Council Member Martin’s Facebook Photo Albums. If you see Houston Public Works crews conducting an inspection, Martin invites you to please say “hi” and watch how they work.
Houston Public Works has prioritized villages in Kingwood by the number of homes impacted during Imelda. The Department hopes to complete the project by June 1, 2020, weather permitting.
Working with HOAs to Alert Residents
Prior to Public Works moving to a new Village, Martin’s office will work directly with the affected HOA to make them aware of the impending storm water-line inspection.
How You Can Help Avoid Streets Flooding
Martin encourages the community to participate in the City’s Adopt-A-Drain program.
Other ways residents can help:
Make sure trash cans don’t tip over before pickup.
Dispose of yard clippings and leaves properly.
Clear gutters before bad weather.
Never throw trash down drains or inlets.
Just In Time for Storms Next Week
Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner warns, “Widespread rainfall amounts Sun-Wednesday night look to average 1-2 inches across much of the area.” However, also says we could see totals of 3-4 inches or even higher along and east of I-45 if a surface low tracks over the area next Wednesday.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/7/2020
892 Days since Harvey and 141 since Imelda
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Victim_03.jpg?fit=1000%2C1500&ssl=115001000adminadmin2020-02-07 19:29:112020-02-07 19:49:02Kingwood Storm-Water Line Inspections Update
In June and July, Harris County Flood Control cleared the upper portion of Ben’s Branch near Northpark Drive and Woodland Hills. Now, excavation of the lower portion of Ben’s Branch between Kingwood Drive and the YMCA on West Lake Houston Parkway has begun.
One of the Largest Drainage Features in Kingwood
Ben’s Branch is one of the major drainage features in Kingwood. The purpose of the project: to restore conveyance. The stream/ditch cuts diagonally through the center of the community from the new St. Martha Church to King’s Harbor. Thousands of homes and businesses depend on Ben’s Branch to evacuate storm water efficiently.
Prior to Harvey, the ditch had not been cleared out in decades. It had become seriously clogged from erosion. Kingwood badly needs this maintenance.
Damages Near Ben’s Branch
During Harvey, Ben’s Branch contributed to the flooding of:
Every business in Kingwood’s busy Town Center area
Every home in the Enclave
Hundreds of homes in Kings Forest, Bear Branch, Foster’s Mill and Kingwood Greens
Kingwood Country Club’s Forest Course and Golf Advantage School
The Kingwood YMCA and Library
Kingwood High School
Hundreds of apartments
Twelve seniors in Kingwood Village Estates also died as a result of injuries sustained during evacuation or the stress of dealing with condos that the storm destroyed.
Construction will last through the end of the year. HCFCD will remove approximately 77,000 cubic yards of sediment. Crews began work at Kingwood Drive and are heading downstream. They have not yet reached the point where Ben’s Branch turns east, cuts under West Lake Houston Parkway, and then curves around the Y to head south again.
The project extends from Kingwood Drive downstream to 1,800 linear feet downstream of West Lake Houston Parkway.
Traffic and Other Impacts
Construction equipment will access the work area via the established access points from Kingwood Drive, Bens View, West Lake Houston Parkway, and Denmere. The contractor will use heavy construction equipment such as dump trucks, excavators and bulldozers. Motorists are urged to be alert to truck traffic when passing near construction access points.
In order to repair and remove sediment from Ben’s Branch, the contractor will need to remove some trees and vegetation along Bens Branch, and in areas designated for access to the channel from the public road right of way.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BensBranch_04.jpg?fit=1500%2C1000&ssl=110001500adminadmin2019-09-12 12:31:172019-09-12 12:31:25Excavation of Lower Portion of Ben’s Branch Kicking into High Gear
HCFCD plans to do it again “soon” as part of a general debris removal process on multiple channels in Kingwood.
The wider effort should begin this August.
Work on Ben’s Branch Expanded
Yesterday, HCFCD extended its work on Ben’s Branch west of Woodland Hills. They excavated the area between North Woodland Hills and the businesses on the south side of North Park Drive (Walgreens, Firestone, McDonalds, etc.).
To Report Blockages Near You
If you are aware of downed trees blocking a channel near you:
Photograph it using a cell phone (most of which embed GPS coordinates in images)
Record the nearest street location and trail-access points
With contributions from Jeff Miller, Thomas Blailock and Chris Kalman
673 Days after Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/IMG_2433.jpg?fit=1200%2C900&ssl=19001200adminadmin2019-07-03 16:39:352019-07-03 17:07:47HCFCD Schedules Maintenance for Taylor Gully, Other Ditches
Update: Flash Flood Watch Extended until 8:00 PM or until cancelled.
For the second time in five days, the National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings. This means more street flooding. Move your vehicles to high ground.
Flash Flood Warning till 8:00 or Until Canceled
The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Warning for portions of northeast Houston. It includes Lake Houston, Kingwood and northeastern Bush Intercontinental Airport, until 8:00 p.m.
Early this afternoon, Doppler radar and automated rain gauges indicated nearly stationary thunderstorms producing heavy rain across the warned area. By 1 PM, three to almost five inches of rain had fallen and worse was yet to come. By 5PM, storm totals were approaching 10 inches with one station near FM1485 reporting 11 inches. The good news: as of 6PM, although it is still raining, the storm appears to be moving east and lessening.
Stunning Accumulations for Day That Was Supposed to be Light
Just hours ago, I posted a City of Houston alert warning of 7-10 inches of rain possible this WEEK. We have already gotten more than that today and it’s not over! And this was supposed to be the lightest day this week! Here’s what it looked like on the streets this afternoon.
Kingwood College closed. Water was intruding through drains and windows. No power.
The creek by Deerwood Country Club is almost over Kingwood Drive.
8″ to 9″ standing water reported in Memorial Hermann lot in HEB Center. See below.
Storm Total Accumulations
Here’s what the storm total accumulations looked like as of 5:15.
River Report and Protective Actions
The San Jacinto river is forecasted to rise above flood stage by this evening and continue to rise to near 49.6 feet by tonight. The river will fall below flood stage by after midnight WEDNESDAY.
At 49.3 feet, minor lowland flooding begins in the vicinity of the gage; the north side turnaround at US 59 begins to flood; and low points on Thelma Road, Aqua Vista Drive, and Riverview Drive begin to flood.
People in the area should avoid the river as it rises. Residents near the river should make preparations in the event they are not able to leave their homes due to high water.
Turn Around, Don’t Drown®: Do not drive through flooded areas. If you see water covering the road, do not attempt to cross it. Only takes a few inches of water to float a vehicle . If you find yourself in a dangerous situation where your vehicle is taking on water, get out of the vehicle, get to a higher position, and call 911.
Posted by Bob Rehak on May 7, 2019 at 2PM and update at 4PM and 6pm
616 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/KingsForestPool_01.jpg?fit=1500%2C1000&ssl=110001500adminadmin2019-05-07 14:06:422019-05-07 18:18:59Flash Flood Warning Extended Again! Up to 10 Inches Already Today with More on Way