Tag Archive for: Lake Houston

CWA Exploring Alternate Plan for Adding Lake Houston Dam Gates

Coastal Water Authority (CWA) recently posted minutes from its May 11th board meeting that reveal a possible new direction for adding more flood gates to the Lake Houston Dam. After months of discussing various crest gate alternatives to increase the release capacity of the dam, engineers will now focus on examining two tainter gate alternatives. One would add six tainter gates, the other twelve.

Neither alternative would modify the concrete portion of the spillway, as crest gates would. Black & Veatch, the engineering firm in charge of the project, will explore adding the tainter gates in the earthen embankment to the east of the existing spillway. See below, upper right.

Looking ENE at Lake Houston Dam. Black and Veatch is now exploring adding tainter gates to the earthen portion of the dam in the upper right.

The eastern embankment is a solid earthen area 2800 feet long east of the spillway and existing gates (see upper right of photo above). Water cannot get over it in a storm because it is so much higher than the spillway. By adding various structures in this area, engineers could widen the current spillway capacity, allowing release of more stormwater.

Tainter gates rotate up from a central pivot point. Crest gates rotate down from a bottom hinge, like a piano lid.

Minutes from May CWA Board Meeting

Item IV(B) on Page 3 of the May 11, 2022, minutes states, “…CWA, City of Houston (COH), and Black and Veatch (B&V) met on April 14, 2022. During that meeting the COH requested that an alternate gate location to the east of the existing gate structure be further [emphasis added] evaluated.”

Following the meeting, B&V developed a scope of work to update the gate concepts and construction costs for this area. The COH provided comments and B&V modified its proposal. B&V reportedly began work on the new direction by June 1.

Additional Funding Needed

Each of the new alternatives would require additional funding; neither fit within the existing budget, according to the CWA staff. COH Public Works will pay for the new evaluation.

Wayne Klotz, P.E. and President of the CWA Board, reminded everyone present that COH owns the dam and is the FEMA grantee for this project, while CWA works for and takes direction from COH.

Minutes from the June CWA meeting have not yet been posted. The last post about gates on the COH District E website was almost a year ago on July 8, 2021.

7/4/22 Screen Capture from District E Website.

However, City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin did take questions on the project at an April 2022 community meeting. At the time, Martin expected to have a final answer on gates in a “September-ish” time frame.

Based on costs of the Addicks and Barker dam modifications by the Army Corps, some remain skeptical of any alternative for adding gates to the dam. The reason: budget and the Benefit/Cost Ratio.

Currently, the release capacity of tainter gates on the Lake Conroe Dam is 15X greater than those on the Lake Houston Dam (150,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) vs. 10,000 CFS.)

Concept Studied and Rejected Once Already

Adding gates to the eastern embankment was one of the original concepts evaluated. (See Column 5, Offsite Alternative #2, Column 5, Page 4.) But engineers focused on adding crest gates instead, largely because the total estimated costs for adding tainter gates at that time exceeded $90 million for a $50 million budget. However, the Army Corps also had environmental concerns about adding gates to the eastern embankment.

FEMA initially gave the City three years to complete the project (18 months for engineering and 18 for construction). Engineering began in April 2020.

No other details about May’s change in direction have been released to my knowledge.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/4/2022 based on minutes from the May CWA Board meeting

1770 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Dredgers Move to Rogers Gully from East Fork

Within the last week, the focus of dredging moved from the East Fork San Jacinto to the mouth of Rogers Gully on the west side of Lake Houston near the Walden Country Club. HCFCD conducted a dredging operation upstream from the Rogers Gully mouth bar in 2020. But the mouth bar itself is in Lake Houston, which is owned by the City of Houston. So this portion is the City’s responsibility.

Where dredging stopped in East Fork in late February. Looking South. Luce Bayou on upper left. FM1960 Bridge in upper right. Picture taken 2/27/22.
Rogers Gully mouth bar has already been partially removed by the dredgers anchored in the distance for the evening. Looking east toward Huffman on far side of lake from over the Walden Country Club. Photo taken 3/1/22.

New Base of Operations Will Shorten Supply Lines

At the same time, the base of operations for dredging appears to be moving from the West Fork to a marina across the lake from Rogers Gully. The new drop off point for spoils is about 2.2 miles from Rogers Gully. Compare that to almost 7 miles to get from the East Fork to Berry Madden’s property south of River Grove Park on the West Fork.

New deposit site for dredging spoils on Fairlake Lane in Huffman. Photo taken 2/27/22.

Over the weekend, I photographed dredgers preparing the site and carting the first loads of sediment to a dirt/mulch company about six miles east on 1960.

Where spoils from Lake Houston are going on FM1960 toward 99.

The dirt company is about 2 miles inside the new Grand Parkway extension.

Looking south. New Grand Parkway extension crossing FM1960. Photo taken 2/27/22.

The new highway will open vast new areas for development and create ready markets for dredging spoils to elevate homes and build roads.

Focus Shifting to Inlets Around Lake

According to State Representative Dan Huberty, about $40 million remains in the dredging fund appropriated by the state legislature last year. He hopes that after inlets around the lake are cleaned out, that dredgers will return to the East Fork in the future to continue the effort there.

Pictures taken this afternoon show that in the last two days, the dredgers have taken a significant bite out of the Rogers Gully mouth bar, which in my opinion, was the worst of many smaller inlets around the lake.

Rogers Gully mouth bar in August of 2020. Compare to photos below to see progress already made.

The photos below tell the story.

Looking west from beyond one of the anchored dredges toward the mouth bar and the Walden Country Club in the top center.
Still looking west at the partially removed mouth bar.
Looking NNW. From here, tugs will ferry the pontoons toward the general vicinity of that white spot on the lake front in the upper right. Note the FM1960 bridge in the background.

Soon, the dredgers will finish with Rogers Gully and move on to the next inlet.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/1/22 with input from Dan Huberty

1645 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Huberty Secures Another $50 Million for Lake Houston Dredging

State Representative Dan Huberty announced on Wednesday this week that he secured another $50 Million for dredging Lake Houston through a rider he attached to SB 1 – a 972 page appropriations bill – earlier this year.

Rider to SB 1 Added During Last Conference Committee

The rider actually stipulates the money will go to the Texas Water Development Board but earmarks it. The text says in part, “Water Development Board shall allocate $50,000,000 for the state fiscal biennium beginning September 1, 2021, for the purpose of providing financial assistance for removing accumulated siltation and sediment deposits throughout the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.”

The bill became effective on 9/1 after a final conference committee, vote and the Governor’s signature. Huberty credits Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Greg Bonnen, Representative Armando Walle, also on the House Appropriations Committee. Huberty said, Bonnen helped it go in and Walle made sure it stayed in.

Huberty said the money will be used to keep dredging continuously as long as it lasts. The City will actually be doing the dredging (see photos below). Huberty also credits Mayor Sylvester Turner and Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin for working to make the appropriation happen.

Where Money Will Be Used

In addition to East Fork dredging, Huberty sees the money being used to clear accumulated siltation from the mouths of inlets around the lake, such as those in Huffman, Atascocita and Walden.

Update on Status of East Fork Dredging

Shortly before sundown today, I put a drone up from Kingwood over the East Fork and captured the images below.

Looking SE toward Luce Bayou entrance to East Fork and one of two mechanical dredges currently on station.
Closer shot of same dredge. Note: all photos were taken just before sunset on Saturday night, 11/20/21.
Looking south toward Lake Houston, West Fork confluence (upper right) and FM1960 bridge in distance.
Looking North. Kingwood on left; Huffman on right.

The shot above shows you just how big this task will be. I first photographed these dredges in the East Fork on October 12. So it’s taken them roughly five weeks to excavate the sandbar between the two pontoons.

Below, you can see what the same area looked like almost a year before dredging started. The photo gives you some idea of the immensity of the task. The sand bars you see grew 4000 feet in length during Harvey and Imelda.

East Fork Mouth Bar after Imelda. Taken in December 2020, ten months before start of East Fork dredging about five weeks ago.

Josh Alberson who boats this area regularly with a shallow draft jet boat found that the depth of the river through his reach had been reduced from 17 feet before Harvey to about 3 feet after Imelda. That’s a major loss of conveyance that backed water up and contributed to flooding on both sides of the river.

Smaller tributaries exhibit similar problems, for instance Rogers Gully.

Rogers Gully mouth bar in Atascocita

Thank You Dan and God Speed

Everyone in the Lake Houston Area owes Dan Huberty a huge “thank you” for this one. Huberty, who has served in the House for 10 years, has announced his intention not to run again. Throughout his tenure, Huberty helped reform state education funding. He also passed regulation that forced sand mines to register with the TCEQ during his freshman year in 2011. God speed on the next leg of your journey, Dan.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/20/21

1544 days after Hurricane Harvey

San Jacinto East Fork Dredging Begins

This morning, for the first time, I photographed dredging on the San Jacinto East Fork. It was a welcome site and one that hundreds of East Fork residents who flooded will appreciate.

Three Months After Plans Unveiled

It was back on July 9, 2021, that Stephen Costello, the City’s Chief Recovery Officer, unveiled the City’s plans to begin East Fork dredging. At the time, Costello said crews would have to dredge their way there through a shallow channel south of Royal Shores in Kingwood.

On July 11, I first photographed dredging in the channel.

On September 23rd, I photographed crews about three quarters of the way through the channel.

Finally, today, October 12, three months later, I photographed a barge moving straight through the channel and into the East Fork. I even had to move locations a couple time to keep the drone within range.

Drone Photos of East Fork Dredging from 10/12/2021

Two mechanical dredges on East Fork, just upstream from the entrance to Luce Bayou.
Today’s dredging location circled in red. Arrow points way back to where crews are depositing the spoils on the West Fork just south of River Grove Park.
Tug pushing empty pontoon through Royal Shores Channel toward East Fork (top). Looking SE. Note FM1960 Causeway in upper right.
Looking NE toward Luce Bayou on opposite shore to begin Dredging
Empty barge turns NNE. East Fork dredging location is around the finger that sticks out into the river from the upper left. After loading up with silt and sediment, the barge will return to the West Fork to deposit the spoils.

More Dredging $$$ Voted by Commissioners Today

This morning, in Harris County Commissioners Court, Agenda Item 102 passed unanimously without discussion. The motion will contribute $10 million from the Harris County 2018 flood bond funds to extend the dredging on the East Fork, West Fork, and Lake Houston, including the entrance to Rogers Gully.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/12/2021

1505 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 756 since Imelda

Floodwaters Converging Downstream on Lake Houston

As of Monday morning, the threat to Lake Conroe had passed, but now floodwaters from the rain soaked northwestern portion of the region are converging on Lake Houston. Here’s a roundup of what’s happening where.

Lake Conroe Going Down

The San Jacinto River Authority reduced its discharge rate to from 9275 cubic feet per second (CFS) to 8120 CFS as the level of Lake Conroe continued to recede, but the West Fork came out of its banks at US 59. The West Fork also began flooding Kingwood’s River Grove Park and the abandoned Noxxe Oil Fields between the river and the Forest Cove Little League Fields.

As of 5:09 pm on 5/3/2021

Lake Conroe Re-Opening With Caution

The SJRA issued a press release at 10:15 am. stating that Lake Conroe will reopen to normal lake traffic at noon Monday, May 3. However, boaters are still urged to use extreme caution due to floating debris and submerged objects that may not be fully visible. With submerged bulkheads, lake area residents should also be cautious of electrical outlets and equipment coming into contact with water.

SJRA is currently releasing water from the Lake Conroe dam to gradually lower the water level back to conservation pool of 201’, but SJRA must strike a balance between upstream recovery and downstream danger. For real-time information on Lake Conroe levels, releases, rainfall totals, or stream flows visit www.sjra.net

SJRA clarified that it intends to return Lake Conroe to 200 until June 1 per its seasonal lake lowering policy as soon as emergency operations restore it to 201. Normally, SJRA would begin recapture on June 1, not May 1. The seasonal release rate is much lower than the current rate.

Floodwaters Converging Toward South and East

Meanwhile, the glut of rainfall that inundated the northwest portions of Houston last week is starting to converging on areas downstream.

As of 10:30 am, the San Jacinto East Fork is also way out of its banks at FM1485 and FM1485 is reportedly closed until Friday. That leaves one way in and out of Colony Ridge – FM2090.

The San Jacinto East Fork at FM2090 peaked overnight and is starting to recede, but is still out of its banks. The East Fork is not influenced by the Lake Conroe Dam, which is on the West Fork.

FM2090 at East Fork near Plum Grove on May 3, 2021 at noon.

FM2090 is still open, but Plum Grove resident Michael Shrader reported a steady line of traffic trying to get out of Colony Ridge up to 11:30 PM Sunday night. This underscores the need to develop alternate evacuation routes for the fast growing subdivision.

Meanwhile, the flood threat is receding at Peach Creek and FM2090.

Caney Creek at FM2090 is getting back within its banks.

And the West Fork, however, is still rising. By 9 a.m. (six hours after the hydrograph below) it was out of its banks at US59.

Flood Warning Remains in Effect for West Fork Until Further Notice

At 2:45 PM CDT Monday, the National Weather Service indicated the West Fork was 49.6 feet.

  • Flood stage is 49.3 feet.
  • Minor flooding is occurring and minor flooding is forecast.
  • Forecast…The river is expected to rise to a crest of 49.7 feet late this afternoon. It will then fall below flood stage late Wednesday morning.
  • Impact…At 49.3 feet, Minor lowland flooding begins in the vicinity of the gage. North side turnaround at US 59 begins to flood. Low points on Thelma Road, Aqua Vista Drive, and Riverview Drive begin to flood.
  • Flood History…This crest compares to a previous crest of 49.7 feet on 11/13/2008.

Here are photos taken along the West Fork this morning.

A young couple surveys rising floodwaters at the turnaround under the US59 bridge. The river bank is about a hundred yards in front of them at the sign in the background. This is the northwestern extent of Lake Houston.
A log jam forms from flood debris under the pedestrian bridge over the West Fork.
Floodwater had crept past the edge of Harris County’s Edgewater Park.
However traffic was still flowing on US59 in both directions.
About a third of the abandoned Noxxe Oil Field by the Forest Cove Little League fields was under water.
The soccer fields at River Grove were partially submerged. Yesterday they were mostly dry.
The boardwalk at River Grove was underwater except for the entrance.
There was no immediate threat to Kings Harbor though the dock was only inches above water.
As floodwaters work their way downstream, Lake Houston continues to rise. As of 5:30PM on 5/3, the lake is now up more than 1.6 feet and many docks are starting to go under.

No widespread flooding is expected in the Lake Houston Area. But people who live in low-lying areas or near the lake should take precautions.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/3/2021 based on information from NWS, HCFCD, Jeff Lindner, SJRA, Michael Shrader and personal observation

1343 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 592 since Imelda

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.

Someone’s Trying To Tilt Lake Houston Toward Your House

Recently released subsidence maps show that excessive groundwater pumping in Montgomery County could lower the northern end of Lake Houston by two feet or more relative to the spillway at the southern end of the lake. While subsidence would lower the area near the spillway by a foot, it would lower areas near the county line even more – from 3 to 3.25 feet.

Subsidence Estimates are Conservative

And those estimates are conservative because:

  • Models under-predict subsidence; they currently model nothing from the Jasper Aquifer, which Quadvest, a MoCo water supplier, wants to pump heavily from (see more below).
  • Montgomery County factions are threatening legal action to let them pump more than their counterparts in the 15-county Groundwater Management Area #14 (GMA14) think is safe.

So how did we get to this point?

Groundwater Vs. Surface Water

The rest of the world is trying to convert to surface water to avoid subsidence. However, Simon Sequeira’s family-owned business, Quadvest, still pumps much groundwater in Montgomery County. He’s at war with the world. While others recognize subsidence and the science behind it, Sequeira denies it’s a problem – at least in Montgomery County.

At the last GMA14 meeting, lawyers were reportedly lining up to get a piece of his action and licking their lips.

Broken Promises And Legal Battles

Several years ago, Sequeira led a fight to get the board of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District elected rather than appointed. Then he backed candidates who favored unlimited groundwater pumping and promised to Restore Affordable Water.

While groundwater is cheaper than surface water, water bills reportedly failed to come down. However, he has stopped paying the SJRA a fee designed to encourage conversion from groundwater to surface water. Sequeira says he is setting aside that money in a special fund in case he loses his legal battle. But his legal battles go far beyond the SJRA. He and the board of the Lonestar Groundwater Conservation District are also taking on the rest of GMA14. See map below.

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GMA 14 includes the 15 colored counties above. Each color represents a different Conservation District. Montgomery County (dark blue) has the Lonestar Groundwater Conservation District.

Purpose of Groundwater Management Areas

GMA stands for “Groundwater Management Area.” GMAs were set up years ago, in part, to make sure that one county doesn’t hog groundwater, depriving surrounding areas and creating subsidence. So the other counties in GMA14 get to approve (or not) the groundwater withdrawal rates in Montgomery County.

They do that by defining “desired future conditions.” How much drawdown in an aquifer is acceptable? How much subsidence can people and infrastructure tolerate?

GMA14 wants Sequeira to leave 70% of the water in aquifers intact and to produce no more than 1 foot of subsidence. But the pumping levels proposed by Sequeira would produce far more subsidence, according to GMA14.

Hired-Gun Experts Defy Scientific Consensus

Ever since, Sequeira took on this fight, his hired-gun experts have been trying to prove subsidence doesn’t pose a threat in Montgomery County. Unfortunately, data and models don’t agree with him. His pumping has already created subsidence in MoCo and now threatens northern Harris County, too.

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Front steps of Woodland’s homeowner Dr. Mark Meinrath in 1992 and 2014. Part of Meinrath’s home straddles a fault which subsidence triggered. Relative to the rest of his house, these front steps dropped 9.9 inches in 22 years.

Strangely enough, while science has shown – and the rest of the world believes – that unlimited groundwater pumping causes subsidence, Sequeira does not. His profit margin depends on cheap groundwater, unfettered by fees designed to encourage people to convert to surface water.

Five Alternative Plans Considered

Sequeira and company originally proposed three alternative plans to GMA14 that involved pumping enough groundwater to cause:

  • 900 feet of decline in the Jasper Aquifer
  • 700 feet of decline in the Jasper Aquifer
  • 250 feet of decline in the Jasper Aquifer (Similar to “Run D” scenario, modeled below.)

Of those three, GMA14 only considered the last. GMA14 also came back with two more scenarios. They involved pumping even less groundwater:

  • 115,000 acre-feet per year (Also similar to Lone Star’s “Run D” scenario. See below).
  • 97,000 acre-feet per year
  • 61,000 acre-feet per year

Note: Lone Star and GMA14 use different criteria to describe the volume pumped. GMA14 uses acre-feet-per-year instead of feet-of-decline in a specific aquifer. Nevertheless, experts say Sequeira’s last scenario is roughly comparable GMA14’s first.

The two sides are still arguing about how much can be pumped safely. And that’s why the lawyers are drooling.

Models Show Unacceptable Subsidence from Sequeira’s Least-Damaging Plan

Subsidence can alter the landscape in ways that cause water to collect in areas that otherwise might not flood. The maps below model projected subsidence in south Montgomery and northern Harris Counties. And we know that this model under-predicts subsidence. That’s because it doesn’t model ANY subsidence from the Jasper aquifer.

Sequeira’s least-damaging plan would cause up to 3.25 feet of subsidence in southern Montgomery County and up to 3 feet in northern Harris County, according to GMA14. See below.

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Pumping 115,000 acre feet per year would cause up to 3.25 feet of subsidence in southern MoCo. That’s far more than the 1-foot in the Desired Future Conditions defined by GMA14.
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The same amount of pumping would cause up 3 feet of subsidence in parts of Kingwood and Huffman, and a foot or more in much of the rest of Harris County.

Effect on Humble, Kingwood, Atascocita, Huffman Areas

If you live in the Lake Houston Area and you stare at that last subsidence map long enough, eventually you will come to a jaw-dropping realization.

The Lake Houston spillway is only subsiding by a foot. But the headwaters of the lake are subsiding up to 3 feet. Imagine filling a bowl with water and then tilting it toward one side.

Homes and businesses in the headwaters of Lake Houston will be lowered 2 feet relative to the spillway.

That’s a huge amount. Those who built homes a foot above the hundred year flood-plain could find themselves a foot below it. Those who had a couple inches of water in their homes during Harvey could have more than two feet in a similar future event because of subsidence.

Battle Lines Drawn

So the battle lines are drawn. Sequeira wants to allow up to 900 feet of decline in the Jasper aquifer. And GMA14 wants no more than 1 foot of subsidence with 70% of the aquifer intact. That would mean pumping less than 100,000 acre feet per year.

The presence of so many lawyers in the last GMA14 meeting reportedly has the smaller groundwater management districts nervous. One observer used the word “intimidated.” Some don’t have financial resources to fight Sequeira.

And that should make every homeowner in the Lake Houston Area nervous, too.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/22/2020

1181 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas

Lake Houston Area Could Be in Beta’s Crosshairs Tonight

The center of Beta is currently near Bay City and moving ENE. For the next 24 hours, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecasts maximum winds at 30 mph.

If any readers in the Lake Houston Area felt left out by Beta, tonight could be your night. According to the NHC, Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner and Space City Weather, models continue to show that a heavy band of rainfall will begin to develop over the next few hours across the northern portions of Harris County.

Beta Tuesday Evening
Beta Tuesday evening at 5PM, courtesy of RadarScope. The bands are moving from SE to NW. But the forward motion of the storm is perpendicular, from SW to NE. That could push new feeder bands into the Lake Houston Area later tonight.

Current Radar Trends Show Storm Moving Toward Northeast Harris County

“Current radar trends show what may be the start of this banding feature from Downtown Houston to Jersey Village to Waller where a broken band of heavy to excessive rainfall is forming,” said Lindner at 4pm today.

He continued, “Models show this band continuing well into the evening and overnight hours across much of northern and northeastern Harris County into Liberty County. Training of heavy rainfall is likely with this banding along with flash flooding.”

Additional rainfall of 4-7 inches will be possible over the northern portions of Harris County into Liberty County and possibly southern Montgomery County with isolated totals of 10-12 inches possible.


(Update At 9:10 PM) The radar image above looked like this and heavy rain had started in Kingwood.

Source: RadarScope

However, in the upper San Jacinto Watershed, the expected rainfall amounts will likely produce flooding only on Cypress and Little Cypress Creeks.

In other parts of Houston, the following streams could flood:

  • Greens Bayou
  • Halls Bayou
  • Hunting Bayou
  • White Oak Bayou tributaries
  • Cedar Bayou
  • Gum Gully
  • Langham Creek
  • Horsepen Creek
  • South Mayde Creek
  • Bear Creek

The largest threat at this point is street flooding. So move your cars out of the street tonight.

West Fork Still At Normal Level

At 4PM CDT Tuesday, the West Fork San Jacinto at US59 is still nearly seven feet from coming out of its banks.

Source: Harris County Flood Warning System. The normal level of Lake Houston at this gage is 42.4 feet.

Flood Warning System Shows Effects of Heavy Training

The high rainfall gradient across Harris County should the effects of heavy training by Beta’s feeder bands during the last 48 hours. Places under the bands received 12 to 14 inches of rains. Meanwhile, the Lake Houston Area received only around an inch so far.

Beta’s heaviest rainfall until now focused on SW Harris County. Figures shown represent last 48 hours. Source: Harris County Flood Warning System. Note 13.44 inches on HW288!

Worst Likely Over for SW Harris County

Some heavy rainfall is still possible in already hard-hit southern and southwestern Harris County. However, where and potentially how much may fall in that area is uncertain.

Beta Continuing to Weaken

High-resolution visible satellite imagery, surface observations, and NOAA Doppler weather radar data from San Antonio and Houston, Texas, indicate that Beta has continued to weaken.

Cloud tops only extend up to 25,000- 30,000 ft, mainly near and northeast of the center. However, they are quite prodigious rain-producers. Rainfall totals of 13-14 inches having been measured across portions of the Houston metropolitan area thus far.

The Future of Beta

Since Beta should remain inland throughout the forecast period, the cyclone is not expected to regain tropical storm status. Beta should degenerate into a remnant low within 36 hours and dissipate over Mississippi or Alabama in 96 hours, if not sooner.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, September 22, 2020, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued its last update on Beta.

Said Space City Weather, “The good news is that this mess will begin to clear our of here by Wednesday morning, if not sooner for some areas. The bad news is that we’ve got to get through later today and tonight.”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/22/2020 based on data from HCFCD, NHC and Space City Weather

1120 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 369 since Imelda

Beta Downgraded to Tropical Depression

At 10 a.m. CDT, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgraded Tropical Storm Beta to a tropical depression. The NHC also cancelled the tropical storm and storm surge warnings that were in effect. However, flash flood warnings remain in effect for large parts of the seven-county Houston region, especially the southern part. A flash flood watch remains in effect for the entire region.

RadarScope split image. Left half shows track of active storms as of 9:06AM CDT. Right half shows total rainfall accumulation for Beta. Note band of extreme rainfall near Sugar Land and sharp drop-off near Kingwood.

Flash Flood Warnings and Watches

A flash flood warning means that flooding is in progress. A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead to Flash Flooding.

Source: National Weather Service. Updated at 10:29 a.m. 9/22/2020. Reddish area = Flash flood warning. Green = Flash flood watch.

Lake Conroe/Lake Houston Within Banks

Neither Lake Conroe, nor Lake Houston have yet been adversely affected by Beta.

The level of Lake Conroe stands at 199.63 feet. Normal conservation pool equals 201.

According to the Coastal Water Authority, Lake Houston is at:

Lake Level41.41 ft.
Normal Pool42.4 ft.
Source: Coastal Water Authority

USGS shows that even though the lake has received about 1.75 inches of rainfall to date…

…the lake level has been dropping, no doubt due to a preemptive release.

Posted by Bob Rehak at 10:50 on 9/22/2020 based on NHC, NWS, and RadarScope data

1120 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 369 since Imelda

Excessive Rainfall Threat from Beta Spreads Inland

As of mid-day Sunday, all of East Texas now faces some level of excessive rainfall and flash flood risk from Tropical Storm Beta.

The projected path of the storm has shifted inland, so rainfall will reach father north. The latest track now takes the storm on a path right up US59 from Sugar Land to Humble and Kingwood. However, Beta likely be a tropical depression by the time it reaches the north side.

Kingwood is the blue dot next to Spring.

Six to 15 Inches of Rain Now Predicted

According to the local National Weather Service office and the National Hurricane Center, most of the Houston region can expect 6 to 15 inches with the highest totals closer to the coast.

Harris, Montgomery and Liberty Counties (and the whole Houston region) face a high to moderate threat of flooding rains. The first rainbands from Beta have already started to move onshore today, but the heaviest rain will not occur until Monday into Tuesday.

North Houston Under Moderate Flooding Rain Threat

Flash Flood Watch in Effect

The entire region is under a flash flood watch. Coastal areas also face storm surge and tropical storm warnings.

Slow Moving Storm Will Produce Prolonged Rains

Beta is meandering slowly at about 3 mph northwest toward the coastline west of Houston and will then curl back over Houston. It should move inland sometime Monday or Monday night and turn from a storm into a depression by the time it reaches Houston.

However, Beta could dump rain on us from later today all the way through Wednesday.

40-50% Chance of Tropical Storm Force Winds Reaching North Houston

The North Houston Area has a 40-50% chance of seeing tropical storm force winds from Beta.

If the high winds reach this far inland, they would likely arrive Monday evening. Winds extend outward from the center for 195 miles as of Sunday morning.

Feeder Bands Extend Outward 190 Miles

In fact, at 11 a.m. Sunday morning, the first feeder band was approaching the eastern side of Houston, as you can see in the radar image below.

This image shows how the wind and rain from Beta could remain with us for days as the storm’s center wanders around the Gulf.

These feeder bands reach out 190 miles. That is roughly the distance from Houston to San Antonio. So Beta will produce long-duration rainfall from the middle Texas coast to southern Louisiana. 

Flash, Urban, and River Flooding Likely 

The National Weather Service warns that coastal flooding will remain a threat through midweek with the worst of the storm surge anticipated on Monday and Tuesday. 

Elsewhere impacts from the excessive rain include:

  • Rainfall flooding may prompt evacuations and rescues.
  • Rivers and tributaries may rapidly overflow their banks.
  • Small streams, creeks, canals, and ditches may become dangerous rivers.
  • Flood control systems and barriers may become stressed. 
  • Flood waters may cover escape routes. 
  • Streets and parking lots may become rivers of moving water with underpasses submerged.
  • Driving conditions may become dangerous. 
  • Many roads and bridges may close with some weakened or washed out.

Lake-Level Situation

According to the SJRA, Beta has the potential to dump up to 8 inches of rain in Montgomery County

SJRA is operating under standard protocols for a severe weather event and will be onsite at Lake Conroe throughout the duration of Tropical Storm Beta.  

Lake Conroe remains 18 inches low, and based on the current forecast, no reservoir releases are expected. 


Real-time information on lake level can be found on the SJRA homepage at the “Lake Operations and Rainfall Dashboard” link.

At of this writing, Lake Houston is down a foot compared to its normal pool level (41.38 vs 42.4). You can monitor Lake Houston levels via the Coastal Water Authority website.

Monitor Downstream River Levels

You can monitor stream and river levels in near-real time at Harris County Flood Warning System. Make sure you check out the inundation mapping feature.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/20/2020 based on information from the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center

1118 Days after Hurricane Harvey