Tag Archive for: LJA engineering

Porter Residents File Lawsuit Against Perry Homes, Its Subsidiaries, Contractors

In the continuing saga of the Woodridge Village fiasco, lawyers Jason Webster and Kimberley Spurlock have filed a new lawsuit on behalf of approximately 50 Porter residents who flooded on May 7th and/or September 19th in 2019. Webster and Spurlock previously filed lawsuits on behalf of Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest residents who flooded on those same days.

Beating Statute of Limitations

Webster and Spurlock filed the new suit on May 5th, 2021. Normally, a two-year statute of limitations applies in such cases, according to one lawyer I talked to. So these plaintiffs just beat the deadline.

Documents filed yesterday with the District Clerk of Harris County make many of the same allegations made in the Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest flooding cases, with one crucial addition. These residents, who live on the west side of Woodridge Village, also claim that the defendants blocked drainage coming out of their neighborhoods, thus backing water up.

Contractors built Woodridge Village (right) up about 3 feet relative neighbors (left) without providing a path for water to drain. Note ponding water on left where plaintiff Chris Yates lives. Photo courtesy of Yates.

Legal Basis for Claims

Defendants allege that the proximate cause of flooding to their homes was an illegal impoundment of surface water caused by defective construction practices. They cite Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code. It states that “No person may divert or impound the natural flow of surface waters in this state, or permit a diversion or impounding by him to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another by the overflow of the water diverted or impounded.”

In relation to the alleged “defective construction practices, plaintiffs claim “Negligence, Negligent Retention, Negligent Supervision, Negligence Per Se, and Gross Negligence for the May 7, 2019 floods.” Pages 14 and 15 of their complaint claim 34 separate failures.

Plaintiffs also claim Negligence, Negligence Per Se and Gross Negligence against the developer defendants for the September 19th flood. In regard to those claims, they list 29 separate failures relating to inadequate construction.

Plaintiffs further allege defendants created a nuisance and “trespassed” on their property. From a legal point of view, trespass includes “causing something to enter another’s property.” In this case, the something was water.

List of Defendants

Defendants in the lawsuit include the developers, engineering company and contractors. They include:

  • Perry Homes, LLC (developer)
  • Figure Four Partners, LTD (a Perry Subsidiary)
  • PSWA, Inc. (another Perry Subsidiary)
  • LJA Engineering Inc.
  • Rebel Contractors, Inc.
  • Double Oak Construction, Inc.
  • Texasite, LLC
  • Concourse Development, LLC

LJA Played Central Role

LJA played a central role in the flooding. Perry and its subsidiaries hired LJA to engineer the development and help supervise contractors to ensure they were working to plan. Plaintiffs allege LJA:

  • Failed to follow the correct drainage guidelines for Montgomery County
  • Failed to enforce the construction schedule
  • Failed to provide adequate drainage
  • Failed to adequately model the development
  • Removed drainage channels
  • Caused water elevations to increase downstream
  • Failed to design adequate detention ponds
  • Failed to use the correct hydrology method
  • Failed to design emergency overflows
  • Failed to comply with the soil report produced by Terracon Consultants, Inc.
  • Failed to protect water runoff from flooding Plaintiff’s homes
  • Violated the contractors duty and standard of care.

Plaintiffs Seeking Compensation For…

Plaintiffs seek compensation for damages including:

  • Cost of repairs
  • Cost of replacement or fair market value of personal property lost, damaged, or destroyed
  • Loss of use of personal property
  • Loss of income and business income
  • Consequential costs incurred such as hotel accommodations and replacement costs
  • Mental anguish and/or emotional distress
  • Prejudgment interest
  • Post judgment interest
  • Attorneys’ fees
  • Court costs
  • Exemplary and punitive damages

Finally, the plaintiffs seek a jury trial to decide issues of fact in the case.

For Text of the Full Case and Expert Witness Report

For the full 32-page complaint, click here.

For the 253-page certificate of merit in the case, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/6/2021

1346 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 595 since Imelda

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

Woodridge Village Detention Ponds Pass Another Test

Back on June 25, 2020, the Woodridge Village detention ponds passed their first modest test when they retained a 2.32-inch rain that fell in a little more than an hour. The mostly excavated, but not-quite-finished ponds eroded badly, but no one in Elm Grove or North Kingwood Forest flooded. Then came Beta.

Design Capacity of Detention Ponds

LJA Engineering designed the Woodridge Village detention ponds to hold only a 12-inch rain in 24 hours. And the night before the storm, forecasters predicted Beta could drop 12 inches in the Lake Houston Area. Beta had already dumped 15-inches just a few miles south. All this created high anxiety. But in the end, the Lake Houston Area received less rain.

Elm Grove resident Jeff Miller measured just 5.5 inches in his rain gage – well within the theoretical design capacity of the detention ponds. But that was almost exactly the amount that flooded Elm Grove on May 7, 2019.

Ponds 40% Short of Atlas-14 Requirements

On top of that coincidence, other factors contributed to the anxiety felt by residents. LJA did not design the ponds to meet new Atlas-14 rainfall requirements; they’re 40% short. Nor did LJA acknowledge floodplains or wetlands on the property when they calculated detention requirements. All of these factors contributed to flooding Elm Grove last year and called LJA’s ethics into question.

So it was a welcome relief when the people of Elm Grove rolled out of bed Wednesday morning to find they didn’t flood.

How Well Did Ponds Perform?

Here’s what the ponds looked like after about five to six inches of rain. All photos were taken shortly after Beta’s rain stopped on Wednesday, 9/23/2020.

Looking north at N3 Detention Pond along eastern border of Woodridge Village where it joins the east-west portion of Taylor Gully. Note pond is a little less than half full, not surprising for a rain that was a little less than 50% of the design capacity.
Likewise, the massive N2 detention pond on the western border was less than half full.
Looking SE across the empty N1 pond on the western border. It had already drained into N2.

Two Failures in N3 Pond

However, there were two failures, both in the N3 pond. Neither was mission critical.

Water could not get into N3 without overflowing the edge of the pond, causing erosion. Stormwater seems to want to collect here. This same area eroded badly in a previous storm.
In a second place along N3, erosion blew out the entire western wall.

Overflow Spillway Apparently Not Used

The overflow spillway at the county line between the concrete lined channel and the S2 detention pond was apparently not needed during Beta. There were no signs of erosion (see below) that were present after previous floods.

Rain was spread out enough that it appears water from Taylor Gully and N3 stayed in the concrete-lined channel rather than using the emergency overflow spillway that leads back into the S2 detention pond (right) and the twin culverts.

Nevertheless, despite recently planting grass along the banks of the ponds, Perry Homes still has a significant erosion problem. Note the color of the water in Taylor Gully at the top of the image above. The company is redepositing silt in the ditch, which HCFCD just cleaned out.

Living Under the Threat of Bad Planning

A big test of these ponds will be a 12-inch rain. If the ponds can successfully detain that much rain without flooding Elm Grove, we will know they at least function as planned…despite their 40% shortfall in capacity.

But the ultimate test will be when we get a larger rain. LJA Engineering and Perry Homes did NOT design them for that.

Unless Harris County and the City can piece together a deal to buy this property and build more detention, residents could flood again. The real disaster scenario here could be the purchase deal falling through. If Perry or some other builder develops this property, downstream residents will forever live under the threat of that 40% shortfall.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/24/2020 with thanks to Jeff Miller

1122 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 371 since Imelda

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

How Much Rain Would It Take To Flood Elm Grove Again?

As Tropical Storm Beta bears down on the Houston Area, many people in the Elm Grove/North Kingwood Forest area worry that they might flood again. How likely is that, given the current predictions of 6-10 inches? After all, on May 7 last year, Elm Grove flooded on what was officially a six inch rain according to the nearest gage at West Lake Houston Parkway and the West Fork.

Additional Detention in Woodridge Village Now…

First of all, understand that upstream conditions have changed. On May 7th, only about 11% of the planned detention pond capacity had been constructed. And only 23% was constructed by Imelda. Today, 100% is in place.

…But Detention Based on Pre-Atlas 14 Rainfall Rates

Even though that’s far more than Woodridge Village had during the May or September floods, the detention calculations by LJA Engineering were based on pre-Atlas 14 rainfall rates. A 100-year rainfall then was about 40% less than the official 100-year rainfall now.

So, the questions is, “How much rain would Beta have to dump on Woodridge Village before it overwhelmed the detention ponds that exist today?”

Figures Used by LJA

The chart below shows the rainfalls that the ponds were designed to hold without flooding. The bench mark its the 24-hour, hundred year rain.

These figures come from the hydrology report submitted by LJA to Montgomery County. A table buried on page 32 of the PDF shows that they based their analysis on a pre-Atlas 14, 100-year storm that dropped 12.17 inches of rain in 24 hours.

From Page 2.1 of LJA Hydrology Report Addendum, 8/28/2018 (page 32 of pdf.)

The ponds should also hold any of the shorter-duration rainfalls in the last column above.

Assumptions Underlying the Answer

To answer the question – How much would it take to flood Elm Grove again? – we need to make several assumptions:

With those caveats in mind, it would take 12+ inches of rain in 24 hours to exceed the capacity of the detention ponds currently on Woodridge Village. After that, water would start to overflow.

Short, High-Intensity Downpours Can Cause Different Type of Flooding

However, consider the other durations in the chart above. Seven inches in three hours or nine inches in six hours could also exceed the capacity.

Actually, as you get into these short-duration, high-intensity rainfalls, you introduce the risk of flooding from a second source: overwhelming the capacity of storm drains.

Storm Drains Designed for 2″ Per Hour

The storm drains in Kingwood are designed to convey about two inches of rain per hour. When you exceed that, water begins to back up in the streets. Exceed it enough, and water could actually enter homes – without sheet flow from Woodridge Village.

NHC Rainfall Prediction Spans 5 Days

The six-to-ten inch prediction issued by the National Hurricane Center for Beta spans five days. That’s good news. If ten inches were evenly spread out over five days, the streets, drains and ditches could easily handle two inches per day.

But those short, high intensity rainfalls – when you get two inches in five or ten minutes – represent a real danger. There’s just nowhere for the water to when it comes down that quickly.

Perhaps the Biggest Danger

Even if we got the predicted 6-10 inches all in one day, that’s still, at most, about 80% of the old 100-year rain which the detention was designed for.

I suspect the biggest danger from Beta may be those short, high-intensity cloud bursts or training feeder bands that dump a couple inches in five or ten minutes.

So keep your eye on the rain gage. Sign up for alerts at the Harris County Flood Warning System. Also, keep your eye on the forecasts; uncertainty still exists with Beta, its track and rainfall potential.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/19/2020

1117 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 1 year after Imelda

LJA Denies Responsibility for Elm Grove Flooding; Says They Owed No Duty to Victims

On February 27, 2020, lawyers for flooded Elm Grove residents listed LJA Engineering as an additional defendant in the Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village flooding case. Defendants’ amended petition included 14 documents, with specific allegations. On March 16, 2020, LJA filed a general denial and requested a jury trial.

LJA’s drainage design forces floodwater to make six turns within the space of about 200 yards. The areas at the left and top of the frame flooded during May and September last year when water overflowed.

Hints of Defense Strategy

However, in answering the allegations, LJA’s lawyers did hint at their defense strategy. In addition to their general denial, they claim that:

  1. Plaintiffs’ damages were solely caused by the negligence of third parties over whom LJA has no control.
  2. Plaintiffs did not hire LJA and therefore LJA owed no duty to the plaintiffs.
  3. Intervening and superseding conduct on the part of third parties or other parties, persons or entities, acts as a total bar to plaintiffs’ claims.
  4. The incident in question was an Act of God.

Here is their entire answer to the plaintiffs’ claims. LJA’s lawyers filed it with the Harris County District Clerk on 3/16/2020.

Opinions of Claims

  1. Third parties in the case include several contractors, AND Figure Four Partners, a Perry Homes’ subsidiary of another subsidiary. Engineers, in my experience, often blame problems on contractors that didn’t follow plans. In this case, according to the drainage impact analysis submitted by LJA to Montgomery County, contractor(s) should have cleared only 30 acres on the northern portion of the site and 58 acres on the southern portion during Phase 1. See page 1, paragraph 2 of LJA’s Drainage Impact Analysis. However, Google Earth shows that about half of the 182-acre northern section and all of the 86-acre southern section were cleared by February 23, 2019. That was six weeks before the May 7th flood. Images taken of the northern portion of the site shortly after the May 7th flood show it was virtually clear except for piles of uprooted trees. Helicopter images show that substantially all of the northern section was cleared about the time of the Imelda flood. Construction documents also show that an engineer should have been supervising construction.
  2. No duty! This seems to run contrary to professional engineers’ code of ethics and state law. See section §137.55 ENGINEERS SHALL PROTECT THE PUBLIC.
  3. I’m not sure what they mean by “intervening” conduct. It sounds like interference from above. Hmmmm. Could they be pointing a finger at Perry Homes’ Figure Four Partners or Perry Homes itself? It will be interesting to see what happens with this one.
  4. It will also be interesting to see how they justify the Act-of-God claim. Figure Four Partners claimed the same defense initially. However, the nearest official rain gages say the rainfall should have been within the design parameters of the site, especially for the May flood.

Trial Still Set for July, But…

The District Clerk’s website shows no other activity on the case since LJA filed this document. Harris County Civil Courts will operate on a restricted schedule until further notice due to the corona virus. Hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. They are closed Friday through Sunday.

Judge Lauren Reeder months ago set a trial date of 7/13/2020, at 08:30 a.m. However, the corona virus could delay the start of any trial in this case.

New Discovery in MoCo Drainage Criteria Manual

In the meantime, I discovered one other interesting potential violation of the Montgomery County Drainage Criteria Manual. Section 9.1.2 Flood Plain Development Guidelines and Procedures says that when planning a development within the 100-year flood plain, construction within the floodway is limited to structures which will not obstruct the 100-year flood flow unless fully offsetting conveyance capacity is provided.

“Where such a potential exists, offsetting conveyance capacity must be provided to eliminate the increased potential for flood damage.”

The potential violation? The twin culverts shown in the photo above. They were built when only one of five detention ponds was even partially complete. And they’re right at the county line. LJA’s own maps show these culverts to be within feet of the Taylor Gully floodway and floodplain on the Harris County side of the county line.

If LJA intends to argue that May 7th or September 19th were greater-than-100-year rains, it then seems to me that they should have halted construction of the culverts until fully offsetting detention was in place. To this date, only 23% of the intended detention capacity has been constructed.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/28/2020

942 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 191 since Imelda

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

The MoCo/LJA Way: Build First; Work Out Drainage Details Later

LJA Engineers submitted a master drainage plan for the 2,200 acre Artavia development that Montgomery County approved. It has no detention ponds. And the drainage channels currently do not connect to the San Jacinto river. Even though LJA said they would connect to the river, the plans do not specify how, when or where. As you will see below.

Dead-end drainage. Currently, the Artavia drainage channel stops just short of the Liberty Materials Moorehead mine in the background. The San Jacinto River lies beyond the mine. This and all other aerial photos below were all taken March 6, 2020.

A Sand Mine Is Not the San Jacinto

The plans DO show the channel terminating in a sand mine between Artavia and the river. A spokesman for the sand mine said the developer is still trying to work out environmental and easement issues.

Aerial photos show the main channel stops about a 100+ yards short of LMI’s shipment facility. Meanwhile, during heavy rains, the dead-end drainage overflows onto surrounding properties. A spokesman for the mine claimed that the overflow flooded the mine last year and caused the dikes to break. He alleged that was the proximate cause for 56 million gallons of white sediment-laden water entering the West Fork.

Exhibit 2 of Artavia Drainage Impact Analysis from 9/20/2018 shows the project outfall in the middle of the LMI sandpit that borders Moorehead Road and the San Jacinto West Fork in Montgomery County.

The project manager for LJA did not return calls to explain their position on the dead-end drainage. And when asked for an explanation, the new Montgomery County Engineer (not the one who signed these plans) only referred me back to LJA.

Below are the drainage plans for Artavia, obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request to Montgomery County.

Several things have jumped out at me so far. LJA has not yet returned phone calls, so to me they remain…

Unaddressed Issues

Elevation Change Accelerates Flow

Elevation drops suddenly as you get near the river – 12 feet. That accelerates water flow and threatens the sand mine. As you can see above and below, the channel is like a firehose aimed at the mine. That mine has enough problems of its own. In the past, dike breaches have affected Lake Houston water quality; we don’t need more of that. The mine blames the breaches on water overflowing from the Artavia ditch.

Note how the water in this short section of Artavia’s drainage ditch does not even pond at one end and reaches halfway up the banks at the other. That shows the slope. The SJR West Fork is between the two sections of the mine in background.
Flow Rates Understated

LJA calculations appear to understate the volume and velocity of flow. They use a Manning’s coefficient of .035, a value associated with pasture/farmland or channels filled with stones and cobbles. The coefficient recommended for smooth channels is 0.022. The difference creates a 63% increase in velocity and a 60% increase in volume of flow. See for yourself. With no real way yet for the water to get to the river or under FM1314, that will cause water to pile up much faster.

Not too many cobbles and boulders in this channel. All sand and silt which is already blocking culverts.

LJA also uses pre-Atlas rainfall statistics in their calculations of 10-, 25- and 100-year peak flows. The new Montgomery County standard is 16.1 inches in 24 hours compared to the 12.17 that LJA used for the 24 hour, 100-year flood.

Did LJA use “good engineering practices” and model Atlas 14 to ensure that it actually contained the 100-yr, 24-hr storm? There’s an ethical issue here. Did they put public safety first? We don’t know because they didn’t say so in any of their documents.

No Mention of Wetlands

LJA never mentions wetlands in their analysis. However, the National Wetlands Inventory shows wetlands on Artavia property and other property Artavia drains through.

Wetlands on Artavia Property or property Artavia drainage would likely have to go through.
Threat to Pipeline

A pipeline crosses the Liberty Materials mine. High velocity flow through the mine could undermine and threaten that pipeline like it did at another Liberty mine and at the Triple PG mine on the East Fork.

Green line shows path of pipeline across across Liberty Materials Mine. White line shows current path of drainage ditch.
No Outlet

There’s no explanation for how Artavia will get water through the pit at the end of their ditch. They can not store Artavia’s runoff in the pit. Their pit is already filled to the brim with highly silty, turbid water. Another unauthorized discharge could affect water quality in Lake Houston...again!

Level of water in the pit that Artavia’s ditch would have to drain through. Pit is already overflowing. West Fork is in background. TCEQ measured suspended solids in pit’s water at 25X higher than river.
Threat to Mine

A representative for the mine owner says the mine owner doesn’t want more water in the pit. They can’t afford the cost from environmental or business perspectives. With the COVID-19 threat, construction activity is way down. So margins are slim. And they can’t afford to have water fill their deep pit where they dry mine.

“No Adverse Impact”

LJA claims the project will have no adverse impact on downstream properties. But it already has. Properties along Greenbaugh and in Oak Tree have flooded since Artavia started clearing land and filling in wetlands.

Oak Tree detention pond (behind camera) used to overflow into wetlands. Then Artavia started clearing and filling. Now water backs up into the 40+ homes in the small subdivision.

The Liberty Materials mine also alleges it was flooded by Artavia’s overflow, resulting in the discharge of 56 million gallons of silty water into the West Fork.

The day the West Fork turned white. TCEQ blamed LMI. LMI blamed Artavia.
Who Pays to Get Water Under FM1314?

LJA can only convey 68 cfs under FM1314. Meanwhile, TxDoT has not yet finished the design for a bridge. They hope to start bidding the job by the Fall of this year. Residents, not the developer, will pay for the improvement through the local municipal utility district.

Artavia ditch on north side of FM1314
Where water exits on the downstream side of FM1314
Channel downstream/south of FM1314.

LJA claims “The culvert crossings were designed to have capacity to convey 100-year storm events.” But they certainly aren’t doing that now.

Diverting Water From East to West Fork

The developer appears to be diverting water from the East Fork watershed to the West Fork watershed. See Section 1.4 and Exhibit One.

It would be harder to “beat the peak” to the East Fork. It’s 12 times farther away; water would take much longer to get there. So the diversion appears to be an attempt to avoid building detention ponds. But the diversion adds to flood volume in heavily populated West Fork areas where far more homes flooded during Hurricane Harvey.

Will LJA Figure It Out In Time?

For the sake of adjacent residents and businesses, let’s hope they figure these loose ends out before the next flood.

We heard of many of the same problems and promises on the Perry Homes Woodridge Village project north of Kingwood that LJA also engineered. Hundreds of homes flooded there twice last year.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/20/2020

934 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.

LJA Engineers 2200-Acre Artavia Development in Montgomery County Without Detention Ponds

Last August, I posted about a loophole in Montgomery County Flood Plain regulations. It allowed all developers who could prove they were “beating the peak” of a flood to bypass the requirement for detention ponds. Montgomery County Commissioners decided to leave the loophole open. They said, “We don’t have a flooding problem.”

Giant Development Exploits Detention Loophole

It all seemed somewhat academic at the time – unless you previously flooded from upstream development. Then along came Imelda. The absence of functioning detention ponds on Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village property underscored the need for adequate detention for the second time in five months when hundreds of homes downstream in Kingwood flooded.

Now there’s a 2,200 acre development called Artavia going in upstream from the Lake Houston Area – without detention ponds.

Artavia straddles FM1314 south of 242.

Artavia neighborhood entrance and model homes.

The engineering company for the developer, Aliana, claims their calculations show that floodwater from Artavia will beat the peak of a flood to the West Fork by 35 hours. Dasa Crowell, PE, LJA’s Project Manager for Hydrology and Hydraulics, thus concluded, “This leads us to a conclusion that the peak flows generated by the runoff from project drainage area will have no impact on the WFSJR under proposed conditions, therefore detention is not required.” See page 56 of this PDF.

In fairness, the development does include a retention pond in Section 1 labeled as a detention/amenity pond. However, aerial photos show that it has only a few feet of excess storage capacity above its normal water surface elevation. See the plans here. It’s certainly not going to hold back a 100-year rain falling over 2200 acres.

Little Buck Amenity Facility/Pond. Note that as-built conditions appear smaller than plans.

Engineers seem to be relying on drainage channels to act as their detention basins, but as we will see, that comes with some risk. And one potentially bad assumption may invalidate the whole concept.

Problems with Beat the Peak

In an interview last July, MoCo Engineer Jeff Johnson argued for closing the “beat the peak” loophole. He said that the data developers use to calculate peaks is decades old; doesn’t reflect the current drainage picture; and that models should change every time a new development comes in, but they don’t.

Because detention costs money and limits the number of salable lots, developers try to get their water to the river as quickly as possible so they can “beat the peak.” Of course, racing to get water to the river in a flood is the exact opposite of what you want to happen if you are a downstream resident. Normally, you want developers to hold water back as long as practical so as not to overwhelm downstream channel capacity.

LJA developed the Artavia River Impact Analysis in 2014 (see page 60). Based on LJA’s assurances, Dan Wilds, then MoCo’s assistant county engineer issued a letter of “no objection.”

“No Impact” So No Detention Requirement

Wilds said in part, “The analysis … demonstrates that the peak flow from the developed tract will pass through the downstream cross-section approximately 35 hours prior to the peak flow from the upstream watershed. The report indicates that the 10-year, 25-year and 100-year events were analyzed and concludes that the runoff from the project drainage area will have no impact to the San Jacinto River under proposed conditions.”

“Based on this information, this office offers no objection to the analysis as presented. Storm water detention will not be required for this development as long as the developed flows up to and including the 100-year event can be adequately conveyed to the San Jacinto River.” For the full text, see page 51 of this PDF.

The Executive Summary of the most recent update of the drainage impact analysis for Artavia states, “The November 2014 memorandum documents the analysis supporting no detention requirement; this analysis provides calculations showing that the proposed Star Ridge Ranch development (as it was then called) drainage system will safely convey the rainfall runoff for rainfall events up to and including the one-percent annual chance (100-year) storm event.”

Similarities Between Woodridge Village and Artavia

Please note that both of these analyses base their conclusions on pre-Atlas-14 rainfall statistics and therefore may understate drainage requirements significantly by up to 40%. LJA did the same with Woodridge Village.

Also note two other similarities with the LJA analysis for Woodridge Village, Perry Homes’ disaster-movie-in-the-making project.

For its modeling, LJA used something called the Clark’s Unit Hydrograph. Their reports never mention the NRCS method specified in the current Montgomery County Drainage Criteria Manual. The use of Clark’s methodology, which minimizes runoff estimates, has become a bone of contention in the Elm Grove lawsuits.

Finally, LJA pushed both the Woodridge and Artavia plans through the MoCo Engineers office right before the drainage criteria manual was about to be updated again with more stringent requirements.

LJA submitted both drainage analyses for MoCo approval within approximately a year of Hurricane Harvey before flood maps, rainfall statistics, drainage criteria, and construction standards were updated.

LJA Engineering was not only playing beat the peak, it was playing beat the clock again. This will be the first of several posts on Artavia. More news to follow.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/17/2020

931 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.

Perry Homes Says “Now or Never”: Selling the Titanic With an Iceberg Sticking Out of the Hull

Last week, the Houston Chronicle and Community Impact both ran stories about Perry Home’s potential sale of the Woodridge Village property. That property has been implicated in the flooding of Elm Grove twice last year. Sources who wish to remain anonymous have told me that Perry does NOT WANT to develop the property. They would prefer to sell it.

Those same sources also told me that Perry Homes started out asking for their purchase price of the land PLUS the money they spent partially developing it. However, as I reported last week, based on the newspaper articles, that appears to have changed at this point.

Woodridge Village after the May 7, 2019, flood

Full Text of Perry Homes’ Fact Sheet about Land Sale

Below is the full text of a “fact sheet” along with a link to the original PDF Perry Homes PR people allegedly sent out about the sale of their Woodridge Village Property in Montgomery County. I say allegedly because I have never known a public-relations person to put out information that is not on a letterhead and without contact information.


“For several months, we have been in discussions with Harris County to sell the +/- 268-acre Woodridge Village site in Montgomery County so that it can be used for regional detention. Our offer price is our original acquisition cost of $14,019,316.85. This sale would represent a loss of the development costs we have already spent, which are over $9 million to date. We would also be foregoing the future profits we would earn from building and selling homes.”

“The draft study performed by LJA Engineering advised this regional detention concept would remove more than 800 homes from the 500-year floodplain and provide additional flood mitigation for hundreds of other area homes. We are willing to absorb the losses referenced in the paragraph above because of the enormous benefit it will offer to downstream residents in Houston and Harris County.”

“If the property is not going to be used for regional detention, we plan to either develop it for Perry Homes or sell it. Work is ready to start on the remaining detention facilities. We have also listed it for sale to other developers at an initial asking price of $23 million, which will increase as additional funds are expended.”

“We first requested to meet with Harris County back in October 2019, and our first face to face meeting occurred on November 8th. At the request of Harris County officials, we even delayed the construction bid process so the commissioners could consider our proposal in executive session. After the executive session, we were informed that Harris County needed the City of Houston to partner with them to make the project occur. However, we have been informed the city is not looking to partner with the county on this project. In any event, we are concerned about delaying improvements any longer. If, by March 31st, we do not have reason to believe a definitive agreement for regional detention is likely, we will move forward with the remaining infrastructure and continue to entertain private market interest in the property.”

For a printable PDF of the fact sheet, click here.

Key Pieces of New News in Fact Sheet

In my opinion, there were four key pieces of new news in this when its was released.

  • First, Perry Homes has dropped its asking price by no longer demanding to recoup its development costs.
  • Second, Perry Homes’ supplier, LJA Engineering, has determined that turning the property into regional detention could mitigate flooding.
  • Third, Perry Homes is already trying to sell the property on the open market.
  • Fourth, Perry Homes has given Harris County a deadline to make a decision – March 31, 2020.

Reaction to the News

Dropping the asking price shows that Kathy Perry Britton has not become totally untethered from reality. However, it still seems high for someone trying to sell the Titanic with an iceberg sticking out of the side of it.

I wish LJA had told Perry Homes the property needed to become regional detention BEFORE Perry Homes bought the property. Duh!

Good luck, Kathy Perry Britton, with trying to sell this property on the open market. With oil prices below $30, the stock market gyrating wildly, 401K’s losing value, and businesses laying off employees, not many people will rush out to buy homes in the immediate future. Lest we forget, in 1985 when oil prices dropped to $35, housing values in Houston collapsed 50%.

Definition of Chutzpah: Perry Homes

Threatening the one potential buyer with a deadline shows, in my opinion, an incredible amount of chutzpah, as my Jewish friends say. Chutzpah (ho͝otspə) in the original Yiddish sense has a strongly negative connotation. It means “insolence,” “cheek,” “incredible gall” or “audacity.” However, since entering English, the word has taken on a broader, more positive meaning. Today, in the business world it usually means the amount of courage that a person has.

Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines the term as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”

For Perry Homes to put a deadline on this deal shows incredible chutzpah – especially when the world has become focused on the corona pandemic. It shows a similar and scary disconnectedness.

However, I must admit that everyone wants Perry Homes to do something with this property quickly. And it hardly seems fair to make them invest more money in it if Flood Control is going to buy it tomorrow.

An Offer to Perry Homes

So Kathy, I will make you a deal. I’ll buy Woodridge Village for a dollar. Then you can save face and say you dumped the property for 100 times what it was worth … before it flooded again in the spring rains. But the best part … you can take a $23 million tax deduction and make almost as much money as you would have if you had sold it in the first place. Boom! Done. You ditched that dog! You’re a hero again.

Woodridge Village after May flood. Saving money on earth moving by letting nature do it for you.

If they sell it to me, maybe I will get into the mud spa business.

Posted by Bob Rehak with Jeff Miller’s Titanic line

930 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 179 since Imelda

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

Plaintiffs’ Engineer Alleges LJA Issued Misleading Studies, Followed Wrong Guidelines in Elm Grove Flooding Case

Fourteen documents filed with the Harris County District Clerk’s office on February 27, 2020, lay out the case of plaintiffs in the Elm Grove flooding case against LJA Engineering, Inc. Lawyers for the plaintiffs named LJA as an additional defendant in their most recent amended petition. Other defendants include Perry Homes’ subsidiaries and contractors: Figure Four Partners, LTD.; PSWA, Inc.; Rebel Contractors, Inc. (which recently changed its name); Double Oak Construction Inc.; and Texasite LLC.

Accusations Specific to LJA

The amended petition alleges LJA:

  • a. Failed to follow the correct drainage guidelines in Montgomery County;
  • b. Failed to provide adequate drainage in the Development;
  • c. Failed to adequately model the Development;
  • d. Failed to adequately report the modeling;
  • e. Removed drainage channels;
  • f. Caused post-development discharges and water surface elevation to increase downstream of the Development;
  • g. Failed to design detention ponds with adequate capabilities for rain events;
  • h. Failed to use the correct hydrology method;
  • i. Failed to design emergency overflows for the detention ponds;
  • j. Failed to notify the Developer Defendants and Contractor Defendants of the importance of the existing levee; and,
  • k. May be liable in other ways described in the consulting engineer’s report.

Consulting Engineer Says LJA Used Outdated Drainage Criteria Manual

The defendants’ consulting engineer, L. David Givler, MSCE, PE, provides the details that back up these claims. Givler is president of Givler Engineering, Inc. Givler’s firm is licensed in Texas to design drainage projects similar to Woodridge Village, which was designed by LJA. A “Certificate of Merit” filed with the court states Givler’s credentials and conclusions. Givler also provides thirteen more exhibits as part of his affidavit. (See links at bottom of post.)

Perhaps Givler’s most explosive finding: LJA based all of its conclusions on an outdated version of the Montgomery County Drainage Criteria Manual (DCM) developed in 1989. MoCo has since updated its DCM twice – in December 2014 and July 2019. Givler asserts that LJA should have used the 2014 version when it submitted its drainage analysis in 2018. The rainfall that MoCo requires engineering firms to design detention basins for have increased since 1989 (see below).

Givler asserts that the increases, along with other other errors and omissions outlined below critically skew modeling results. Ponds that might not overflow based on the 1989 rainfall depths do overflow with 2014 and 2019 rainfall statistics.

Critical Levee Removed, But LJA Did Not Model Effect of That

Givler says in his testimony that grading associated with the construction project removed a levee that had been constructed along the south side of Taylor Gully. “Prior to being removed, the levee had successfully protected the Elm Grove Village Subdivision from flooding,” said Givler. “However, removal of the levee increased the probability for Taylor Gully to overflow southward and to flood the Elm Grove Village Subdivision.”

Givler asserts that the levee successfully protected Elm Grove from flooding in previous extreme events such as Hurricane Harvey, which he characterized as a 330-year storm.

LJA Did Not Use MoCo’s Recommended Method For Modeling Runoff

Mr. Givler also found that LJA did not use Montgomery County’s recommended method for modeling runoff. LJA used something called the Clark’s Unit Hydrograph Method instead of the NRCS Hydrograph Method specified in the 2014 version of the County’s Drainage Criteria Manual. The latter shows significantly higher peak runoff rates, according to Givler. “LJA’s selection of an alternative method (The Clark Method) caused the underestimation of peak runoff rates,” said Givler. “LJA also used low, outdated rainfall depths in its model, which exacerbated the underestimating of the peak runoff rates.”

Givler modeled whether LJA’s designs for the Woodridge Detention Ponds would have successfully held the runoff from the updated drainage criteria manual.

He found that the design for the ponds was “inadequate.” They overflowed. Significantly, Givler also found that LJA underestimated the volume of runoff sent downstream to Taylor Gully.

After May, Protection Not Implemented Against September Storm

“Even after the May 2019 flood, adequate measures had not been implemented to restore the pre­-development level of protection or to prevent a recurrence,” said Givler. “Under Woodrige Village pre­-development conditions, the Elm Grove Village subdivision was safe from flooding during the 330-year Hurricane Harvey rainfall. However, under construction conditions at Woodrige Village, Elm Grove Village was vulnerable to flooding in the 19-year and 92-year rainfall events.”

LJA Did Not Model Effect of Overflow Channel

Givler also noted that LJA’s plan claimed that the 100-year peak stage for the S2 detention pond would be 73.21. That would be high enough to cause water to backup into the grass-lined channel (bottom elevation 68.50) located at the northeast corner of the pond. “Since the highest adjoining ground elevation south and east of the grass-lined channel is approximately 72,” said Givler, “the peak 100-year stage would discharge to Taylor Gully downstream of the project and to the neighborhood east of pond S-2 [North Kingwood Forest]. Such discharges would increase flooding to the residential lots to the east…”

Figure 4 from Page 12 of Givler’s affidavit shows 100-year runoff overflowing Pond S-2 through the Grass-Lined Channel.
The grass-lined overflow spillway in the center of this photo is designed to funnel water from Taylor Gulley into the kite-shaped detention pond (S2) if the concrete channel overflows. But Givler says LJA did not model the opposite. In May and September 2019, water flowed from the gulley into the homes at the bottom left of the frame, as well as homes opposite them on the far side of the gully.

Emergency Overflow System Not Provided

Another problem that Givler found: Section 7.3.13 of the Montgomery County Drainage Criteria Manual (2014 version) requires an emergency overflow system shall be provided “…designed to carry the 100-year allowable detention basin discharge at full-bank conditions… The emergency overflow system shall direct flows into an outfall channel and prevent flow in the direction of developed areas.” (as quoted by Givler).

Even today, the project does not include such an overflow system.

Runoff During Construction More Severe than Ultimate Buildout Conditions

Givler modeled actual construction conditions after the May storm. He found that “…with the project site cleared and stripped of vegetation, runoff conditions were more severe than even the ultimate buildout condition. LJA’s analysis does not address this condition,” he says. His analysis showed that under construction conditions, LJA’s partially-constructed detention ponds were inadequate, unable to contain the May 2019 runoff and the 100-year runoff.”

The temporary construction conditions he says, “caused the ponds to overflow and to discharge runoff to the Elm Grove Village subdivision at a peak rate of approximately 2,110 cubic feet per second.”

Water running through North Kingwood Forest into Elm Grove (background) during Imelda as Keith Stewart evacuates his family.

“LJA Failed to Act as a Reasonably Prudent Engineering Firm”

In his conclusions, Givler alleges that “LJA failed to act as a reasonably prudent engineering firm.” He added, “…three professional engineers and the engineering firm were negligent in the provision of professional services that they rendered, and they committed various actions, errors, or omissions in providing professional services by violating standards required by Montgomery County.”

In Givler’s opinion, LJA failed to comply with Montgomery County standards by:

  • a. Using an alternate (Clark) hydrology method rather than the NRCS method recommended by Montgomery County, resulting in the underestimation of the amount of runoff that the watershed would discharge to the detention ponds.
  • b. Using rainfall depths in the hydrology models which are smaller than what was required by the applicable county standard (2014 DCM) and that are much smaller than recently adopted values (2019 DCM).
  • c. Designing detention ponds, which are too small to contain and too small to detain or attenuate the 100-year design flood.
  • d. Failing to design adequate freeboard for the detention ponds.
  • e. Failing to design adequate emergency overflows for the detention ponds.
  • f. Designing a project, which diverts runoff to properties of others in a harmful and detrimental manner.
  • g. Allowing peak runoff discharges downstream of the project to increase due to the impact of the project and due to the limited effectiveness of the detention ponds.
  • h. Allowing water surface elevations downstream of the project to increase due to the impact of the project and due to the limited effectiveness of the detention ponds.
  • i. Erroneously representing that the project had no impact on downstream areas.
  • j. Failing to notify the contractor of the importance of the existing levee.
  • k. Failing to guide the contractor in a logical construction sequence that would reduce the flood risk during construction.

Violation of Professional Standards and Ethics Also Alleged

Mr. Givler also alleges that LJA and three of its employees violated standards established by the State of Texas and the Texas Board of Professional Engineers in the Texas Engineering Practice Act. “This negligence caused and/or contributed to the endangerment of lives, health, safety, property and welfare of hundreds of people near the project,” he says. They did this, he asserts, “by issuing misleading reports, which failed to indicate the increase in flood potential.”

Questions Remain

“I recognize that additional documents may be produced,” said Givler, “which I will be asked to review and, therefore, reserve the right to add to or to modify this affidavit based on information that may be provided to me at a later time.”

Except for general denials, neither LJA, nor any of the other defendants in this case have responded publicly yet to Givler’s specific allegations.

When LJA and the other defendants make their positions public, I shall review them and give them “equal time.”

The big questions I have at this time are:

  • Why would a firm with LJA’s substantial reputation make the blunders that Givler asserts? Were they pressured into producing a favorable report that made the economics of the project “work”?
  • Five previous developers owned this land and, after studying it, decided not to develop it. That certainly should have raised red flags for LJA and Perry, and caused them to review this closely. There must have been scuttlebutt circulating among local professionals. One engineer I consulted said Friendswood walked away from this property decades ago because it would have been too hard to develop. However, Perry decided to move forward based on dubious studies and incomplete data. Why?
  • What did Concourse Development, Woodbridge 268, Reddy Partnership, Kingwood 575, Lennar Homes of Texas/Friendswood know that Perry Homes did not?

Supporting Documents

Check out the original text of Mr. Givler’s affidavit and exhibits for yourself to ensure I summarized them fairly. His affidavit includes his findings, professional opinions, conclusions and Exhibit 1, his resume.

Exhibit 2 includes the list of documents Givler reviewed in developing his affidavit.

Exhibit 3 includes topographic mapping for construction and pre-construction conditions.

Exhibit 4 includes a topographic map showing the location of the former levee.

Exhibit 5 includes the approval letter by Montgomery County.

Exhibit 6 includes the rainfall values used by LJA.

Exhibit 7 includes a meteorology report.

Exhibit 8 includes reported locations of flooded properties.

Exhibit 9 includes the drainage impact analysis submitted by LJA on March 26, of 2018.

Exhibit 10 includes the drainage impact analysis submitted by LJA on August 28, of 2018.

Exhibit 11 includes Givler’s hydrology model for pre-development conditions.

Exhibit 12 includes Givler’s hydrology model for construction conditions.

Exhibit 13 includes Givler’s hydrology model for post-development conditions.

Exhibit 14 includes LJA’s design for detention pond S2, the one north of Village Springs.

Posted by Bob Rehak on March 8, 2020 based on testimony from David Givler PE

922 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 171 since Imelda

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

Elm Grove Lawsuits: New Defendant, New Charges, Amended Petition and More

Court documents filed with the Harris County District Clerk show that the tempo of the Elm Grove lawsuits against Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors is increasing. Litigants have filed 20 new documents in the last three weeks. The judge has set a trial date for July 13, 2020. That’s about three months from now.

Plaintiffs File Fifth Amended Petition

The big news: Plaintiffs filed their fifth amended petition. LJA Engineering Inc. has been brought into the suit and named as an additional defendant.

Plaintiffs allege that LJA, when designing the drainage for Woodridge Village, used an outdated Montgomery County Drainage Criteria Manual. LJA went by the 1989 version when an updated 2014 version existed. Since then, MoCo has revised the documents yet again. A 2019 version now exists that took effect before Imelda last year. (Note: the link above leads to the updated manual, however, MoCo did not update the date on the cover page. So this gets very confusing.)

List of Charges Expands

Plaintiffs’ lawyers have added negligent retention and negligent supervision to the list of charges. They now accuse defendants of:

  • a. Removing drainage from the Development;
  • b. Removing a levee from the Development site;
  • c. Blocking the drainage channels;
  • d. Filling in existing drainage channels;
  • e. Failing to properly install box culverts;
  • f. Failing to create temporary drainage channels;
  • g. Failing to allow adequate drainage after construction;
  • h. Failing to install silt barriers;
  • i. Allowing the Development to force rainfall toward Plaintiffs’ homes;
  • j. Failing to pay proper attention

Plaintiffs argue that “the Contractor Defendants had actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others.”

The streets of Elm Grove are still littered with trash from reconstruction of their homes after Imelda – the second flood in 2019. This image was taken on Village Springs in February of 2020.

Accusations Specific to LJA

The amended petition also lists charges specific to LJA.

  • a. Failing to follow the correct drainage guidelines in Montgomery County;
  • b. Failing to provide adequate drainage in the Development;
  • c. Failing to adequately model the Development;
  • d. Failing to adequately report the modeling;
  • e. Removing drainage channels;
  • f. Causing post-development discharges and water surface elevation to increase downstream of the Development;
  • g. Failing to design detention ponds with adequate capabilities for rain events;
  • h. Failing to use the correct hydrology method;
  • i. Failing to design emergency overflows for the detention ponds;
  • j. Failing to notify the Developer Defendants and Contractor Defendants of the importance of the existing levee; and,
  • k. Other ways described the consulting engineer’s report.

Plaintiffs Seek Exemplary Damages and Mandatory Injunction

The plaintiffs now seek exemplary damages and a mandatory injunction that forces defendants to return the property to its prior condition, wherein the surface water runoff properly flows into the drainage ditch.

Defendants also filed the reports of two expert witnesses: an engineer from Pennsylvania, who examined LJA’s performance, and another expert, who will testify about the magnitude of rainfalls on May 7th and September 19th. More on those in a future post.

No Response Yet from Defendants to Specific Charges

We still have yet to see the defendants’ specific responses to any of these charges except for the general denials they made last year.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/6/2020

920 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 169 since Imelda

What Went Wrong, Part V: How Woodridge Village “Soiled” Perry Homes’ Reputation

Before Perry Homes bought the ill-fated land now known as Woodridge Village, it hired a company called Terracon to sample soils and submit a geotechnical analysis. Their objective: to see whether the land was suitable for residential development. Perry also hired LJA Engineering to analyze drainage. However, it appears that LJA did not consider Terracon’s findings when it modeled runoff (see Section 1.4 of LJA’s report).

LJA also assumed that “sandy loam” covered the entire site when the National Resources Conservation Service soil database shows sandy loam covers only 60 percent. The Terracon report, however, never even mentions “sandy loam.”

Different Findings Could Have Skewed Runoff Analysis

Both the different characterizations of soils and their extent could have skewed the results of LJA’s runoff analysis.

LJA said the soil was “fine sandy loam,” everywhere, period. Terracon bored holes to 20 feet at four locations and found mostly clay-based soils. Terracon did, however, find “sandy silt” with “clay pockets” in the first foot of ONE of their borings.

According to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), clay, sand and loam absorb rainfall at vastly different rates that can approach or even exceed 10X.

Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA

The NRCS site above does show “sandy loam” on 60% of Perry Homes’ property. However, the NRCS sampling technique usually involves a shovel. They appear to classify primarily surface soils (not surprising for the Department of AGRICULTURE).

That’s why NRCS clearly states that the infiltration rates above only apply to the first two inches of rain during an event. After that, the water may percolate down to another, less permeable layer of soil, such as the clay that Terracon found. At that point, fully saturated ground could force additional rainfall hitting the surface to pond or, if the land slopes, run off. That’s exactly what happened on May 7th and September 19th this year when Elm Grove flooded from Woodridge Village runoff.

According to NRCS, “Soil survey interpretations are rarely suitable for such onsite evaluations as homesites without further evaluations at the specific site.” 

But Terracon’s preliminary investigation sampled only four widely spaced spots at the perimeter of the property. None coincided with the locations of planned detention ponds, known wetlands, or streets. Only one even came close to a future home site. And the Montgomery County Engineer’s office has no record of Terracon performing additional work on the Woodridge site.

Also note that while NRCS shows sandy loam on 60% of the site, LJA assumes uniform distribution everywhere. That could also have skewed LJA’s computer modeling. NRCS showed that another 33% of the site (see below) contained soil consistent with wetlands. Wetlands don’t typically absorb water, often because of clay underlying them.

Wetland-Type Soils on ONE THIRD of Property “Overlooked”

A top geologist retired from one of the world’s largest oil companies sampled the soil at one of Terracon’s borehole sites shortly after the May 7th storm and confirmed Terracon’s findings as to surface soil type – mostly clay.

He also says, “The presence of clay close to the surface can cause water to pond and lead to the formation of wetlands wherever you find depressions in the land.” And in fact, the USGS National Wetlands Inventory shows extensive wetlands on the northern portion of the site.

USGS National Wetlands Inventory map of Perry Home’s site.

It’s not clear where LJA found its soil information; they don’t specify. But if it was from NRCS, they should have been alarmed by the presence of hydric topsoils on ONE THIRD of the property. Hydric soils are one of the defining ingredients of wetlands. Compare with map below, taken from the NRCS site. SosA and SouA are soil types typical of wetlands.

SosA, Sorter-Tarkington complex, 0 1 percent slopes {Hydric, with inclusions that are non-hydric} and SouA, Sorter-Urban land complex, 0 to 1 percent slopes {Hydric, with inclusions that are non-hydric} comprise approximately 29% and 3.6% of the site respectively.

Building homes over wetlands is dangerous because shifting soil can crack foundations. Wetlands also typically serve as collection points for water.

But LJA never mentions wetlands and the Terracon borehole sampling sites came nowhere near the wetlands on the property. Terracon spaced them widely around the perimeter as you can see from the site map with the red lines above.

Groundwater Levels Not Mentioned In LJA Drainage Analysis

LJA, had it read the Terracon report, might have also been concerned by the discovery of ground water at 15 feet, more than a half mile from Taylor Gully. At Taylor Gulley, contractors hit ground water at about 10 feet when excavating the S2 detention pond. But the pond was supposed to hold 15 feet of runoff. That means ground water reduced its capacity by a third. Even worse, a pond by N3 has had standing water near the ground SURFACE for months!

Note the man-made rectangular pond in the upper right. It has been that full since it first appeared in Google Earth satellite images almost a year ago. That’s not a good sign for another area designated to hold a major detention pond (N3).

That means these ponds will never be able to achieve their promised detention capacities with their current dimensions. There just isn’t enough depth. Engineers measure detention capacity from the top of any standing water, not the bottom of the pond.

More Curiosities Re: Testing and Reports

How strange that LJA’s drainage analysis never once mentions the words “water table” or “groundwater”! Especially when detention ponds are a central feature of the report and mentioned 42 times. LJA never mentions “retention” ponds once, although J. Carey Gray, the high-powered litigator representing Perry Homes, called the ponds that in his letter to the City. For the record, detention ponds have no permanent standing water; retention ponds do.

The first thing you notice about the Terracon report: the title says PRELIMINARY. Terracon also put “preliminary” at the top of every page. And repeated it 35 times within the report. Sometimes as many as three times in a single paragraph. Terracon also specifically recommended several followup tests. But if they were done, the Montgomery County Engineers office says it has no record of them.

Five Previous Developers Sold Site Rather than Develop It

At Thanksgiving Dinner yesterday, we had three engineers at the table. I posed the question, “Do you ever reach a point in projects when you say to yourself, “We shouldn’t do this,” as opposed to “How can we do this?”

The general consensus: There’s always a way to engineer a solution…if you don’t consider cost.

I wonder if that’s why five previous developers who owned this site didn’t do anything with it. They included Lennar, Kingwood 575, Reddy Partnership/Kingwood, Woodbridge 268, and Concourse Development.

It could be that they were just holding it and hoping to flip it at a higher price. Land generally appreciates faster than the rate of inflation. But it could also be that they investigated the cost of developing it more closely than Perry Homes did.

Below: the sales histories for the two major pieces of land that comprise Woodridge Village.

Source: Montgomery County Appraisal District
Source: Montgomery County Appraisal District

Of all the curiosities associated with this development, the sales history ranks near the top. Concourse held the property for less than a week before selling it to Perry Homes’ subsidiary, Figure Four Development LTD.

Perry Homes even commissioned and received Terracon’s Geotechnical report BEFORE Concourse bought the property. But that’s the subject for another post at another time. What was that about?

The important thing to note for now: When you’re selling dirt, it pays to know what kind of dirt you’re selling.

As Perry Homes Drags Out Court Case, It Could Incur More Liability

The once-proud Perry Homes is now buried under a mountain of law suits alleging that their actions flooded hundreds of homes…not once, but twice…in six months.

As Perry Homes drags these lawsuits out, Kathy Perry Britton could expose her father’s company to enough liability to bring it down. Can you imagine how a jury would react if Elm Grove flooded a third time when so many regulations have been flaunted? And when Perry has made no further attempt at mitigation since early August? I can.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/29/2019 with help from Jeff Miller

842 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 71 after Imelda

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