Are We Winning or Losing the Battle to Reduce Flooding?
Valley Ranch, the new downtown of East Montgomery County, seems to be exploding with growth. The northwest quadrant of I-69 and the Grand Parkway developed first. Now the focus is shifting to the southwest quadrant where more than 500 acres are being cleared near the banks of White Oak Creek. People downstream from I-69 to Caney Creek have experienced flooding recently. This raises the questions, “Will the flood mitigation measures being put in place at Valley Ranch be enough?” and “In general, are we winning or losing the battle to reduce flooding?”
The Relentless Forces of Development vs. Battle to Reduce Flooding
Last week, I posted about the new Amazon distribution center, shown above at A. Today, I’d like to focus on four areas west of Amazon, shown as 1-4. All sizes below are approximate. I used the measuring tool in Google Earth.
- 1 = 170 acres
- 2 = 120 acres
- 3 = 100 acres
- 4 = 135 acres
I took all the aerial photos below on 11/6/21.
This interactive map of Valley Ranch shows what’s planned where.
Area 1: Marketplace
Most of Area 1 just south of the Grand Parkway will be future retail space dubbed “Marketplace.”
Area 2: Commercial District
Areas 3 and 4: Medical District
You can tell by the amount of standing water on this property that drainage could be an issue. Note below how the standing water coincides with the former wetlands mapped by USFWS below.
Sediment control during clearing becomes a real issue for sites like this. Note the series of trenches channeling standing water toward the storm drain on the I-69 feeder road below.
That basket of rocks is supposed to filter out sediment before it reaches the drain. But when I enlarged the image, look what I found.
We Need Regional Flood-Mitigation Scorecard
The pace of development seems to be faster than the pace of flood mitigation.
Four and a quarter years after Harvey, we’re halfway done with dredging the sediment flushed downstream to the headwaters of Lake Houston. We have yet to build one regional detention basin upstream. And according to the Houston Chronicle, the proposed new gates for Lake Houston’s dam are being scaled back to fit the available budget.
And all of that is on the asset side of the ledger.
On the debit side, thousands of acres are being cleared with little to no detention capacity, faster than I can photograph and catalog them.
Somebody smarter than I needs to develop a formula that shows whether society is winning or losing the battle to reduce flooding. Are new developments springing up faster than we can mitigate the runoff from them?
Certainly, responsible developers exist who retain their rain. This may be one. That remains yet to be seen. But other developers exist who do not retain their rain. The question is, “Are there more irresponsible developers than the responsible kind?
Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/9/2021
1533 days since Hurricane Harvey