Tag Archive for: Montgomery County

Northpark Drive Expansion Begins in Earnest

Note: This story was updated on 7/26/23 to include more information about phasing of the Northpark Drive expansion project.

After what turned out to be a ceremonial groundbreaking on 4/13/23, the Northpark Drive expansion project appears to have started in earnest on 7/25/2023. Northpark is a vital evacuation route for tens of thousands of Kingwood and Porter residents during floods.

Cones and Culvert Line Northpark Center Ditch

Traffic cones line the center ditch between Russell-Palmer and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch.

Looking west toward Russell-Palmer Road

Contractors have also stacked what looks like six-foot reinforced-concrete pipe on the edge of the Northpark Drive ditch where it enters the Kingwood Diversion Ditch.

Looking SE across Northpark from Fireworks Stand parking lot to Flowers of Kingwood.

They have also begun excavating the Northpark center ditch.

Looking E to Kingwood and City Limit (Green sign).

Project Partners

Project partners include:

  • Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority
  • City of Houston District E
  • Montgomery County Precinct 4
  • Texas Dept. of Transportation
  • Harris County Flood Control

Plan Vs. Execution

In general, the project partners plan to widen Northpark by a lane in each direction (toward the middle). But instead of taking land and parking from merchants, the project partners plan to replace the center ditch with culvert then pave over it.

Early plans indicated that the area between US59 and Russell-Palmer would be Phase One and that Russell-Palmer to the Diversion Ditch and eventually beyond Woodland Hills would follow.

However, Ralph Deleon, a TIRZ engineer/project manager indicated that contractors are taking pieces of the phases out of order. Why? Contractors are ready to go. But not all the right-of-way and utility issues have been resolved.

So they’re approaching drainage first and starting at the downstream end – a best practice. In coming days, we should see additional activity on other portions of Northpark Drive. But Deleon emphasized that the public should have two lanes of traffic in both directions at all times.

The Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (TIRZ 10) website contains a number of videos and construction docs that detail the ultimate vision for the project as well as next steps.

Will Culvert Convey as Much as Ditch?

The first thing that popped into my mind when I looked at the size of the culvert and the size of the ditch was that the culvert could not possibly convey all the water that the ditch used to.

Google Earth shows width of v-shaped ditch is 50 feet. Circular pipe is 6 feet.

Then I read this letter from Harris County Flood Control to the engineering company. It states, “The proposed improvement includes enlarging the proposed storm sewer system to provide inline detention and modeling the restrictors needed to meet allowable outflow requirements for both outfalls.”

The pipes shown above would definitely act as restrictors. I sure hope they don’t back water up into the street.

Having worked near Northpark for 22 years, I’ve seen the ditch overflow on multiple occasions. I’ve seen cars plunge to the bottom, emergency rescues, and stalled vehicles.

Here is the engineering company’s drainage impact analysis. And this presentation provides a project overview for the pre–bid conference for the western portion of the project. It shows a 32-month construction schedule for the western portion alone – even with a six day work week.

More Info to Follow

The TIRZ docs for the eastern portion of the project (Russell-Palmer to Diversion Ditch, Woodland Hills and beyond) are less comprehensive.

I’m meeting with the engineers and contractors tomorrow to learn more. Check back for more news and analysis.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/25/2023 and updated on 7/26/23

2156 Days since Hurricane Harvey

New MoCo Commissioner Matt Gray Discusses Development, Drainage Plans with Kingwood Group

New Montgomery County Precinct 4 Commissioner Matt Gray addressed a breakfast meeting of the Kingwood Executive Group today. Gray, who comes from the oil-and-gas industry, has a background in managing large maintenance/construction projects. Just six months into his new job, he has wasted no time in applying that expertise to Montgomery County.

The no-nonsense, get-it-done commissioner emphasized both service to constituents and action.

Balancing Development and Drainage

EPA research suggests that highly urbanized areas can increase stormwater runoff by 45% while reducing infiltration by 50%. And Matt Gray’s precinct is rapidly becoming urbanized. He began his talk with some alarming statistics about growth in his Precinct 4 which borders the Lake Houston Area.

Entergy, a worldwide power provider which also services Montgomery County, says the average growth rate for its network is 1.7%. But during the last three years, MoCo Precinct 4 has had an average growth rate between 5% and 7%.

Montgomery County Precinct 4 Commissioner Matt Gray addresses Kingwood Executive Group
Matt Gray addressing Kingwood Executive Group on 7/12/23.

Entergy claims they have installed more meters in Precinct 4 than they have in the states of Mississippi and Arkansas combined.

Matt Gray, MoCo Precinct 4 Commissioner

All that development is happening upstream from the Lake Houston Area. Moreover, the rest of Montgomery County drains through Precinct 4. So, simultaneously managing growth and drainage have become two of Matt Gray’s key concerns.

Gray talked about working with engineers revising/updating the Montgomery County drainage criteria manual and subdivision rules. He affirmed the need for stormwater detention requirements that will protect not only his own residents but those downstream as well.

Another huge issue: siltation that affects both roadside ditches and local streams. Gray has mobilized crews to make sure water can drain efficiently.

Since assuming office in January, Gray has launched an aggressive effort to clear ditches of accumulated sediment.

Road Improvements, Evacuation Routes

Mindful that many people in both Harris and Montgomery Counties use his roads as evacuation routes, Gray also addressed at length road improvement projects in southeast Montgomery County.

He’s focusing on arterial improvements.

  • Crews are already widening Ford Road.
  • He’s working with TxDoT to improve access between Highway 99 and other major arteries.
  • Northpark Drive widening and the construction of a Loop 494/Railroad overpass should begin any day now.

Such projects will improve key evacuation routes during storms as well as the everyday quality of life for residents and commerce for business owners.

Other Priorities, Wish List

Gray’s other priorities include:

  • Cleanup and beautification
  • Repaving/restriping roads
  • Improving park maintenance
  • Mosquito control
  • Construction of a recycling center which would include the handling of old appliances

This presentation catalogs Gray’s impressive list of accomplishments during his first six months as well as his wish list for the future.

Gray in the tan blazer, front row, surrounded by members of the Kingwood Executive Group.

Importance of Working Together

An interesting side note that underscores the importance of working across the county line! The meeting room this morning flooded to the top of the photo above. It cost the Kingwood Country Club more than $50 million to renovate the facility after Harvey. The renovation took almost exactly two years.

The club was just one of 3,300 businesses in the Lake Houston Area that flooded in that storm, which also damaged 16,000 homes.

I’ve written several stories recently about cut-throat politicians pursuing self-interest. So, it’s refreshing to see someone in Gray’s position, willing to work across jurisdictional boundaries for the benefit of all. Good luck, Matt Gray.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/12/2023

2173 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Homes Going Up on 600 Acres Along Gully Branch in Splendora

Phases One and Two of two new developments on FM2090, Townsend Reserve and Presswoods, appear to have finished clearcutting and building stormwater retention basins. They are now building streets and homes along Gully Branch, which has been channelized through the developments in Splendora.

More than 1,000 Acres at Buildout

Together, the developments eventually comprise more than 1,000 acres at buildout.

Splendora Developments on 2090

Knock on deadwood. I’ve heard no complaints yet about neighbors being flooded. Please contact me, however, if you have information to the contrary.

Photos Taken on 4/2/2023

The photos below show the first 600 acres. Assuming six houses to the acre, the land you see below could soon hold approximately 3,600 homes.

But according to the Census Bureau, Splendora currently has a population of 1,780 people. And this real estate site says the city has 737 housing units.

So get ready for some change. These two developments could bring 10,000 new residents to Splendora, increasing the population more than 5X.

Looking SE from the midpoint of the two developments across the entry to Presswoods.
Looking S from the same point. Gully Branch is now a drainage ditch that parallels the tree line that bisects the frame from L to R.
Looking SW toward Townsend Reserve along FM2090.
Looking E from over Townsend Reserve toward Presswoods. Note how Gully Branch has been channelized and framed by stormwater retention basins.
Farther east, still looking east toward US59 from over Presswoods.

For People with a Passion for Rural Living

The developments are all south of FM2090 opposite Splendora High School, Junior High and Piney Woods Elementary.

Presswoods seems to be developing faster than Townsend Reserve. DR Horton, the nation’s largest homebuilder is already selling homes in Presswoods. They range in size from 1.400 to 2.300 SF and in price from $220,000 to $300,000.

As I flew over this area today, I couldn’t help but wonder where all these new residents would shop. Splendora has several dollar stores, a small grocery store and some fast food. And growth will inevitably attract more retail. But the nearest major retail center is Valley Ranch, 10+ miles to the south.

Moving to areas like this requires a passion for rural life, a tolerance for long commutes, and a desire to stretch your housing dollar.

New Rainfall Estimates, Old Flood Maps

The drainage impact analyses for these developments are based on Atlas-14, but old flood maps. It’s not clear yet whether Montgomery County intends to update its flood maps for this area or when. The latest drainage criteria manual on the County’s
Engineering website is dated 2019.

Before I bought a home here, I would want to make sure my house was elevated far above street level.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/2/2023

2042 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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

Montgomery, Liberty Counties Still Have Not Adopted Minimum Drainage Recommendations

After Hurricane Harvey, Harris County Engineering examined regulations throughout the region and recommended minimum drainage standards to reduce future flooding in the region’s cities and counties. Harris County even offered to pay the cost of inventorying existing standards and having an engineering firm draft recommended revisions. But almost 2000 days after Harvey, only half of the area’s cities and counties have taken action. Among those not acting: Montgomery and Liberty Counties. Here’s a breakdown of who has done what as of January 18, 2023, according to Harris County.

Already Upgraded

Twenty took Harris County up on its offer. They have already successfully updated their drainage regulations. They include:

  • Cities of
    • Baytown
    • Bellaire
    • Bunker Hill Village
    • Deer Park
    • El Lago
    • Friendswood
    • Galena Park
    • Hilshire Village
    • Houston
    • Humble
    • Jersey Village
    • Katy
    • La Porte
    • Pasadena
    • Piney Point Village
    • Seabrook
    • Southside Place
    • Taylor Lake Village
    • Tomball
  • Waller County

Considered Updates But Haven’t Acted

Twelve had requested and received an analysis, but had not yet implemented recommendations. They include:

  • Cities of:
    • Hedwig Village
    • Jacinto City
    • League City
    • Missouri City
    • Nassau Bay
    • Pearland
    • Shoreacres
    • South Houston
    • Spring Valley
    • Webster
    • West University
  • Fort Bend County

Not Acting

Eight have not updated ordinances and regulations. These include communities that did not respond to and those that refused Harris County’s offer. They include:

  • Cities:
    • Hunter’s Creek Village
    • Morgan’s Point
    • Stafford
    • Waller
  • Counties:
    • Brazoria
    • Galveston
    • Liberty
    • Montgomery

In fairness, Montgomery County did hire a firm in August 2022 to update/revise its drainage criteria manual and subdivision rules. The scope of work included examining some of the recommendations below made by Harris County. But work was expected to take at least a year.

Recommendations for Minimum Drainage Standards

The minimum drainage standards recommended by Harris County included:

  • Use Atlas 14 rainfall rates for sizing storm water conveyance and detention systems.
  • Require a minimum detention rate of 0.55 acre feet per acre for any new development on tracts one acre or larger. However, single-family residential structures and accessory buildings on existing lots would be exempt.
  • Prohibit the use of hydrographic timing as a substitute for detention on any project, unless it directly outfalls into Galveston Bay.
  • Require “no net fill” in the current mapped 500-year flood plain, except in areas identified as coastal zones only.
  • Require minimum Finished Floor Elevation (FFE) of new habitable structures be established at or waterproofed to the 500-year flood elevation as shown on the effective Flood Insurance Study.

I would add one more to the list:

  • No clearing or grading before environmental and drainage studies are completed, and during grading, measures are taken to protect neighbors from runoff.

This seems to be particularly troublesome issue for those surrounding new developments.

Self Interest

Harris County Engineering originally positioned adoption of the minimum drainage standards as a condition for receiving partnership money from the 2018 flood bond.

Clearly, not everyone sees that has a powerful incentive. Those outside Harris County likely see little benefit, especially since the Equity Prioritization Framework has delayed funding in those areas.

Perhaps Harris County should have emphasized how adoption of the minimum standards could help reduce flooding for ALL people in the region – including those within Montgomery and Liberty Counties.

During heavy rains in late January, I received dozens of reports of flooding in Montgomery and Liberty Counties. As growth in surrounding areas explodes, lax regulations are starting to inflict suffering on those area’s own citizens.

They should adopt higher standards for their own benefit, not just Harris County’s.

Photo taken January 30, 2023 along Harris/MoCo border near San Jacinto West Fork after 1.32 inches of rain.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/5/23

1986 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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

Royal Pines Floods Neighbor on Less Than 1″ of Rain … AGAIN

On October 28, Royal Pines flooded a neighbor on less than an inch of rain. Two months later, on December 29th, the same thing happened again. The video below provided by the homeowner shows the volume of water funneled across her property by the developer.

Video from NW corner of Royal Pines

This video and the previous one from October demonstrate the dangers of clearcutting and redirecting drainage without first constructing sufficient stormwater detention capacity.

Altering Landscape Accelerates Runoff Toward Homeowner

The homeowner who shot the video lives adjacent to the left border in the photo below. Royal Pines has apparently sloped its property toward that corner where contractors will eventually build a stormwater detention basin.

Looking N across Royal Pines. This and other photos below taken on 1/3/23.

Land now slopes toward where video was filmed at left corner. But that area used to slope in the opposite direction. See details below from the USGS NATIONAL MAP and the developer’s plans.

Green arrow on left shows location of homeowner’s property. Red X within V-shaped contour shows exact location of low point (graph on right) before clearing and grading the land.

There used to be an 8-foot drop east of the homeowner’s property. But now, instead of water flowing directly north to White Oak Creek, it flows northwest.

The general plan for Royal Pines (below) shows the same V-shape in the proposed detention basin (upper left). The line represents the edge of the floodplain and confirms that the developer A) knew about the slope and B) changed it.

Royal Pines
Royal Pines General Plan.

Silt Fence, Trench Ineffective Against That Much Water

The video above and the photos below show that silt fence makes a terrible dam against even small rains funneling toward a point from such a large area.

Exercise in futility. A series of silt fences have done little to catch and slow the water...or the silt. Note erosion deposited in woods.
Looking south. The developer apparently tried to divert runoff racing toward the homeowner with a trench. But erosion from the barren land rapidly filled it in.
Runoff also collects at the entrance to Royal Pines. Looking ENE from the entrance at the northern end of West Lake Houston Parkway.

Unfortunately, the developer plans to build homes there, not another detention basin.

0.88 Inches of Rain Fell in Two Hours

The graph below from the Harris County Flood Warning System shows that .88 inches of rain fell in the two afternoon hours before the homeowner shot the video.

Homeowner shot video after first two bars on left.

The table below shows that that much rain in two hours constitutes less than a 1-year rainfall event.

atlas 14 rainfall probabilities
Atlas 14 rainfall probabilities for this area.

That’s consistent with actual observed events and climate records. According to the National Weather Service, on average, we can expect rainfalls greater than 1 inch 14 times per year in Houston. That’s about once per month.

Woodridge Village Revisited

The Montgomery County Engineer’s Office has reportedly asked the developer’s engineering company to revise its plans. The homeowner says that according to the engineer’s office, not even a 6-7 foot tall berm around that portion of the property would be enough to stop all the water flowing in that direction.

So, what lessons can we learn from this example? As with Woodridge Village, don’t clear and grade this much land before constructing detention basins!

The first sentence of Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code states that “No person may divert … the natural flow of surface waters in the state, or permit a diversion … to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another…”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/13/2023

1963 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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

November Flood-News Roundup

Below is a roundup of flood news this week – seven quick stories.

Montgomery County Buyout Deadline Fast Approaching

The deadline for the current round of buyout applications in Montgomery County is November 30, 2022.

The Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management still has money left in a Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Texas General Land Office (GLO) allocated the money to buy out homes flooded during 2016 and 2017 (Harvey).

There are strict eligibility requirements; see the applications online. However, MoCo is now taking applications from homeowners who flooded repeatedly regardless of income level. Previously, the county was giving preference to low-to-middle income (LMI) families meet HUD’s LMI quotas.

While HUD does cap maximum buyout costs, Montgomery County offers several “credits” that can help people. Those include, but are not limited to special credits for seniors and veterans, and for moving expenses.

The county is hosting a series of meetings to help residents understand their options. More details to follow in a separate post on this subject.

Tammy Gunnels home in Porter flooded 13 times in 11 years before finally getting a buyout last year through the programs mentioned above.

Regional Flood Planning Group Draft Plan

The public comment period for the San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group’s draft plan closed on October 29th. Here’s an overview of their recommendations. One was developing detention on and channelizing portions of Spring Creek. The Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC), one of the Houston region’s leading conservation groups, had concerns with that.

BLC submitted this letter. It details the dangers of channelization to the 14,000 acres it preserves. In particular, BLC feels the report does not adequately consider erosion that could be caused by speeding up floodwaters. They say that detention and channelization projects could destabilize the entire natural system along Spring Creek. They urge more study on sedimentation and erosion before moving forward with construction.

The next step: the Regional Flood Planning Group will consider all comments received and modify the draft plan as needed.

$750 Million HUD Grant to Harris County

After promising to submit its $750 million Method of Distribution (MOD) to the GLO by the end of September, Harris County still has not yet submitted it. GLO first said it planned to allocate the money to Harris County in May, 2021 – 17 months ago!

The MOD is a plan that shows how Harris County would allocate the money. Who gets how much for what? MOD approval is necessary to ensure the County spends the money in accordance with HUD and GLO requirements.

The money could cover all under- and unfunded projects in the 2018 Flood Bond. But in April, Harris County’s new administrator assigned the task of developing the MOD to the Community Services Department instead of the Flood Control District – even though Community Services has had four leadership changes under Lina Hidalgo.

Community Services said that it planned to deliver the MOD to GLO by the end of September and publish the draft MOD by the end of October. Neither happened. The last response from Community Services was at the start of October.

At that time, the department head said the group had determined a “process” for developing the MOD. But they had yet to define any projects. For that, they were waiting for “direction from leadership.” As a result, $750 million that could mitigate flooding in Harris County is still sitting in Washington at HUD.

Meanwhile, GLO also notified H-GAC of a $488 million dollar allocation on the same day in May, 2021. H-GAC has already developed its MOD and gotten it approved. And H-GAC sub-recipients are reportedly already taking bids on projects.

There’s a lot of flood-mitigation money waiting in the wings that could accelerate Harris County projects. The longer Community Services waits, the more it places the money in jeopardy. Fifty percent must be spent in the next three years.

“Water Has a Memory”

New York 1 published a fascinating story about an ecologist tracing New York flooding back to its roots with old maps. The title: “A map of New York City before it was a city could provide answers to today’s flooding.”

The central figure in this detective story is Eric Sanderson. He cross-references current flooding issues with a historical chart of “the city’s buried, drained, filled-in or paved-over waterways.”

In every case, he says, the problems have the same roots. 

People built lives in places that used to be underwater. And water, he says, has a memory. 

“Maybe there was a wetland there, maybe there was a stream there, maybe there was a pond there, and people have forgotten,” Sanderson said in the interview.

We see this constantly in Houston. In one extreme case, a developer cleared property, filled in wetlands and THEN conducted an environmental survey.


All but a few of the 131 mini-homes at the Preserve at Woodridge are now framed out. The closer this site gets to completion, the more I question the accuracy of the engineer’s claim of only 66% impervious cover.

The Preserve at Woodridge will feature some homes as large as 660 square feet and four feet apart. Photo October 31, 2022.
Kids will love this area for Halloween. More candy per footstep.

Flood-Insurance Flap

The Houston Chronicle recently published an editorial about new flood Insurance rates designed to stanch financial hemorrhaging in the National Flood Insurance Plan. The title: “What happened to affordable flood insurance?”

For the first time this year, FEMA is trying to put flood insurance rates on an actuarial basis. But weening people off nationally subsidized insurance is proving difficult. The article claims some people have 500% rate increases even though increases are capped at a far lower rate.

While bemoaning the unintended consequences of well-intended reforms, the editorial proposes a solution: making flood-insurance rates “income based”!

One wonders about the unintended consequences of that. Will the availability of cheap flood insurance encourage building low-income housing only in the riskiest areas?

We shouldn’t forget that it was the availability of cheap flood insurance that encouraged building in flood-prone areas to begin with.

There may be no good solutions to this problem. Many feel government should have never have gotten involved in flood insurance from the start.

One insurance agent I talked to suggested this. “Worst case: offer buyouts to people who can’t afford flood insurance with the understanding that if declined, then there will be no more assistance for financial losses due to flooding.”

I personally favor a two-tiered public/private approach similar to Medicare. Cap the federally subsidized insurance at a level that stops the hemorrhaging. Then, let private insurers fill the gaps up to the full value of expensive homes.

This debate could take years.

New Netflix Series: High Water

Sally Geis, a former Kingwood resident, wrote me about a new Netflix show called “High Water.” It’s based on true events in 1997. It describes a massive flood that took place in Wrocław, Poland. The flood caused $3.5 billion in damages and put almost half of the city underwater.

However, it could have been smaller if one of the villages had allowed the incoming flood waters to be diverted onto their fields. Their “not-in-my-backyard” refusal and the disastrous individual and community consequences are the theme of the series. Sound familiar?

The acting and production design are first-rate, according to Geis. “It’s a story about a real disaster and real problems that can happen anywhere on the globe right now,” she says.

Click here for the trailer.


Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/4/22

1893 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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

Splendora Development Exploding

Splendora is exploding with growth. On FM2090 west of U.S.59 near the Splendora High School, two new developments have already cleared 598 acres and have another 611 to go. Together, they could easily quintuple the population of a rural town that only had 1900 residents in the last census.

Development Well Underway

I first covered this story in January. The developers have made remarkable progress since then. Townsend Reserve, Ltd. and Forestar USA, have built drainage, utilities, stormwater detention basins, roads and model homes on most of the land already cleared. Now, they’re building the first homes for sale. Rural, sleepy Splendora will soon change forever.

Here’s the layout and photos of work in progress.

Splendora Developments on 2090
Green = acreage under development. Red = not yet cleared. From Montgomery County Appraisal District.

Forestar USA has named its development Presswoods. Townsend Reserve USA has simply called its Townsend Reserve.

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Looking east along FM2090 at expanse of two developments. Splendora High School on right.

Closer Look at Detention Basins

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Close up from shot above. Two detention ponds in Presswoods by Forestar USA bracket Gully Branch. Gully Branch drains into Peach Creek and eventually the East Fork of the San Jacinto.
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Another Forestar USA detention basin in the foreground. Looking West.
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Looking NE at a fourth detention basin on Townsend Reserve that parallels Gully Branch.
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Entrance to Townsend Reserve from FM2090 on right. Note yet another long detention basin that parallels the entry road on the left. Looking NW toward FM2090.
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First of the new homes going up.

Three things strike me about these photos.

  • Stormwater detention basins everywhere you look. Let’s hope the volume is sufficient. Engineers based their calculations on pre-Harvey runoff estimates. As other developers clear additional forests beyond these, drainage assumptions could change radically.
  • Huge financial risk. As interest rates continue to climb, will there be buyers for these homes?
  • Vast expanse of forests surrounding the developments. They seem endless. But not for long.

People hoping to find a quiet life in the country are gobbling up the very thing they seek.

Maybe this is inevitable. Developers tell me that smaller lot sizes and higher density don’t allow them to preserve trees anymore. Builders just plant one in the front yard when they’re done.

Population Impact

It’s not exactly clear yet how many homes the developers hope to build here. But in the last census, Splendora’s population was only 1,900 people. Even if they just built 5 homes per acre on 800 developable acres and the average household size was 3, that would mean 12,000 people could live here – more than 6X the current population.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/10/22

1868 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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

MoCo Updating Drainage Criteria Manual, Subdivision Rules

Montgomery County (MoCo) Commissioners voted on 8/23/22 to update the County’s Drainage Criteria Manual and its Subdivision Rules and Regulations. Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley made the motion (item 16.C on the 8/23/22 Commissioners Court agenda).

Montgomery County Commissioners Court discusses new drainage and subdivision manuals in 8/23/22 meeting.

See the discussion in the MoCo Commissioner’s Court video. Select Item 16. The discussion starts at 3:12.

The previous Drainage Criteria Manual posted on the MoCo Engineer’s site is dated 1989, but appears to have some minor updates from 2019. The Subdivision Rules and Regulations for new developments date even further back, to 1984, although they too had new amendments and addenda incorporated in July, 2021.

MoCo hired Halff Associates to do the updating. Their fee: $302,000.

Welcome News

This is welcome news for people in northern Harris County. Drainage and engineering standards in MoCo have lagged those in Harris. That has created adverse downstream impacts even though developers may technically meet MoCo requirements. But the lower standards enable them to claim “no adverse impacts” when, in fact, there may sometimes be some.

Changes Could Reduce Flooding in MoCo and Harris Counties

Since Harvey, the Harris County Engineering Department and Flood Control District have worked to get surrounding counties to adopt five minimum drainage standards. They include:

Scope of Content Updates

The Scope of Work approved by MoCo Commissions last week shows that Halff will examine most, if not all, of these issues and more. The effort will evaluate and potentially update, at a minimum:

  • Hydrologic methodology (this includes hydrographic timing but is broader)
  • Detention sizing and outfall design
  • Open channel design frequency and requirements
  • Floodplain analysis.

Process for Updates

The scope of work also defines the process that Halff will follow. It includes:

  • Coordination with County engineering staff
  • Evaluation of existing manuals
  • Identifying dated criteria/information
  • Comparisons with neighboring counties practices (see below)
  • Revisions
  • Development of the new documentation
  • Stakeholder review and reporting
  • Presentation to Commissioners Court
  • Reporting approved changes to adjacent counties.

Work should take about a year.

Comparison with Regs in Other Entities

For the drainage Criteria Manual, Halff will compare criteria from TxDOT, Harris County, HCFCD, Waller County, Fort Bend County, and Brazoria County.

Halff will compare MoCo’s Subdivision Rules and Regulations to those in Harris, Waller, Fort Bend, and Walker Counties.

This is more good news for those in northern Harris County.

About Halff Associates

A source in the engineering community characterized Halff as a good company. He said, “The Montgomery County manual is in good hands….as long as they let Halff do the right things.”

Halff will work with the MoCo Engineer Jeff Johnson on the updates.

Subdivision Rules and Regulations

Neither the Scope of Work, nor Commissioners discussed specific recommendations for updates to Subdivision Rules and Regulations. But Commissioners did request an opportunity to discuss and review updates on both manuals before they came back to Commissioners Court for final approval.

Immediate Impact

One former MoCo employee said, “There is still the hurdle of the court adopting the updated standards. Expect a rush of drainage studies to be submitted in the next year so they can be grandfathered in.”

We saw this in the City of Houston (CoH), for instance, with the Laurel Springs RV Resort. The detention pond in that development is half the size required by new standards. CoH permitted it one day before the new standards went into effect.

Related News: MoCo Floodplain Administrator Office

At about 40 seconds into the video for Items 17 and 18 on the agenda, the Commissioners approved a motion to have Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley oversee MoCo’s Office of the Floodplain Administrator. Reasons for the change were not clear. Discussion happened in Executive Session.

All we have to go by is the outcome. And the outcome shows that MoCo is bringing the Office of the Floodplain Administrator – for the whole county – under the direct, political control of one precinct commissioner. Interesting.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/28/2022

1825 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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

Tree Muggers for Tree Huggers: The Irony of Royal Pines

The “Tree Muggers” at the new Royal Pines subdivision in Montgomery County at the north end of West Lake Houston Parkway continue their relentless and remorseless destruction of trees. How ironic considering that the name implies the developer will market homes to Tree Huggers! Perhaps they:

  • Feel the name will blind customers to the reality.
  • Will offer to plant a ceremonial sapling at closing.

Houston Business Journal said Royal Pines will ultimately feature between 350 and 450 homes targeted at first-time home buyers.

Construction Status on 7/30/2022

Here’s what Royal Pines looked like at the end of July 2022.

Dead tree limbs stacked two stories high awaiting removal. Newly cleared area is at top of frame to the left of Country Colony in the upper right.
Higher angle shows proximity to the Triple PG sand mine in the background. White Oak Creek runs between the mine and the subdivision.
Looking NE toward Triple PG sand mine in background. The extent of clearing as of the end of July 2022.
Looking SSE across Royal Pines toward the current terminus of West Lake Houston Parkway.
Looking SW. The distant clearing is Woodridge Village where similar clearcutting contributed to the flooding of hundreds of homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest twice in 2019.
Same direction, but closer and higher. Note the contrast with previous development practices that tried to build homes among the trees.

Ever-Widening Clearing

Compare what the development looked like:

Tree Muggers’ Plans

The following links will show you the general plan and layouts for the first three sections:

Old Floodplain Maps Will Put Unsuspecting Buyers at Risk

Note the dotted lines that snake their way through the top of the development. Those represent the 100- and 500-year floodplains.

Notice how a large part of the development is in “Zone X (Shaded).” That’s the area between the limits of the base flood (100-year or 1% annual chance) and the 0.2-percent-annual-chance (or 500-year) flood. I counted more than 80 homes in that zone. I also see six already INSIDE the 100-year zone.

Keep in mind that these flood zones are based on PRE-Harvey estimates. FEMA shows that Montgomery County last mapped this area in 2014. When FEMA approves new POST-Harvey flood maps in the next few years, those zones will expand to take in more of the subdivision. 

In Harris County, MAAPnext is revising maps based on higher rainfall probability statistics and current changes in development. And a lot of development has occurred upstream of Royal Pines on White Oak Creek.

MAAPnext advises that, in general, new flood maps will show floodways expand into the 100-year flood zone and the 100-year expanding into 500-year by about 50%.

This is the same problem I talked about yesterday with the Kingland West development in Harris County at the Grand Parkway and the East Fork.

We won World War II in less time than it’s taking to release these new flood maps. Ironically, by the time they’re released, the Tree Muggers will have already invalidated the basis for the new maps. And thus, the cycle of flooding continues.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/30/2022

1797 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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

Montgomery County Allocated $60 Million in Harvey Mitigation Funds

The Houston-Galveston Area Council of Governments (H-GAC) has allocated $60 million to Montgomery County. The money comes out of a $488 million of Harvey flood-mitigation funds previously allocated to HGAC by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the Texas General Land Office (GLO). The $60 million is the single largest allocation to any governmental entity in the region out of the $488 million pot.

50% Committed to LMI Areas

At least 50% of the money must go to low-to-moderate income (LMI) areas in Montgomery County. The GLO has determined that MoCo plans meet HUD rules and conditionally approved the allocation.

However, things could still change and Montgomery County has not yet received the money.

According to H-GAC, the conditionally approved preliminary method of distribution (a plan for whom gets how much) is still pending acceptance by eligible entities and is subject to change through a published re-allocation process. A complete list of eligible activities is available in the Texas General Land Office (GLO) guidelines for the Regional Mitigation Program – Council of Governments Method of Distribution (COG MODs). Depending on changes, another 30-day public comment period may necessary, according to the GLO.

Where, How MoCo Will Spend the Money

I reached out to the Montgomery County Judge’s office to see how MoCo hopes to spend the money. Jason Millsaps replied, “Montgomery County will attempt several projects with these funds as soon as final approval has been granted.”

Millsaps continued, “In East County, we will work to de-snag, de-silt and remove vegetation that hinders flow from the Peach Creek, Caney Creek, White Oak Creek, and East Fork of the San Jacinto River. We will do the same for Lake Creek and Stewart Creek in Central/North County, with additional bank armor going in for Stewart Creek near the River Plantation Subdivision.”

Those should reduce flooding in Montgomery County. This flood map shows the areas most affected by repeat flooding in the county.

And this map shows the location of each creek and how much floodwater each conveyed during Harvey.

Peak Flows During Harvey
Peak flows in the San Jacinto Watershed during Hurricane Harvey

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/12/22

1778 Days since Hurricane Harvey