Tag Archive for: North Kingwood Forest

Woodridge Village Detention Ponds Passed Sunday Test, But…

On Sunday morning, Jeff Miller, an Elm Grove resident who lives near Woodridge Village, reported 5.5 inches in his rain gage. That compares to a 6.24 inch rain that fell on Woodridge on May 7, 2019, when hundreds of homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest flooded. Also, Woodridge falls about 40% short of current Atlas-14 standards required to hold back floodwater from a 100-year storm.

So you can understand how nervous Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest residents felt, especially considering that excavation of additional detention ponds on Woodridge Village has not yet started. Regardless, Woodridge did not flood homes across the county line this time. Here’s why.

Important Factors to Consider

Other important factors came into play last weekend that should relieve some of residents’ anxiety and help explain what happened.

First, remember that on May 7, 2019, Perry Homes’ contractors had clearcut 268 acres, but had barely begun work on detention ponds. Only one of five was complete.

Second, the intensity of the May 7, 2019 rain was higher than last weekend’s. On May 7, 6.24 inches fell in 5 hours. Last weekend, 5.5 inches fell in 9 hours.

Third, in 2019, the S2 detention area had been partially excavated but didn’t have any outflow control restrictions installed yet. So it didn’t really function as a detention pond.

Fourth, contractors had destroyed a berm between Elm Grove and Woodridge, and filled in a natural stream on Woodridge. Both have since been replaced.

Fifth, by current standards, last weekend we had a 5-year storm. But the detention ponds were designed to hold what today would be classified as a 25-year storm.

Photos Taken Sunday Morning

I took the photos below Sunday morning between periodic sprinkles, several hours after heavy rain stopped. They show how the current Woodridge Village detention handled the storm. All ponds were well within their banks. One was empty.

The triangular pond on the left is N2. N1 is out of sight above it. The two ponds on the right are S1 (foreground) and S2 beyond it. N3 is out of sight at the top of the frame.
S2 was about halfway to two-thirds full.
The tail of S2 is already silting in but had plenty of room to spare.
N3 Pond on eastern edge of property was supposed to have had an outflow control device but never got one.
The Junction where water from all five ponds comes together before flowing into Taylor Gully. N3 is at top of frame.
Reverse angle shot of the Junction with Taylor Gully in the background. Note how high the detention ponds are compared to the gully. The areas that flooded so badly in 2019 are just beyond the ponds.
Water coming from the big trianglar N2 pond now has to go through these twin culverts which were almost completely inundated.
Wider shot shows volume of water backed up in N2.
Only N1 in the NW corner of Woodridge was totally dry. The outflow capacity is much greater than the inflow. So this pond provides no detention benefit whatsoever. Local resident Jeff Miller says he has NEVER seen standing water in this pond.

Big Test and Additional Excavation Yet to Come

So the Perry-installed detention passed another test. But it was far from what college students would call a final exam.

Flood Control purchased this site last year and plans to turn it into a regional detention basin by more than doubling the detention capacity. However, the excavation contract lets the contractor take the dirt when it can be sold, while only meeting minimum monthly requirements which have not yet kicked in.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/11/2022

1596 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.

TCEQ Commissioners to Consider Agreed Order With Double Oak Construction on Woodridge Village Enforcement Action

The month after Woodridge Village flooded Elm Grove Village and North Kingwood Forest for the first time in May, 2019, the TCEQ investigated construction practices there. In the ensuing months, six investigations found 13 violations on the Woodridge site.

More than two years later, the charges against Double Oak Construction will finally be heard by TCEQ Commissioners in their September 9 meeting. This is basically a water quality case that has to do with pollution of Taylor Gully, the San Jacinto East Fork and Lake Houston. Charges include failure to:

  • Prevent sediment-laden discharge
  • Prepare a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan
  • Correctly identify receiving waters for the discharge
  • Implement and maintain effective best management practices.

On TCEQ Commissioners Docket for September 9

Item 29 on their docket reads:

No. 2019-1513-WQ-E. Consideration of an Agreed Order assessing administrative penalties and requiring certain actions of Double Oak Construction, Inc. in Montgomery County; RN110478583; for water quality violations pursuant to Tex. Water Code chs. 7 and 26 and the rules of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, including specifically 30 Tex. Admin. Code ch. 60.

Water samples taken by the investigators showed that at the outfall:

  • Total Suspended Solids were 70 times higher compared to upstream
  • Total Dissolved Solids were almost 18 times higher.

Double Oak had been hired to clear and grub the site. That means removing trees and roots.

Unchecked erosion from site polluted water downstream with suspended solids 70 times higher than upstream.
Abel Vera had to grab his car to avoid slipping in ankle-deep sediment on Village Springs. Vera lives next to Woodridge.

Definition of Agreed Order

This enforcement action by the TCEQ falls into a category called an “Agreed Order.” A website called USLegal.com defines an agreed order as: “An Agreed Order refers to a written agreement submitted by the parties to a case resolving the issues between them. Once the agreed order is approved by the court and entered in its minutes, it becomes the order or decree of the court with all of the force and effect that any order would have after a full hearing prior to adjudication.” 

However, they add: “…until then, an ‘agreed order’ is no order at all, but merely an agreement of the parties. It has no significance … until a judicial … decision gives it significance.” TCEQ Commissioners will take that step on September 9.

Double Oak Penalties Unclear

Documents supplied in response to a FOIA request did not discuss what the penalties might entail for Double Oak. The company left the construction site long ago. It has since been sold to Harris County Flood Control and the City of Houston for a regional stormwater detention basin and sewage treatment plant. So it’s not as if Double Oak can make good by simply agreeing to clean up its act.

Typically, such cases involve a modest fine. The significance in this case: Double Oak apparently is admitting wrongdoing before a decision or settlement has been reached in hundreds of homeowner lawsuits downstream. More on those at a later date.

For More Information

For more on what led to the lawsuits, see:

Elm Grove Residents Look for Answers and Don’t Have to Look Far

What Went Wrong Part 1

What Went Wrong Part 2

What Went Wrong Part 3

What Went Wrong Part 4

What Went Wrong Part 5

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/31/2021

1463 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 712 Days 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.

Harris County, City of Houston Finally Close on Purchase of Woodridge Village Property

Today, almost two years after Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village development first contributed to flooding Elm Grove Village and North Kingwood Forest in Kingwood, Harris County and the City of Houston finally purchased the aborted, ill-conceived development.

Current plans are for the City of Houston to build a wastewater treatment plant on the northern portion. Harris County Flood Control District will use the southern portion to build a regional floodwater detention center. The latter should alleviate flooding problems adjacent to the development as well as other areas farther downstream on Taylor Gully.

Exact Plans for Additional Detention Capacity Not Yet Developed

It is not immediately clear how much additional detention pond capacity HCFCD will build on the property or where. However, on February 9, 2021, HCFCD hired an engineering company to develop preliminary plans.

A press release issued today by Harris County Flood Control said, “The next step is to undergo an engineering analysis to maximize stormwater detention volume, quantify the benefit to the community and determine project cost and funding. Additional community engagement will be scheduled to gather input from area residents on the proposed project and to present project alternatives.”

History of Flooding

The flooding problems began on May 7, 2019 when approximately 200 homes flooded from sheet flow coming from the development. Two to three times that number of homes flooded on September 19th, 2019 during Imelda.

Contributing factors included:

Eventually, Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors managed to build five detention ponds, but their capacity still fell about 40% short of Atlas-14 requirements. Thus, the development would have posed a risk forever after had Harris County and the City not stepped in.

Photos of Property Just Purchased

Here are pictures of Woodridge Village taken on 3/3/2021 from several different angles.

Woodridge Village looking SW from the NE corner of the property in Montgomery County. The diagonal near the top of the frame and the detention pond is the Harris/Montgomery County line. Ford Road is on left.
Looking SE from the NW corner over Webb Street in Porter. The land slopes from the corner in the foreground to the detention pond in the background. Taylor Gully starts just beyond the detention pond.
Looking west along the northern boundary. The City portion of the property will border the tree line on the left and extend into the small area at the top.
Looking east along the southern border. Camera position was over Kingwood Park High School.
Looking NE from the southern border over Sherwood Trails Village in Kingwood.
Looking north up Village Springs Drive in Elm Grove. Taylor Gully starts on the right at the county line just below the concrete junction.
Looking NW from over North Kingwood Forest. Taylor Gully is on bottom right. The land slopes toward the camera position.

More About the Sale

All of the 267.35 cleared acres fall within Montgomery County. But a provision within the 2018 Flood Bond allows Harris County to purchase land in other counties if it helps control flooding in Harris.

The Harris County Flood Control District and the City of Houston jointly purchased the property for approximately $14 million. The Flood Control District is using funds from the 2018 Bond Program (Bond ID Z-02) to acquire the land. The City of Houston contributed approximately $3.8 million dollars for the use and ownership of 73 acres on the northern part of the property.

Reaction from Government Officials

“This is a great example of government doing what government is supposed to do – listening to the people who live in those neighborhoods and working to protect them from future flooding,” said Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, who pushed this project through against opposition in Commissioner’s Court.

Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin also worked tirelessly to make the deal happen. It involved trading City land to the County for flood control projects and getting the City to adopt the County’s flood control standards. “This purchase is integral for investment in the future of the Kingwood area as well as many homes along the county line. Collaboration like this is essential in providing a sense of security to residents who have endured so much uncertainty these last few years,” said Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin.

Congressman Dan Crenshaw lauded Cagle, Martin, and community support. “This is an important step forward in building a more resilient community,” he said.

State Senator Brandon Creighton said, “This type of partnership and investment will make Kingwood and surrounding areas better protected.”

State Representative Dan Huberty complimented the City and County for working together. “This is a great example of different areas of government working together to achieve the best outcomes for local residents,” he said.

Additional detention ponds are not yet built, but this is a huge step forward. A big “thank you” and “whew” to all involved.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/3/2021

1283 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 532 since Imelda

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

Perry Homes Blames Elm Grove Flood Victims

In a court document filed today, Perry Homes LLC has answered Elm Grove flood victims and says the damages suffered by flood victims were their own fault.

Last month, lawyers for flood victims named Perry Homes LLC as an additional defendant. (Previously, only Perry’s subsidiaries and contractors had been named as defendants.)

Today, Perry Homes filed its “original answer” to the defendants’ claims in Harris County’s 234th Judicial District Court. Perry’s answer is anything but original. Not one of the twenty “cut and paste” defenses mentions anything specific to the case. And many blame the victims for their own damages.

Hopes and dreams of many Elm Grove families were dragged to the curb twice in 2019. This home was blocks from Taylor Gully. It flooded when sheet flow from Perry Homes’ property entered the streets of Elm Grove.

Perry Homes Asserts Claims Not True

Perry Homes is asking the Court to enter a judgment and let the Plaintiffs take nothing. The company claims plaintiffs’ allegations are not true and has issued a general denial.

In addition, Perry claims that:

  • Plaintiffs’ damages are a result of pre-existing conditions.
  • Damages resulted from an act of God.
  • Damages resulted from independent causes for which Defendant is not legally responsible
  • Damages were caused by acts, omissions, or negligence of third parties over which Defendant had no control
  • Plaintiffs shared the fault and therefore Perry shouldn’t be held wholly responsible.
  • Plaintiffs claims should be barred because Perry acted with care and complied with all laws.
  • Plaintiffs’ claims should be barred because plaintiffs somehow failed to mitigate their own damages (presumably decades before the damages occurred).
  • Plaintiffs have not fulfilled all conditions necessary to maintain the lawsuit.
  • Plaintiffs’ recovery, if any, should be subject to the one-satisfaction rule. (Under Texas law, the one-satisfaction rule states that a plaintiffs can only recover damages once. For instance they can’t recover total damages from Perry and then again from LJA Engineering, which was also named as an additional defendant).
  • Plaintiffs’ claim for pre-judgment interest is limited by the dates and amounts set forth in Chapter 304 of the Texas Finance Code. (The law specifies that the prejudgment interest rate is equal to the post-judgment interest rate applicable at the time of judgment. It also specifies that interest may not compound and when interest charges may start.)
  • Even if Perry is found to be at fault, damages should be limited according to Chapter 41 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Chapter 41 specifies standards of proof for exemplary damages.
  • Again, even if they are at fault, Perry should not be fined for exemplary or punitive damages. Exemplary and punitive damages, they claim, violate:
    • The Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution
    • Article 1, Sections 3 and 19 of the Texas Constitution
    • Due process and equal protection under the law

In regard to the last point, Perry Homes makes no mention of the laws that allow exemplary or punitive damages. Nor do they reference cases that point to standards of proof for exemplary or punitive damages.

For the complete text of Perry Homes’ “Original Answer,” click here.

Pleads “Further and In the Alternative” Thirteen Times

The lack of specificity in Perry Homes’ filing makes it difficult to decipher what the claims actually mean. However, Perry uses the phrase, “Pleading further, and in the alternative, and without waiving the foregoing…” 13 times. Basically that means, “If the judge or jury won’t buy X, we still reserve the right to plead Y.”

This is more than a shotgun defense; it’s a blunderbuss defense. But why would lawyers who get paid $1000/hour want to get to the point, tip their hand, or limit their client’s options?

Victim Blaming At Its Finest

There’s an undercurrent of victim blaming in much of Perry Homes’ points.

Perry subsidiaries have previously claimed that many Elm Grove homes were in the floodplain. Claiming victims should have somehow prevented flooding in homes that were built 40 years earlier – when they never flooded until Perry clearcut land immediately upstream from them – is the height of chutzpah.

I use that term in the sense of “brazenness” or “audacity.”

It’s like pleading that the shooting victim was at fault because he failed to get out of the way of the gunshot.

It ignores the fact that someone pulled a trigger. Collectively, Perry, its subsidiaries and contractors violated Section 9.2 of the Montgomery County Drainage Criteria Manual.

Section 9.2 states that “Pursuant to the official policy for Montgomery County, development will not be allowed in a manner which will increase the frequency or severity of flooding in areas that are currently subject to flooding or which will cause areas to flood which were not previously subject to flooding.”

Perry Homes’ victim blaming shows how Perry now thinks. Their bizarre logic – and the hollow claim that they followed all laws – explain a lot about why Elm Grove flooded. Perry today is a far cry from the company that Bob Perry founded in 1968.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/13/2020

1049 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 298 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.

Perry Detention Ponds Pass First Modest Test, But Eroded Badly

The official rain gage at West Lake Houston Parkway and the West Fork San Jacinto recorded 2.32 inches of rain between 7 and 9 a.m. this morning. That was officially a 1-year rain. (See Atlas-14 chart below.) As rains go, it was not a severe test; it was more like a pop quiz.

After the rain subsided, Taylor Gully in Elm Grove was less than half full.

The good news: Taylor Gully was well within its banks and no one in Elm Grove or North Kingwood Forest flooded. The bad news: Perry’s detention ponds experienced severe erosion, enough to warrant repairs and perhaps delay the schedule.

The even worse news: Harris County’s meteorologist, Jeff Lindner predicts another one to two inches of rain tonight with isolated totals of three to four.

West Lake Houston Pkwy. Gage Showed 2.32 Inches In 2 Hours

24 hour rain totals for WLHP gage showed bulk fell in 2 hours.

2.32 inches in two hours qualifies as a one-year rain according to the new Atlas-14 rainfall precipitation frequency estimates. Even if you considered the entire 3.12 inches in 24 hours, it would still only be a one year rain.

Atlas 14 Precipitation Frequency Table for the Kingwood Area.

Aerial Images Show How Perry Detention Ponds Performed

These aerial images taken shortly after noon today when the rain stopped show that:

  • The detention ponds are starting to do their work and hold back water.
  • That kept the level in Taylor Gully manageable
  • The overflow spillway between S2 and the concrete-lined channel was apparently not needed.

However, the images also show that:

  • Portions of the detention pond walls severely eroded and appear to have collapsed in places.
  • The water in the N1 pond overcame temporary dirt barricades sending water and silt down to N2.
  • The newly excavated N2 was entirely covered with water for the first time. It also received a significant amount of erosion.
  • N3 merges with Taylor Gully to form one large detention pond that holds water all the way from the northern end of the pond to the county line.
  • Rain has halted construction for the last two days and could delay it into next week.
Expanded, giant N2 detention pond was covered entirely with water for first time. Looking West toward western border of Woodridge Village.
However, erosion re-deposited large amounts of soil within the pond. Looking North along Western Border of Woodridge Village.
Rainwater entering the site from Joseph street in Porter (center left) shows by comparison how much silt the Perry water held. Looking north along western border of Woodridge Village.
Still looking north, but farther up western border, you can see silt slumping into ditch.
Looking SE toward Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest from the NW corner of site. Water coming in N1 pond from left exited right, down the western border. Water washed out a temporary dirt barrier that appeared designed to hold water in the pond.
Looking east. Note erosion from former utility corridor on left that has turned into a new drainage ditch along northern edge of property.
Looking at western wall of N3 which runs along eastern border of Woodridge Village.
Another portion of the western wall of N3 shows severe erosion.
Standing water from rest of property is slowly making its way into detention ponds.
Looking South along eastern border toward Taylor Gully. At present, N3 (bottom left) simply merges with the concrete channel by S2 (top right). It appears to have nothing to control the outflow.
Looking north along eastern border. Silt fences prove inadequate at stopping erosion. In fact, most of site has no silt fences.

More Rain Likely Tonight

Jeff Lindner, Harris County meteorologist, says that today’s wet pattern should remain in place through the weekend, contrary to earlier predictions that saw rain chances ending by Friday.

Storms currently in the Gulf near Corpus Christi are tracking toward Houston late tonight and Friday morning. They will probably not be as severe as this morning’s storms. With that said…the air mass remains tropical over the region and excessive rainfall rates of 2-3 inches per hour will be possible, warns Lindner.

As of 6 p.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service decided NOT to issue another flash flood watch for tonight, but stay alert to see if a more significant threat may develop.

Expect rainfall amounts of generally 1-2 inches tonight with isolated totals of 3-4 inches.

To Get Up-to-the-Minute Forecasts and Stream Alerts

You can always find up to the minute weather forecasts at this National Weather Service page.

To check on rising rivers and major streams, visit the Harris County Flood Warning System, and click on channels and channel status simultaneously. To see further upstream, click on All Gages. That will show you the status of gages operated by the SJRA in Montgomery County.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/25/2020

1031 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 280 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.

Perry Contractors Now Focusing on Finish Work for Detention Ponds

Perry Homes’ current contractors have excavated 3X more detention pond volume in ten weeks than the previous contractors did in virtually two years. During this past week, they finished excavating three ponds on the northern section of Woodridge Village. Together, they comprise 77% of the total detention volume for the whole site.

Excavation Done, but Finish Work Remains

That doesn’t mean they’re totally done with the ponds. Recent aerial photos show that they still have much finish work to do. That includes:

  • Shaping the sides
  • Creating backslope swales
  • Installing pipes to funnel water from the swales into the ponds and channels
  • Ensuring water can flow out of Adams Oaks in Porter on the west side of the subdivision into Taylor Gully as it previously did
  • Creating concrete “pilot channels” in the center of the ponds and larger channels
  • Planting grass along the sides of the slopes to reduce erosion
  • Installing outflow control in several places to hold back floodwaters
  • Building maintenance roads around the ponds

Elm Grove resident Jeff Miller, who monitors the progress of construction daily, says crews are already hard at work on many of those tasks.

Ponds NOT Expanded Beyond Initial Plans

Miller has compared the width and depth of ponds to the initial plans and verified that the ponds are being built to original specifications. Since the ponds were designed to meet pre-Atlas 14 rainfall requirements, that means the site will still hold 30-40% less runoff than needed to meet current regulations.

Still, surrounding residents in Porter, North Kingwood Forest and Elm Grove who flooded twice last year will find three large ponds on the northern section a welcome addition. They provide some measure of extra protection. Residents will have four times more upstream detention volume than they had during Imelda.

Racing Against Risk

With the peak of hurricane season now less than two months away, Perry Homes is in a race against risk. The company may regret the six months of virtual inactivity between the completion of pond S2 and the start of work on ponds N1, N2, and N3 in early April.

The faster pace of current construction puts pressure on Harris County and the City of Houston to complete an offer if an offer will be made. Elm Grove residents lobbied the City and County to purchase the property and build a regional flood detention facility. They center would also help protect downstream residents on the East Fork and Lake Houston.

However, at a Kingwood Town Hall Meeting in February, Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin announced that the City would not participate in a deal. He said it was the County’s responsibility.

In April, the County announced that it would consider purchasing the land if the City contributed land in lieu of cash to cover half the purchase price.

Then in May, the County increased its demands. The County now wants the City to contribute land in lieu of cash to cover half the purchase AND construction costs for creating additional detention.

County and City Clamp Down on Communications

Since then, the County has clamped down on communications regarding this subject. Rumors suggest that all parties are still trying to make a deal happen. But the County has denied all FOIA requests and referred them to the Texas Attorney General for a ruling on their denials. That often happens when negotiations are in progress, according to a knowledgeable source.

What Happens Next?

At the contractor’s current rate of progress, it’s entirely possible that contractors will complete all work on detention ponds in July.

The City and County blew through a May 15 deadline that Perry put on the deal. But a “For Sale” sign at the Woodland Hills entrance remains on the property.

With approximately $14 million dollars invested in the property, with hurricane season here, with lawsuits pending, and knowing that the amount of detention is insufficient to hold a 100-year rain, Kathy Perry must be sweating bombshells.

Ms. Perry may be hoping for a City/County offer, but she can’t be counting on one. If she were, she could have sold the dirt coming out of those detention ponds. Instead, however, she’s building up land elsewhere on the site to keep her options open and develop the site if a deal falls through.

That dirt will have to be moved again at taxpayer expense if the county builds additional detention ponds.

Pictures of Site as of 6/19/2020

Here’s what the site looked like as of 6/19/2020.

Looking NW from over Taylor Gully toward Pond N2, the largest on the property.
The connecting channel between N1 at the top of the frame and N2 along the western edge of the property has been excavated. Note the pilot channel that contractors have started in the distance.
At Mace Street in Porter, contractors created a concrete face for the twin culverts on the upstream side, but not yet on the downstream side. Note the earthen dam holding water back while contractors complete the pilot channel running off the bottom of the frame.
Above Mace Street, contractors are still putting in pipes between the channel and backslope swales.
The Webb street entrance to the site has been removed to connect N1 (out of frame on the top) with N2 (out of frame on the lower left).
Looking SE at N1.
Looking South at N3, which runs down the eastern edge of the property.
More pipes are being put in to channel water from backslope swales to the pond so water won’t erode the face of the pond. Not the rills already cut in the dirt.
Looking SE. The southern half of N3 where it connects with Taylor Gully in the upper right.
N3’s connection to Taylor Gully is now wide open. It’s not clear how this connection will be completed to release the water at a slow controlled rate.
The two culverts under the bridge over Taylor Gully should slow the water from N2 (upper right) and N1 (out of frame) down.

Need for Grass if Deal Not Reached Quickly

Note how the grass on the southern side of the gully has all died. That raises a question. If Perry, the City and County do not complete a purchase agreement soon, will Perry plant grass on the northern section to slow runoff. Right now, it’s all hard-packed dirt.

Most of northern section is hard packed dirt which increases runoff rate.

Planting grass over an area this large would be a big investment and might get in the way of construction if Perry decides to develop the land. But it will reduce flood and legal risks.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/20/2020

726 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 275 after Imelda

Woodridge Village Pre-Cristobal Detention Pond Update

Perry Home’s new contractors have excavated the vast majority of virtually all three detention ponds on the north section of Woodridge Village. That means they have almost completed 77% of the detention pond capacity for the whole site in two months. The previous contractors completed only 23% in approximately twenty months.

That represents approximately a 30x increase in productivity.

Overview of Woodridge Village Detention Pond Capacity

The pie chart below shows how that capacity breaks down. And the map shows where it is.

Percentage of detention pond capacity in acre feet for each of the five Woodridge Village ponds. Source: LJA Drainage Addendum.
General layout of detention ponds on Perry Homes’ property.

Contractors Scurry as Cristobal Churns in Gulf

Tropical Storm Cristobal could be a game changer next week if it hits Houston. It’s track is far from certain at this point, but the National Hurricane Center still puts Houston within the cone of uncertainty.

Cristobal has the potential to create massive erosion and set the work schedule back. The aerial photos below taken on 6/2/2020 show the current “pre-storm” status of construction for the three northern detention ponds. The two southern detention ponds were completed earlier this year.

N1 Nearing Completion of Excavation

N1 Starts at the northern boundary of the site and runs halfway down the western edge to Mace Street.

Looking north at N1 from Mace Street in Porter to the northern boundary.
The area between the culverts will eventually become an extension of Mace Street (top of photo) which will traverse the entire subdivision to Ford Road on the eastern side.
While some contractors continue excavating, others work on installing concrete pilot channels. Shown here, the pilot channel near Ivy Ridge in Porter.
The northern part of N1 is not yet complete. Contractors still use the Webb Street entrance (upper left as their main access point to the site. Note how height of road dwarfs excavator in pit.

Still Widening and Deepening N2 Pond

The area left of the diagonal road is the expansion of N2. The area near the diagonal embankment is deep enough to conceal trucks and excavators. However, the grassy triangle in the middle left was a previous detention pond constructed my Montgomery County in the early 2000s.
Contractors are deepening the MoCo pond a small amount to create additional storage capacity. The dirt is being used to build up other portions of the site.
Looking north along the western boundary from the southern part of the grassy triangle. Much work remains to extend the N1 channel south to N2. Jeff Miller reported today that contractors started working on this this morning.
On 6.3.20, contractors were removing dirt from the northward extention of N2 with three dump trucks running in a relay fashion. Photo courtesy of Jeff Miller.
Twin culverts installed in Taylor Gully will control outflow rates from N1 and N2.

N3 All Excavated

N3 cuts down the eastern side of Woodridge Village and joins Taylor Gully right above S2.

Looking north. Excavation of N3 appears complete although few of the finishing touches have yet been installed.
Looking south at the main body of N3.
N3 widens out about halfway down the eastern border.
Then it narrows down again to help control outflow speed as it approaches the junction with Taylor Gully.
Water from the entire site converges here. Erosion patterns, fence damage and grass matting show this is where the overflow started that contributed to the flooding of Elm Grove (right) and North Kingwood Forest (left) twice last year.

The pile of dirt in the picture above could be shoved into the connecting channel in the event that Cristobal should strike Houston. That would then help retain water in N3 until after the storm.

All the runoff from the approximately 200-acre northern portion of the site converges here and tries to make its way through a 3-foot culvert at the end of the concrete channel.

Uncertain Still Surrounds Corner of Chaos

Some Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest residents have called the complex flow patterns in the photo above “The Corner of Chaos.”

Overflow from the concrete lined channel is supposed to go into the kite-shaped S2 pond, and then through the twin culverts into Taylor Gully. However, a hydrology consultant for the plaintiffs in flooding lawsuits contends that floodwaters went the other way. They escaped out of the inflow channel, he says. He further claims that LJA Engineering failed to model the performance of that connecting channel.

Diagram from consultant’s report.

If the design of the flow at this “Corner of Chaos” is flawed, there’s little contractors can do to fix that at this point without some major re-engineering.

In that regard, we should also remember that LJA designed these ponds before Atlas 14, so they will only hold approximately 60% of a 100-year rainfall as defined by Atlas 14 standards adopted in Harris County.

How Contractors are Temporarily Funneling Water into Ponds

Because storm drains are not yet installed, contractors are relying on temporary channels to intercept runoff and direct it to detention ponds.

Small ditches like one on right catch runoff and direct it to ponds for the time being.

Next Steps in Completing Detention Ponds

A modest amount of excavation remains to complete the full detention pond capacity.

But the capacity already in place should reduce flood risk compared to last year by more than 3X for storms equivalent to May 7 and September 19, 2019.

As some crews focus on completing excavation, others are putting the finishing touches on ponds. Those include concrete pilot channels, backslope interceptor swales, drain pipes, and culverts to control the rate of outflow.

Racing Against Hurricane Season

At this point, contractors are racing against time and the hurricane season. Cristobal underscores the risk of having waited for months to begin the three northern detention ponds in April. Had they begun them immediately after J. Carey Gray’s letter to Mayor Turn in October, they could easily have finished by now.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/4/2020 with thanks to Jeff Miller

1010 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 258 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.

What You Can Do Right Now to Encourage HCFCD to Buy Woodridge Village Property

Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle has placed an item on next Tuesday’s Commissioners’ Court Meeting that will affect the future of Kingwood. It’s to discuss the possibility of Harris County Flood Control spending $10 million to buy the Perry Home’s Woodridge Village property. It contributed to flooding hundreds of homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest TWICE last year.

Where Will Two More Votes Come From?

Cagle needs at least two more votes on Commissioners Court in addition to his own to approve the effort. Reportedly, Judge Lina Hidalgo, Commissioner Adrian Garcia in Precinct 2 and Commissioner Steve Radack in Precinct 3 are the most “gettable.”

Here’s how you can help. Email or call these officials today. Urge them to support Cagle’s motion. Do it NOW. I’ve listed their contact info below.

At Stake: The Future of Kingwood

Ten flooded homes in a row, all vacated. Photo taken in North Kingwood Forest in December 2019. All homes back up to Woodridge Village.

Without help, Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest could drag down the reputation of the entire Kingwood community.

Elm Grove kitchen home five months after being flooded a second time.

These are working class neighborhoods. As much so as any in Harris County. People simply can’t afford to flood again.

Language in last year’s flood bond allows Harris County Flood Control District to buy property in neighboring counties for the purpose of building upstream detention. The lack of detention on Perry Homes’ property is the primary reason hundreds of homes in Kingwood flooded. Two years after clearing the property, Perry Homes still has constructed only 23% of the needed detention.

No Other Good Alternatives At This Time

Harris County Flood Control reportedly can start work on expanding detention capacity as soon as Commissioners reach a deal.

If they can’t, Perry has said it will sell Woodridge Village to another developer or continue to develop the property itself. However, if that happens, the detention ponds on the property would still likely be undersized by 40%. That’s because Perry Homes rushed to get their plans approved before the new, higher Atlas-14 rainfall standards went into effect.

Help Now! Here’s How

To contact Judge Hidalgo, Commissioner Garcia or Commissioner Radack:

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo 
  • Phone: 713-274-7000 or (713) 755-8379  
  • Email: judge.hidalgo@cjo.hctx.net
Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Precinct 2
  • Phone: 713-755-6220 or 713-274-2222
  • Email via web form.
Commissioner Steve Radack, Precinct 3

Phone: (713) 755-6306

Email: pct3@pct3.com

Remind them that Harris County receives drainage from at least FIVE surrounding counties. This problem is a county-wide problem, not just a Precinct 4 problem.

Please call or write now if you live in the Kingwood, Huffman, Humble or Atascocita areas. Even if you did not flood, flooding from Woodridge Village affects you and your home value. No one in this area can afford to let this sore fester any longer.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/1/2020

946 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 195 since Imelda

Army Corps Finds Wetlands on Perry Homes Woodridge Village Property Did Not Fall Under Corps’ Jurisdiction; What Next?

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the findings of its investigation into the wetlands on Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village property. The Corps said that the wetlands do NOT fall under its jurisdiction. Therefore, there was no violation of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act when Perry wiped out wetlands without first seeking the Corps’ permission.

Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s office released this text of an email the Corps sent to them today.

Text of Corps Email to Congressman Crenshaw

“This e-mail is in response to your request (on the behalf of Congressman Crenshaw) to be updated on our investigation into activities on the Figure Four properties located in Porter, Montgomery County, Texas.  (Investigation file SWG-2019-00745).” [Editor’s note: Figure Four is the development arm of Perry Homes.]

“As discussed on the phone earlier today, the Corps of Engineers has finalized our investigation into this matter and did NOT find a violation of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (Section 404).”  

“We did confirm the presence of uplands and wetlands on the tract. Some of the wetlands had fill material placed into them. Based on the facts associated with this specific location and per federal regulation these wetlands were determined to “isolated.” They lacked any known nexus to interstate commerce. As such, they are not “waters of the United States” and are not subject to federal jurisdiction under Section 404. In accordance with federal regulation the jurisdictional status (determination) of these wetlands was coordinated with the Environmental Protection Agency prior to finalizing.”     

“The property owner has been notified of the federal government’s findings and the investigation closed.”

Wetlands Question Now Moot from Legal Point of View

Normally, in cases where a question exists, developers consult the Corps before destroying the wetlands. When I asked the Corps last August whether Perry had sought a “jurisdictional determination,” the Corps answered that Perry had not.

Perry later claimed that it had hired a private consultant to determine whether the wetlands were jurisdictional. However, to my knowledge, Perry never publicly released the results of the survey. Today’s ruling by the Corps makes that whole controversy moot.

Regardless of the Corps’ rulings on the jurisdictional question, the fact remains that the Corps found wetlands on the property and they found Perry Homes had attempted to fill them in.

Wetlands Question Still Explosive from Business Point of View

Let’s see how well that worked out for Perry and its subsidiaries.

If Perry Homes tries to build on the land after all the publicity surrounding this case, any homeowner whose foundation cracks would have a ready-made court case.

Woodridge Village “wetlands” on March 6, 2020. Water has ponded there for months.

This land appears to be unsafe, unstable, unbuildable, unsaleable, and a menace to downstream homeowners in its current state.

Plaintiff’s Engineer Points to High Hurdles for Perry to Clear

David Givler, PE, a consultant for plaintiffs in the Elm Grove flooding case found that LJA Engineering, a Perry Homes’ contractor:

  • Seriously underestimated the amount of runoff from this property.
  • Used outdated rainfall statistics that led to underestimating the amount of detention capacity needed.
  • Constructed the overflow spillway between Taylor Gulley and detention pond S2 at a height that would cause North Kingwood Forest to flood.

When You’re In a Hole, Stop Digging. Literally.

It may be possible to fix some of these problems. But at what cost? Will the development ultimately be economic when residential lots are used to increase the size of detention ponds?

Five developers previously bought this land, studied it, and sold it rather than develop it. Maybe Perry should do the same. Maybe they should transfer it to Harris County Flood Control to create a giant detention facility.

How Perry Could Exit Without a Loss, Mitigate Flooding, Limit Long-Term Liability

A Houston Chronicle article quotes Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin as saying that Perry quoted a price for the land that covered their acquisition cost PLUS the labor they have into it. That led Harris County to ask CoH to share the cost.

When CoH refused, Perry dropped the price to $14 million (the alleged purchase price) from $23 million, according to Community Impact newspaper. The Montgomery County Appraisal District values the land at only a little more than $1 million.

It will be very hard for Perry to sell the land and even harder to develop it. So why doesn’t Perry just donate the land to Harris County Flood Control to help them mitigate flooding?

According to a national real estate tax expert that I talked to, Perry could then write off the value of the land PLUS the value of the labor they have in it. For a billion dollar company, the tax deduction could easily EQUAL or come close to the price they are currently asking for the land.

It would also:

  • Give Perry a chance to recoup some shred of its once proud image.
  • Let Harris County Flood Control move forward quickly with a detention project that could truly mitigate flooding.
  • Help protect Perry from additional future flooding claims.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/10/2020

924 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 173 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.