Tag Archive for: permit application

Multiple Mistakes Found in Supporting Doc for RV Park Permit App. What Lurks in Others?

In a Declaration of Support for a building permit application, an agent for the owners of the Laurel Springs RV park made four crucial mistakes. They included the wrong:

  • Survey
  • Street address
  • City
  • Owner

Then the agent signed it under the words, “I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE that if any fact stated in this Declaration is false, the City may void any permit(s) issued by the City for the Project, and the City may order the Owner or its successor to remove all or part of the Project at my or our own expense. I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.”

Serious Lack of Attention to Detail for Legal Doc

See the signed document below with red highlights added to help focus on the mistakes.

Mistakes in owners’ declaration of support. Red emphasis added.

So what should the right entries have been?

  • The Plat, HCAD and Deed all say “W Massey” not “S Massey.”
  • Address is Laurel Springs Lane, not Road.
  • Laurel Springs Lane is in Kingwood, not Huffman.
  • 77339 is a zip code, not the name of the owner.
Detail from approved plat. Note name of original survey in red highlighted area.

Symptomatic of Other Mistakes?

You would have to be in a particularly uncharitable frame of mind to impose sanctions based on the careless mistakes above. But they show a distinct lack of attention to detail that raises more serious questions about all of the plans and potential mistakes in other documents.

This does not inspire confidence. But it should inspire an investigation into the details of all the plans and how they got approved.

Two Site Plans Show 24% Difference in Number of RV Spots

For instance, even a cursory reading revealed that the developer submitted one site plan calling for 182 RV spots, and another at a later date calling for 226.

That’s a 24% increase in the amount of impervious cover. And that could seriously affect drainage calculations. But the permit still calls for 182.

The drainage mitigation plans do not specify how many spots the drainage calculations are based on. What’s the final number?

This could be one of the reasons why the developer and contractor refuse to meet with neighbors to discuss their plans. Do they know of flaws in other docs, too?

Cavalier Attitude to Penalties of Perjury

Geez! This developer does not pay much attention to detail under possible penalties of perjury, project cancellation and personal financial ruin. I wonder how many mistakes other documents contain that don’t carry those penalties.

The person who filed the Declaration of Support for the permit is Leslie B. Mickelis. Mickelis lists her address as 12320 Barker Cypress, Suite 600. That’s a PostNet store. According to the Secretary of State, Mickelis operated a company called Texas State Permits LLC, which lost its right to do business in Texas due to a tax forfeiture in 2009.

From Texas SOS Direct
From Texas SOS Direct

All of this raises serious questions of public safety and concern.

We need Houston Public Works – or a neutral third-party engineer – to review the plans from beginning to end for consistency and accuracy.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/6/2021 and updated with additional information about Mickelis on 11/7/2021 thanks to a tip from Daryl Lombard

1530 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.

Tools to Track Permit Applications for Developments Near You

Have you ever been flooded by a new development? Did you learn about the development AFTER bulldozers started knocking down trees? There’s a much better way. The City of Houston offers several tools to help you track applications for new developments long before the bulldozers start belching diesel fumes.

GIS PlatTracker Map

The first is an interactive, color coded GIS map that shows the status of all permit applications in the City and its ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction). The ETJ extends well beyond the boundaries of the City. Going up 45, it extends to 242. Going up 59, it extends to Roman Forest.

City of Houston PlatTracker map for Northeast Houston and Lake Houston Area as of 4/30/2020

If someone has applied for a permit to develop a piece of land, it will show up on the map. Notice the purple areas along the West Fork west of the Kingwood Country Club. That’s how I learned about the reactivation of Romerica’s plans.

The color of the parcels corresponds to the stage of the application. Clicking on the parcel pulls up an information panel that gives you more history including the date the developer submitted the application, when it will be reviewed, the review stage, and more.

Zoom in and out as wide as you want. Just be aware that the wider you zoom, the longer it takes the screen to refill with all the plat information. There’s a lot more of it!

As I zoomed out around Kingwood, the number of new developments that I was unaware of shocked me. If you want to see humongous changes, look south of Humble, east to Huffman, west to Spring, and north to Porter and New Caney. Kingwood is a relative island of quiet in a sea of change.

Other Related Interactive Maps

The PlatTracker Plat Map is just one of thirty other interactive maps that you can use to explore and monitor the City around you. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Land use
  • Water flood hazards
  • Governmental boundaries
  • Demographics
  • Annexation history
  • Address and Permit Information

PlatTracker Agenda/Spreadsheet

Once you have identified a development you are interested in, another site can help you learn more about when the Houston Planning Commission will consider applications related to the site. It will also give you:

  • Subdivision plat name
  • Application Number
  • Date Submitted
  • Subdivision type
  • Variance requests
  • Location on the Commission’s agenda
  • County
  • Council district
  • Precinct
  • Census Tract
  • Zip Code
  • School district
  • TIRZ (tax increment reinvestment zone) if any
  • Superneighborhood Council
  • Land Use
  • Number of Lots
  • Acreage
  • Appraisal district numbers
  • Developer Name
  • Applicant Company
  • Applicants Name
  • Phone Number

You can even download the latest documents related to the application.

For Planning Commission meeting dates and agendas, click here.

Situational Awareness for Concerned Citizens

Wow. Everything you need to put your mind at ease. Or stage a protest. All at your fingertips.

These are great tools for concerned residents and citizen activists.

I’m sure a lot of Elm Grove residents wish they had known about these tools before the bulldozers started knocking down trees in Woodridge Village.

For future reference, I’ve added links for these sites within ReduceFlooding’s Links Page under the Community heading.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/30/2020

975 Days since Hurricane Harvey

MoCo Will Vote Tomorrow on Whether to Sue New Sand Mine in Carriage Hills

Montgomery County commissioners will vote Tuesday whether to sue a new sand mine on the west side of the San Jacinto West Fork. The mine is in a Conroe development called Carriage Hills.

Agenda Item and Text of Motion by County Attorney

Agenda Item

This link contains the full text of the motion that commissioners will vote on. Because this item is on the consent agenda, we won’t hear debate on it.

Page 1 of the document above says that, “… it appears that MBM Sand Company, LLC and Carl Hudspeth, individually and doing business as Skilled International, LLC have violated, is violating, or is threatening to violate Subchapter I of Chapter 16 of the Tex. Water Code, or one or more rules adopted by Montgomery County under said subchapter and has failed and refused to cease and desist as demanded by the Montgomery County Engineer and/or the Montgomery County Attorney.”

The county seeks both injunctive relief to remove illegal improvements and restore preexisting conditions. The county also seeks monetary fines totaling $100 for each act of violation and each day of violation.

Potential Permit Issues

The mine operator, named Skilled International, LLC.,  has aggregate and air quality permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The property owner, MBM Sand Company, LLC, has a non-transferrable development permit issued in 2018 to excavate sand pit(s). Skilled International was founded in February 2019 as Cen-Tex Sand, but changed its name to Skilled International two weeks later. The transfer could be one potential issue.

It’s not immediately clear whether the MBM excavation permit allows Skilled to excavate.

No Specific Alleged Violations Listed

However, the motion does not spell out exactly what the violations are.

Subchapter I of Chapter 16 of the Texas Water Code deals with the regulations protecting public health and safety that the County must develop and enforce to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. They include Montgomery County Flood Plain Management Regulations intended to discourage or otherwise restrict land development or occupancy in flood-prone areas.

The complaint, however, does not enumerate specific alleged violations.

Depending on alleged violations, the outcome of this could set a precedent for other sand mines operating on the West Fork.

Homeowners Have Additional Complaints

The mine also faces problems from local homeowners.

The mine is operating adjacent to a once-quiet neighborhood called Carriage Hills in Conroe. It is sending heavy trucks weighed down with sand up and down Carriage Hills Boulevard. Residents say the noise exceeds 85 decibels, the trucks have torn up roads, and they fear for their children’s safety.

OSHA says prolonged exposure to sounds exceeding 85 decibels could cause hearing loss without protection. Such exposures could result in huge fines.

The trucks, as many as 12 at a time, begin idling outside the plant gate at 6:30 a.m. and run up and down Carriage Hills Boulevard hundreds of times a day – by one count 600 times.

Residents are also exploring the Texas Nuisance Law. In 2016, the Supreme Court of Texas defined this more clearly in the case of Crosstex North Texas Pipeline L.P. v. Gardiner.  A nuisance is defined as “condition that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land by causing unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities attempting to use and enjoy it.”  

They believe 600 dump trucks a day at intervals of 2 minutes or less, starting at 6:30 a.m. “substantially interferes” with their ability to enjoy their land and that it causes “unreasonable discomfort or annoyance.”

The operation will not end anytime soon without a restraining order. The company is just now removing the overburden, trying to get to frack sand.

Only Restraining Order Will Stop Operation Now

Homeowners believe the operation will likely devalue their properties.

They also worry about the safety risk to children given the high volume of industrial vehicles with tons of payload traveling at speeds that make them unable to stop to stop quickly on residential streets.

Residents Ask You to Sign Petition

To sign a petition supporting the residents of Carriage Hills, visit this link at Change.org.

Some of the residents plan to present the petition to commissioners tomorrow.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/23/2020

938 Days after Hurricane Harvey

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

TCEQ Lists Water-Quality Concerns About Romerica High-Rise Permit

Last week, SWCA, Romerica’s environmental consultant, requested more time to respond to concerns about the proposed high-rise development in Kingwood. On April 30, the Corps withdrew Romerica’s permit application. The Corps suggested that Romerica resubmit a new application once they worked out issues with the first submittal.

Eight Pages of Concerns

All along, Kingwood residents have expressed skepticism about the suitability of this project for the Kingwood location. Turns out the 727 residents and groups that submitted protest letters weren’t the only ones with questions.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ’s) letter to the Corps expresses eight pages of concerns. Keep in mind that it was dated March 1. So the developer had it for TWO MONTHS. Also remember! TCEQ was reviewing ONLY water-quality issues posed by the development.

Full Text of Letter

Reading the TCEQ letter makes one realize how deficient the original application must have been. Here is the complete text for those who want all the detail.

Summary of Key Points

For everyone else, I have summarized the main concerns below.

  1. Title 30, Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Chapter 279.ll(c)(l), states that “No discharge shall be certified if there is a practicable alternative to the proposed discharge which would have less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem, … ” “Please have the applicant clarify the purpose and need for the project, as portions of the proposed project are not aquatic-dependent.”
  2. From the public notice, the applicant states that “they have avoided and minimized environmental impacts by configuring the location of the proposed structures and reducing the size of the lakes within each district.” “This statement does not detail how and where wetland and stream impacts were avoided or minimized. Please have the applicant explain how and where impacts to stream and wetland resources were minimized and avoided.”
  3. “The applicant proposes to develop a mitigation site or purchase credits but says nothing more…The compensatory mitigation plan must include the objectives, site selection, the site protection instrument, baseline information, how the compensatory mitigation will provide required compensation for unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources, a mitigation work plan, maintenance plan, ecological performance standards, monitoring requirements, long-term management plan, adaptive management plan, financial assurances, and other information per the mitigation rule requirements.”
  4. “During the site visit, the resource agencies and the applicant’s representative noticed several streams that were not accounted for in the impacts tables. Please have the applicant incorporate the additional streams and revise the total amount of project impacts accordingly.”
  5. “There are several impacts within the commercial district that appear to be unaccounted for or are unidentified. Please have the applicant revise the impacts table to account for all resources that will be converted.”
  6. “Please have the applicant determine if project specific locations (PSLs) such as borrow, stockpiling, staging, and equipment parking areas associated with the project will impact wetlands. These PSL impacts should be included in the accounting of total project impacts.”
  7. “Several wetlands within the proposed project boundary will be hydrologically disconnected from the current floodplain. Please have the applicant revise the impacts tables to include wetland and stream resources that will be affected secondarily by the proposed project and address the cumulative effect of each district on the interconnectedness of the onsite wetlands.”
  8. “Please have the applicant explain in detail what measures will be taken to avoid groundwater and surface water contamination from construction activities.”
  9. “Please have the applicant provide a hydraulic analysis of the site to account for current site conditions, projected increased impervious surface runoff, as well as drainage patterns for the site, and describe how water quality on and off the project site will be protected from impacts such as erosion.”
  10. “Stormwater drainage from residential and commercial lots should be routed away from the West Fork San Jacinto River, the marina, and stream resources onsite. Stormwater should be redirected and routed to stormwater treatment features before entering the aforementioned resources. Please have the applicant provide details on how the replacement of lost onsite water quality functions will be addressed.”

Other Issues Outlined in Letter

  1. How an expanded Woodland Hills Drive would affect stream crossings
  2. The purpose and design of the so-called “water-quality ponds”
  3. The design of channels and marinas; their connectivity to the San Jacinto; and their impact on water quality
  4. The impact of boat channels on water-oxygen levels
  5. Channels that cross wetland habitat
  6. Box culverts instead of bridges
  7. Channel widths (100-foot wide for a channel 4-feet deep)
  8. Channels crossing property Romerica doesn’t own
  9. Slope of channels
  10. Diversion of stormwater from roads and parking lots away from channels
  11. Dead-end channels
  12. How domestic wastewater will be collected and treated
  13. Dissolved oxygen monitoring and reporting
  14. Applicants characterization of stream types (intermittent vs. perennial); requests “an accurate assessment.”
  15. Conservation easements on the property. (21.90 acres of wetlands are covered by a conservation easement located within the residential and commercial portions of the proposed development. “Please have the applicant verify that the conservation easement will be protected from potential development and ensure the preserved wetlands will not be impacted, directly or indirectly, from the construction of the proposed project.”

Start Over?

There may be no good answers to some of these questions and concerns. SWCA, CivilTech and Romerica must be re-evaluating the impact of these questions on the economics of their project.

This isn’t the type of stuff you need another week to figure out. These questions will make the developers rethink their commitment to the entire project.

Finding answers will likely involve a redesign of the project and that could cost more than the land itself.

Keep in mind that water quality was just one of 20 different areas that the Corps is evaluating.

TCEQ Didn’t Have Enough Info to Make Decision

I asked Peter Schaefer, a team leader within the TCEQ Water Quality Assessment Section, whether the TCEQ had made a recommendation to the Corps on this project. He said “No.”

The reason: “Because TCEQ did not receive a response to our comment letter, and the applicant had not begun the process of working with us and the Corps to address the concerns raised in the letter, TCEQ was not in a position to make a decision on the project,” said Schaeffer. Hence the detailed requests for more information.

Schaefer added, “A typical 404/401 permitting process would normally take several months, if not a year or more, for the applicant to address comments from TCEQ, Corps, resource agencies, and the public. Because of the magnitude and nature of this project, it would likely have required much more time, coordination, discussion, project revision(s), and perhaps additional public notice(s) to get to the point where the Corps was prepared to complete a Decision Document.”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/1/2019

610 Days since Hurricane Harvey

High-Rise Permit Application Withdrawn by Corps

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District announced today that it has withdrawn Romerica’s permit application. Romerica had applied to deposit fill in the floodplain of the San Jacinto River for their proposed high-rise development in Kingwood.

Artists rendering of several towers near the proposed marina with the Barrington in the background.

Romerica Could Not Meet Deadline

In a letter dated April 24, SWCA, Romerica’s environmental consultant, requested a “suspension” of the permit application. They said they needed more time to answer issues raised in 727 letters of protest. SWCA also said they would have to conduct additional surveys and field work requiring more than the 30 days allowed for them to respond. The official deadline for filing responses was April 27.

Withdrawal “Without Prejudice”

Instead of suspending the permit, the Corps “withdrew it without prejudice.” The Corps invited SWCA and Romerica to reapply at some future time when they had completed answers to the issues raised by concerned residents and environmental groups.

The Corps’ letter is dated today, April 30. For the full text, click here.

Romerica Not Available for Comment

Leah Howard of Manlove Marketing and Communications, Romerica’s official point of contact for the application, was not available for comment at press time. However, a third party who talked to her earlier in the day said that their team wanted “to do a good and complete job with citizens’ questions, and that 30 days just wasn’t enough time.”

Another third party source quoted her as saying, “Due to Harvey, Romerica will complete several new studies and surveys for due diligence which will shed more light on the larger issue Lake Houston faces. After completion of the necessary work, Romerica and the USACE will reactivate the permit and more information will be provided at that time.”

Issues Still to Be Clarified

It is unclear at this time whether a new application would obligate Romerica to go through an additional public comment period. However the letter sent from the Corps to the developer states, “Resultant project modifications may require additional coordination.”

While many questions remain, today’s letter DOES answer one. Romerica did NOT meet the Corps’ deadline for filing responses to citizen complaints. For a history of the controversy surrounding this development, see the High Rises page.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/30/2019

609 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Stark Contrast Between High-Rise Website Disclaimer and Army Corps Permit Application Form

Two weeks ago, the high-rise Kingwood Marina developers designated John Manlove Marketing and Communications as their official point of contact re: all permit application matters. Then last week, Manlove launched a new website that made promises, which seemingly contradicted technical data in the permit application form.

At the bottom of the one-page website, Manlove posted a disclaimer that said:

But the Corps’ permit application says:

That may be hard to read on a smart phone, so let me retype the 85 word sentence.

“18 U.S.C. Section 1001 provides that: Whoever, in any manner within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up any trick, scheme, or disguises a material fact or makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing same to contain any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or entry, shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years or both.”

Simplifying that statement, one could say, “”Whoever, in any manner…uses any false writing…knowing same to contain fictitious statements…shall be fined not more than $10K or imprisoned not more than 5 years or both.”

Shifting Stories

Against this backdrop, consider the number of inconsistencies between the original Army Corps’ public notice and Manlove’s new promotional website for the developer. Differences include:

  • The name of the applicant
  • The size of the development
  • The number of boats that the marina can hold
  • The amount of land being preserved for nature
  • Even the amount of fill being added to the floodplain, which is the main issue as far as the Corps is concerned.
Corps’ Public Notice states flood plain will be elevated from 45 to 57 feet, but developer’s web site now says more than 62 feet. This represents a loss of almost 2000 acre-feet of flood plain storage, but no compensating adjustments are disclosed.

In addition, the developers claim they have the right to develop high rises, but have shown no waiver of the deed restrictions that seemingly limit development to single-family residential.

All of these issues raise serious questions which the developer has refused to to address publicly. However, the Manlove-created web site does claim that they will meet AFTER the comment period is over. Sorry! That’s too late.

Inconsistencies in Second, Separate Permit, Too

The developer’s engineering contractor, CivilTech, applied for a permit in June, 2018, to begin excavating the marina. The company told the County that all excavated material would be hauled off site and sold. Based on these assurances, Harris County Flood Control had no objection and the City approved the excavation permit.

FOIA request of HCFCD records shows that excavation permit application was based on all material being hauled off site. However, the Corps Public Notice says it will be used to raise buildings.

Now, however, the Army Corps in its public notice says the fill will STAY on site to raise the elevation of buildings. Because the marina will immediately fill back up with river water, the fill dirt should reduce floodplain capacity.

Meanwhile, on February 12, 2019, Manlove published a statement in its promotional website for the developers stating that, “Both the City and County have approved construction and permits have been issued, they have determined that the community will not have an adverse effect on surrounding communities.” (sic)

Copy published by Manlove for developers on 2/12/2019.

Excavation, NOT Construction

To set the record straight, both the City and County deny that a) CONSTRUCTION permits have been issued, and b) that they have made any determination as to whether the high-rise development will adversely affect surrounding communities.

Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) did not object to an EXCAVATION permit based on assurances from the developer’s engineering contractor that the excavated material would be hauled away. The City evidently approved the EXCAVATION permit based on the fact that HCFCD did not object.

Luckily, excavation has not yet begun. Hopefully, this inconsistency will be addressed by the developers, their engineering firm and permitting agencies before excavation begins.

I’m not saying these inconsistencies are intentional. Things change. Perhaps CivilTech was planning to reapply for another permit that showed onsite storage of the excavated material. Perhaps the ad agency was unaware of the standard of disclosure that being the official point of contact demands.

Only One Thing is Certain

Only one thing is certain: Kingwood residents affected by this project deserve answers.

For starters, I’d like to know how a 50-story hotel and other commercial high rises can be built on property that’s apparently deed restricted to single-family residential. And then I’d like to know who’s behind this project and where their money comes from.

  • Dun & Bradstreet lists no assets for Romerica Investments, LLC (the permit applicant) and thinks the company is out of business,
  • After I pointed that out, Manlove then changed the copy in their promotional website to suggest that “Romerica Group” would be responsible.
  • But no entity by that name is registered with the Texas Secretary of State,
  • So Manlove again changed the copy. It now just says, “Romerica” will head the project.
  • News Flash: “Romerica” by itself isn’t registered with the Texas Secretary of State either.

Stop The Nonsense

It’s time for the Army Corps of Engineers to put a stop to this nonsense. The Corps should deny this permit.

As always, these are my opinions on matters of public policy. They are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Posted by Bob Rehak on Feb. 19, 2019

539 Days after Hurricane Harvey

How Corps Will Evaluate High-Rise Permit Application

Romerica Investments, LLC has applied for a permit to build a high-rise development in the floodplain of the San Jacinto River. They call the proposed development the Kingwood Marina Project. Because it involves adding 12 feet of fill material to the floodplain of the San Jacinto River, the Army Corps of Engineers has become involved. The Corps rules on any permit application that involves “discharge” of fill into “waters of the United States.”

Proposed layout for the Kingwood Marina Project.

The fill would stretch approximately three quarters of a mile from north to south along Woodland Hills Drive and approximately .85 miles from east to west on both sides of the Barrington. If you want to know what the Corps considers when making such rulings, or why and how the TCEQ interprets “water quality” for them, read on.

Public Interest Review

As a result of several recent laws and judicial decisions, the Corps’ permitting process has evolved to include consideration of the full public interest by balancing favorable impacts against detrimental impacts. This is known as the ‘‘public interest review.’’ We are at that stage now.

The Corps’ main criteria for evaluating applications includes four high-level considerations:

  • Need for the project
  • Extent and permanence of detrimental effects
  • Effect on wetlands
  • Relative weight of various additional factors

The additional factors below also apply to the proposed High-Rise Kingwood Marina Project:

  • Conservation
  • Economics
  • Aesthetics
  • General environmental concerns
  • Historic, cultural, scenic, and recreational values.
  • Fish and wildlife values
  • Flood hazards
  • Floodplain management
  • Land use
  • Navigation
  • Shore erosion and accretion
  • Recreation
  • Water supply and conservation
  • Water quality
  • Safety
  • Considerations of property ownership
  • Needs and welfare of the people

Public Interest Described in More Detail

“All factors which may be relevant to the proposal must be considered,” says the intro to Corps regulations on page 398. The regulations (33 CFR 320-332) then go into more detail on many of these factors. The regs elaborate on dozens of things that the law requires the Corps to evaluate.

Here’s my summary and interpretation of those that likely apply. Keep in mind that I’m looking at these with the proposed Kingwood Marina high-rise project in mind. So I have omitted some items that do not apply, such those for coastal developments. For the exact text of each, consult this Department of the Army legal document. I am not a lawyer and do not offer legal advice.

The regulations start with a discussion of four high-level, over-riding factors. 

The first thing reviewers look at is the “need for the project.” If needed, they then consider the extent and permanence of any detrimental effects relative to any benefits that the project provides.

In that regard, wetlands play a major role and get special mention. But the Corps also reviews the 17 other factors listed above that have to do with “the public interest.” Then they weigh them all – pros and cons. Something that’s very important on one project may carry no weight on another. The reviewers have wide latitude to use their own judgment.

What Does the Army Corps Consider Value of Wetlands to Be?

Section 320.4 B (2) I-iviii on page 398 states: Wetlands perform functions important to the public interest, such as:

  • Providing nesting, spawning, and rearing space for animals, birds and fish
  • Moderating natural drainage, sedimentation, salinity, flushing, and other environmental benefits
  • Shielding other areas from erosion or storm damage 
  • Storing storm and flood waters
  • Purifying water 
  • Providing unique natural value to a local area

Further section B (3) recognizes that although a particular alteration of a wetland may constitute a minor change, the cumulative effect of numerous piecemeal changes can result in major impairment of wetland resources. This section seems to say, “We can afford to lose some wetlands, but at a certain point, “Enough is enough!”

The Corps looks at each wetland as part of a complete and interrelated wetland environment. 

Corps Consults Others on Wetlands

The district engineer may undertake, where appropriate, reviews of particular wetland areas in consultation with the:

  • Regional Director of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Regional Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Local representative of the Soil Conservation Service of the Department of Agriculture
  • Head of the appropriate state agency to assess the cumulativeeffect of activities in such areas (TCEQ and/or TPWD).

The district engineer may conclude that the benefits of a project outweigh the damage to wetlands. However, when evaluating whether wetlands can be filled, the engineer must consider the guidelines in the Clean Water Act (Section 404(b)(1) guidelines (40 CFR part 230.10(a) (1), (2), (3)).

In addition, state regulatory laws or programs for classification and protection of wetlands must be considered.

Fish and Wildlife Considerations

In accordance with the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (paragraph 320.3(e) of this section) district engineers must consult with:

  • The Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • The head of the Texas Parks and Wildlife. 

The engineer must consider conservation of wildlife resources and preventing harm to them due to proposed permit activity. The Army must give full consideration to the views of those agencies when deciding whether to issue, deny or condition permits.

Water-Quality Considerations

Applications for permits for activities which may adversely affect the quality of waters of the United States will be evaluated for compliance with applicable effluent limitations and water quality standards, during the construction and subsequent operation of the proposed activity. The evaluation should include the consideration of both point and non-point sources of pollution. The Clean Water Act assigns responsibility for control of non-point sources of pollution to the states. In our case, that’s the TCEQ.

Scenic and Recreational Values

Full evaluation of the general public interest requires that due consideration be given to the effect which the proposed structure or activity may have on values such as those associated with scenic rivers.

Consideration of Property Ownership

Authorization of work or structures by the Corps does not convey a property right. Nor does it authorize any injury to property or invasion of others’ rights.

An inherent aspect of property ownership is a right to reasonable private use. However, this right is subject to the rights and interests of the public in the navigable and other waters of the United States. It includes environmental protection.

Because a landowner has the general right to protect property from erosion, applications to erect protective structures will usually receive favorable consideration. However, if the protective structure may cause damage to the property of others, adversely affect public health and safety, adversely impact floodplain or wetland values, or otherwise appears contrary to the public interest, the district engineer will so advise the applicant and inform him of possible alternative methods of protecting his property. 

A landowner’s general right of access to navigable waters may not create undue interference with access to, or use of, navigable waters by others. If it does, the authorization will generally be denied.

The applicant’s signature on an application is an affirmation that the applicant possesses or will possess the requisite property interest to undertake the activity proposed in the application

In the absence of overriding public-interest factors that may be revealed during the evaluation of the permit application, a permit will generally be issued. But first, the engineer must receive favorable state determination. That state determination must take into account:

Similarly, a permit will generally be issued for Federal and Federally-authorized activities; another federal agency’s determination to proceed is entitled to substantial considerationin the Corps’ public interest review.

Threatened Species

The Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) declares the intention of the Congress to conserve threatened and endangered species and the ecosystems on which those species depend. The Act requires that federal agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, use their authorities in furtherance of its purposes by carrying out programs for the conservation of threatened species, (editorial comment: such as the bald eagle which nests and feeds near this property).

Floodplain Management

Floodplains possess significant natural values and carry out numerous functions important to the public interest. These include:

  • Water-resources value (natural moderation of floods, water quality maintenance, and groundwater recharge);
  • Living-resource values (fish, wildlife, and plant resources);
  • Cultural-resource values (open space, natural beauty, scientific study, outdoor education, and recreation); and
  • Cultivated-resource values (agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry).

Although a particular alteration to a floodplain may constitute a minor change, the cumulative impact of such changes may result in a significant degradation of floodplain values and functions and in increased potential for harm to upstream and downstream activities.

Executive Order 11988 and Floodplains

In accordance with the requirements of Executive Order 11988, district engineers, as part of their public interest review, should avoid to the extent practicable, long and short term significant adverse impacts associated with the occupancy and modification of floodplains, as well as the direct and indirect support of floodplain development whenever there is a practicable alternative. For those activities which in the public interest must occur in or impact upon floodplains, the district engineer shall ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that the impacts of potential flooding on human health, safety, and welfare are minimized, the risks of flood losses are minimized, and, whenever practicable the natural and beneficial values served by floodplains are restored and preserved.

In accordance with Executive Order 11988, the district engineer should avoid authorizing floodplain developments whenever practicable alternatives exist outside the floodplain.If there are no such practicable alternatives, the district engineer shall consider, as a means of mitigation, alternatives within the floodplain which will lessen any significant adverse impact to the floodplain.

Water Supply and Conservation

Water is an essential resource, basic to human survival, economic growth, and the natural environment. Water conservation requires the efficient use of water resources in all actions which involve the significant use of water or that significantly affect the availability of water for alternative uses including opportunities to reduce demand and improve efficiency in order to minimize new supply requirements. Actions affecting water quantities are subject to Congressional policy as stated in section 101(g) of the Clean Water Act which provides that the authority of states to allocate water quantities shall not be superseded, abrogated, or otherwise impaired.


Protection of navigation in all navigable waters of the United States continues to be a primary concern of the federal government.

District engineers should protect navigational and anchorage interests in connection with the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) program by recommending to EPA or to the state, if the program has been delegated, that a permit be denied unless appropriate conditions can be included to avoid any substantial impairment of navigation and anchorage.

The NPDES permit program addresses water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States.

Environmental Benefits

Some activities that require Department of the Army permits result in beneficial effects to the quality of the environment. The district engineer will weigh these benefits as well as environmental detriments along with other factors of the public interest.


When private enterprise makes application for a permit, it will generally be assumed that appropriate economic evaluations have been completed, the proposal is economically viable, and is needed in the market place.However, the district engineer in appropriate cases, may make an independent review of the need for the project from the perspective of the overall public interest. The economic benefits of many projects are important to the local community and contribute to needed improvements in the local economic base, affecting such factors as employment, tax revenues, community cohesion, community services, and property values. Many projects also contribute to the National Economic Development (NED), (i.e., the increase in the net value of the national output of goods and services

Deadline for Comments Extended to March 1

Because of the prolonged government shutdown, the Army Corps has extended the deadline for public comments on the proposed Kingwood Marina high-rise development.

Comments and requests for additional information should reference USACE file number, SWG-2016-00384, and should be submitted to:


Evaluation Branch, North Unit
Regulatory Division, CESWG-RD-E
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 1229
Galveston, Texas 77553-1229
409-766-3869 Phone
409-766-6301 Fax


The TCEQ will evaluate water quality issues for the Corps. You can email water quality comments to  401certs@tceq.texas.gov.  Please ensure that all comments reference USACE permit application no. SWG-2016-00384.

Rehak Comments To Follow

As I have studied the Corps’ and TCEQ’s decision-making processes and criteria, I have also studied possible impacts of the proposed high-rise project. I intend to send my comments to the Corps, TCEQ, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the EPA. I will publish those when complete – hopefully by the end of this week.

As always, these represent my opinions on matters of public policy. They are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/31/2019

520 Days since Hurricane Harvey

KSA Adds to Growing Chorus of Concerns Over Proposed New High-Rise Development

Thursday night, the Kingwood Service Association (KSA) added its voice to the growing chorus concerned about a proposed high-rise development in the floodplain near River Grove Park. KSA is the largest private group in the Kingwood area. It represents more than 30 community associations, which comprise more than 70,000 residents. It also manages the five private parks in the Kingwood area including two adjacent to the proposed development along Woodland Hills Drive.

The letter addresses concerns that BOTH the TCEQ and Army Corps will consider during the permit evaluation process. TCEQ rules on water quality issues (Clean Water Act Section 401) for the Corps. The Corps rules on Section 404 concerns.

The applicant, Romerica Investments, LLC must respond to every concern submitted by residents. So email them now or forever hold your peace.

Here is the text of KSA’s letter, which is also linked on the High Rise Page in the right hand column. I inserted the pictures and captions into KSA’s letter; they are not part of the original. I put them there to help illustrate the concerns for people who may not be familiar with all of the issues surrounding this controversial development.

Text of KSA Letter

Evaluation Branch, North Unit
Regulatory Division, CESWG-RD-E
Galveston District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 1229
Galveston, Texas 77553-1229

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
401 Coordinator
P.O. Box 13087
Austin, Texas 78711-3087

Re: Permit Application No. SWG-2016-00384, Romerica Investments, LLC

Dear Corps and TCEQ,

Enclosed are the comments of the Kingwood Service Association, regarding the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Galveston District, Section 10/404 proposed Permit Application No. SWG-2016-00384, Romerica Investments, LLC, located in waters of the United States (U.S.) and wetlands adjacent to the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, Kingwood, Harris County, Texas.

The Kingwood Service Association (KSA) is a Kingwood-wide homeowners association representing thirty-two (32) residential and commercial associations in the Kingwood area. The following comments are being made on behalf of Kingwood residents concerned about the impact of the proposed development on the Kingwood community.

KSA owns and operates two parks adjacent to the proposed permit area, River Grove Park and Deer Ridge Park. During Hurricane Harvey, both of these parks flooded with 10 to 20 feet of water. River Grove Park is located on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River between the river and the proposed commercial and residential areas. This park was covered by 20 feet of water. As the flood waters receded, it left 6 feet of sand covering half of the park area. River Grove Park has flooded at least 6 times in the past 12 months. This experience raises serious concerns about the environmental impact of a development that calls for adding fill material to approximately 330 acres located north and east of River Grove Park, and which would raise the grade level of the area 12 feet from 45 feet to 57 feet.

We are very concerned about the overall impact of this development on the community because it would be built where Hurricane Harvey created some of the worst flooding in 100-year or greater floodplains/floodways; will fill and displace about 200 acres of 100-year floodplain/floodway, which will raise water levels and increase the possibility of flooding for others; will fill in wetlands that are crucial for soaking up water and reduced flows, velocities, and increased sedimentation of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River in its 100-year floodplain/floodway; is subject to further flooding in the future; and destroys more of the natural beauty, water quality, and wildlife habitat of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.

In the review of this permit application, we ask the Corps to consider all relevant public interest review factors in 33 CFR 320-332 including conservation, economics, aesthetics, air quality, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, and the needs and general welfare of the people.

We think that, at a minimum, the following areas should be addressed by USACE and TCEQ during the permitting process.

1. This proposal will fill 42.35 acres of wetlands with 68,323 cubic yards of fill material on 331.45 acres and fill 771 linear feet of streams with 285 cubic yards of fill material. There are significant concerns about the environmental impact of the elimination of 42.35 acres of wetlands. These concerns fall into the following areas:

a. Elimination of a natural area inhabited by eagles, deer, and other animals native to the area without sufficient mitigation in the same watershed.

Nesting bald eagles, a protected species, on West Fork of San Jacinto. Photo courtesy of Emily Murphy. The Houston Police Deportment Lake Patrol has reportedly sighted seven other eagle’s nests in the area, according to Murphy who frequently kayaks the river.

b. Decrease in the quality of the water supply for the City of Houston, which is downstream of the development, as a result of the increase in erosion and increase in deposition of sediment caused by the elimination of wetlands and the increase in infrastructure.

One of the drainage ditches that the proposed high-rise development would use is so over-burdened, that incision already is threatening existing development. Any addition to flow would destroy properties.

c. Decrease in the quality of the water supply for the City of Houston caused by the contamination of water run-off by the addition of parking spaces for 8,000 plus vehicles that could increase contaminants, such as motor oil, being washed into the San Jacinto River.

d. Increase of erosion and acceleration of deposition of sediment due to an increase in the speed of water run-off caused by the additional infrastructure, elimination of wetlands, and increase in grade level of the area.

High-rises for the proposed development would fill in wetlands where eagles fish and nest. The high-rises would also be built in an old meander of the San Jacinto West Fork, which contains unstable soil that is prone to flooding.

e. Determine the impact of filling in 42.35 acres of wetlands on eagles nesting in that area. Eagle nests have been spotted in the vicinity by Kingwood residents.

Eagles nest on the 16th hole of Kingwood Country Club’s Island Course, immediately adjacent to the proposed high-rise development.

2. Impact on the ability for residents to use the recreational facilities as a result of the increase in flooding caused by the increase of grade level from 45 feet to 57 feet that would inhibit the flow of water during significant rain events and cause the acceleration of water run-off potentially increasing erosion and accelerating the deposition of sediment in the San Jacinto River.

3. Economic impact on the villages immediately surrounding the development area as a result of the potential increase in flooding caused by the development. This could cause a significant decrease in the value of the homes located in these villages.

4. Economic impact on the community that would be caused by adding 8,000 plus vehicles to the traffic patterns of the community without a plan to mitigate this impact. The increase of this much traffic in a single area would have a negative impact on the attractiveness of purchasing a home in Kingwood, which has a reputation for being the “Liveable Forest”.

5. Completion of an environmental impact study before further consideration of this permit application. This study should include a full hydrological study of the project’s impact, an environmental impact to the large wetlands habitat without mitigation in the same watershed, and socioeconomic impact of such a huge development on an existing master planned community.

6. Impact on boat navigation on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River caused by the potential addition of 640 boats. Navigation on the West Fork has been impaired for decades and getting worse due to the acceleration of sediment deposition caused, in part, by sand mines upstream of the project area. This development has the potential to add to that sediment deposition.

This sand bar is currently not being addressed by the Emergency West Fork Dredging Project. It backs water up throughout the Humble/Kingwood area where thousands of homes and businesses flooded during Harvey. Erosion caused by the new development would add more sediment, make the marina useless, and destroy FEMA’s investment in dredging to date.

7. Require the applicant to provide documentation about how it will provide for operation and maintenance dredging of the site so that Section 10 navigation will continue over the lifetime of the development and after floods.

We are requesting that the Corps schedule a public hearing on this application to allow residents to gather additional information on the proposed development and provide further comments. In addition, considering the potential significant negative impact of this development on the community, we request that the Corps and TCEQ seriously consider denying this permit application.

We appreciate this opportunity to provide public comment on this proposed permit application.

Dee M. Price, President
Kingwood Service Association

Feel free to echo these concerns or add to them in your letters to the Army Corps and TCEQ.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/19/19

509 Days since Hurricane Harvey