Amazon is building a new transportation center on the east side of I-69 just south of the Grand Parkway. Two months ago, this site was little more than dirt. Now, there’s a building with a roof, parking lots and detention ponds. I took all the pictures below on Sunday, 7/17/21.
Amazon’s Prime Location
Amazon’s location will position the company to take advantage of growth made possible by the extension of the Grand Parkway east of I-69. A logistical bonus: the site lies less than 10 miles from Bush Intercontinental Airport.
The giant box-like structure looks like a concrete monolith from the freeway. It has all the charm of the cardboard boxes that will flow through here in a few months. But the relentless pursuit of cost-cutting makes Amazon popular, not architectural charm and uniqueness.
Community Impact says Amazon will bring about 300 full-time jobs to the Porter area, starting at $15 per hour. Amazon will open three more similar facilities in the Houston area this year.
Environment – a Fragile Package
Amazon’s relentless expansion mirrors the growth of the Houston metropolitan area itself. As a concrete jungle replaces the natural jungle, we must all remain vigilant to ensure detention ponds retain runoff in heavy rains and that wetlands are preserved. Too often, the push to pave over every square inch of property increases downstream flooding.
Development is inevitable. But flooding is not if the development is done responsibly.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/17/2021
1419 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.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/20210718-DJI_0090.jpg?fit=1200%2C799&ssl=17991200adminadmin2021-07-18 11:24:462021-07-18 11:44:08Amazon Expands the Concrete Jungle
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/20200619-DJI_0205.jpg?fit=1200%2C900&ssl=19001200adminadmin2020-06-20 14:57:582020-06-20 14:58:16Perry Contractors Now Focusing on Finish Work for Detention Ponds
Aerial photos taken Monday this week (5/11/2020) show that Perry Homes’ contractors appear to be partially blocking drainage that serves dozens of homes on the western side of Woodridge Village in Porter. With heavy rain expected this weekend, residents like Gretchen Dunlap Smith are nervous.
Homes Flooded Twice Last Year by Water that Could Not Get Out of Neighborhood
Many of those homes flooded twice last year, in May and September, just as homes in Elm Grove did.
The issue with these homes, however, was that water could not get out of the neighborhood because of altered drainage.
Water drains to the east (left) into the drainage ditch along the perimeter of Woodridge, and then south toward the top of the photo to Taylor Gully.
Jeff Lindner, Harris County meteorologist said this afternoon, “Expect a line or complex of slow-moving thunderstorms to move across SE TX Saturday starting out west in the morning and spreading across the area throughout the day. There will be a low severe threat with this activity, but the main threat will be heavy rainfall.
That gives contractors one day, Friday, to clean out that ditch to avoid another possible flood and more possible lawsuits.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/14/2020
989 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 238 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.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/20200511-RJR_2893.jpg?fit=1200%2C1036&ssl=110361200adminadmin2020-05-14 21:14:322020-05-14 21:14:44Perry Contractors Encroaching on Porter Drainage Ditch West of Woodridge Village
More than 200 homes flooded near Taylor Gully on May 7th that had never flooded before. The ditch winds through Porter, Woodridge Village, Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. Homes on all four sides of the new development flooded after contractors altered drainage when clearing the land.
LJA Surveyors Worked over Weekend in Elm Grove
Additional still photos taken last Sunday by Nancy Vera also show LJA Surveying the streets of Elm Grove. Vera asked them what they were doing and the surveyors professed (or feigned) ignorance. They said the reason they were there was “above our pay grade,” according to Vera.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/17/2019 with contributions from Jeff Miller and Nancy Vera
687 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/IMG_2635.jpg?fit=640%2C480&ssl=1480640adminadmin2019-07-17 21:03:042019-07-17 21:17:27Video shows Taylor Gully Restoration Reaching County Line; Giant Berm Now Separating Elm Grove and Woodridge
Some more bad news surfaced today for the people whose drainage has been affected by Woodridge Village construction activity. Rebel Contractors has built up the level of Woodridge before installing drainage between Woodridge and neighbors. As a result, water has ponded in Porter yards for months and damaged their property. Then, to add insult to injury, about a week after finally erecting a long-awaited silt fence, Rebel Contractors covered it with dirt.
Woodridge: The Yates Family Curse
Chris Yates, who lives at 25395 Needham Road in Porter, sent me these pictures today. They show how construction activity has affected his property. First up: two BEFORE shots showing his happy family in front of the Woodridge site.
Contractor Should Have Maintained Positive Drainage at All Times
Almost 4 Feet of Standing Water Before Any Drains Away
More Out-of-Sequence Construction?
Yates, whose father owned a clearing/grading business, worked in the family business when younger and said that on a site like this, they typically installed drainage first thing. The reason: ponding water slows down construction. “Even though it takes time, it saves time,” said Yates. “You can’t work when the site is wet. Construction on this site seems to be out of sequence.”
Yates also said that he had talked to the developer and learned they were six months behind schedule. One can only wonder whether the delayed installation of drainage had anything to do with the construction delays.
This and detention ponds were not the only out-of-sequence construction that neighbors have suffered through. Silt fences should have been installed before clear cutting started. Instead, they were put up almost a year later.
Chris Yates must feel at this point as though he’s Rodney Dangerfield. “Can’t get no respect.” Let’s hope he and the hundreds of other families affected by Woodridge construction find some before this is all over.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/1/2019 with images courtesy of Chris and Tammy Yates of Porter
641 Days since Hurricane Harvey
All thoughts expressed in this post are my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Yates-Muck-Today.jpg?fit=700%2C933&ssl=1933700adminadmin2019-05-31 23:10:392019-06-01 00:00:20Woodridge Problems Still Piling Up for Porter Resident Chris Yates
To date, most of the press coverage about the May 7th flood has focused on Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest to the south of the new Woodridge Village development. However, the flood also affected many homes in Porter to the west of it. This is an interview with Gretchen Dunlap-Smith in Porter whose home was built in 1994. It flooded for the first time – after Woodridge Village started clearcutting and grading the land next to her, and wetlands disappeared.
“This Area Never Flooded”
Rehak: Has this area ever flooded before?
Dunlap-Smith: This area never flooded.
Rehak: How far back does “never” go?
Dunlap-Smith: I grew up in the Kingwood area. My parents moved here in late 1976. We had 2.5 acres off of Hueni. My brother built this house in ‘94. So I’ve known this home since its inception. I saw it being built. One house at the end of the block did get water in it, but none of the other houses ever flooded. Ever!
Rehak: What do you think caused the flooding on May 7th?
Dunlap-Smith: (Pointing to bulldozers in the distance) The construction down there. That’s the only thing that’s changed. During Harvey, there was never any fear, threat, or worry in my mind that “I’m going to have water in my home.” Ever! During Harvey, during the Tax Day flood and all the stuff before that…never any concern. This (pointing to the construction again) changed the game.
We used to ride four wheelers on that property so I know there used to be a huge detention ditch and a huge pond. There used to be a natural creek down off of the end that went up to the wood line. From what I’ve been seeing and what I’ve been told, they backfilled all that in. The wetlands disappeared.
Ditches No Longer Drain
Dunlap-Smith: Even now, the ditches don’t drain. Our ditches drained before. They never had standing water in them. You look at the ditches now and you will see green algae and moss growing in them. We never had that before. We could mow our ditches. They were dry, because the water drained. And now it doesn’t do that.
Rehak: Where did the water go before?
Dunlap-Smith: It went to the end of the road and flowed out.
Rehak: And now it’s getting to the end of the road and stopping?
Dunlap-Smith: Right. Now it’s backing up and flooding the street.
Rehak: Were you blocked in on May 7th?
Dunlap-Smith: We got out Tuesday night when the rain receded a little bit…for like 3 hours. The water went down enough to where I felt comfortable going through it with our Nissan Altima.
Ditches Became Invisible in Flood
Rehak: These ditches are kind of…deep. If you didn’t know they were there…!!!
Dunlap-Smith: Yeah! You could really do some damage. Or worse, drown yourself in your car.
Rehak: How many homes in your subdivision were affected?
Dunlap-Smith: I don’t have a count. But I know that several homes flooded on our street and other streets in the subdivision.
Rehak: How high did the water get?
Dunlap-Smith: A couple inches in our house. Deeper in others.
Rehak: How much did you lose?
Saved by the Peaches!
Dunlap-Smith: Carpet. I was able to get some furniture up onto soup cans and big jars of peaches.
I put most of our furniture up on stuff like that. Hopefully, I may be able to salvage a couple rooms of carpet. Most of my house was tiled by my brother and sister. So the only rooms that had carpet were my living room and my three bedrooms.
Rehak: Is there any concern that the water got under the tile?
Dunlap-Smith: I talked to a couple people about that. I have two dehumidifiers that have been going non-stop since the day after the flood. Those haven’t quit. I’m dumping them constantly.
Cleaning Up the House Without Flood Insurance
Rehak: How long did it take the water to recede? When you came back the next day was it out?
Dunlap-Smith: It was out of the streets.
Rehak: How about the house?
Dunlap-Smith: No. The house…I had to pull every bit of carpet out. It had not receded.
Rehak: Did you have to squeegee it out?
Dunlap-Smith: That carpet was a soaking wet mess! You see that shop vac behind you? That’s a wet/dry shop vac.
You know, this isn’t a flood zone. When we bought the home, we weren’t required to have flood insurance. We called our agent after the flood and he said we weren’t covered, but we could get coverage for four or five hundred dollars per year. But it wouldn’t activate for 30 days.
“You Sunk Us”
Dunlap-Smith: My neighbor told me that they were down there digging a ditch line, trying to open up the drainage again from the damage they had done. But you’ve already damaged natural drainage. You changed and affected how the flow goes. So I don’t care what you do now. You sunk us.
Rehak: Their plan shows a huge detention pond up in the northwestern corner of this land that they clearcut. And then there’s a linear ditch running inside their property all the way down to the bottom.
Dunlap-Smith: Right. But that ditch is not there. And if you look down Ivy Ridge, every home has trash in front because every one of them flooded.
“They Will Never Build on that Property”
The gentleman behind us, when he bought his house, told us there was an easement on that property. He was told they would never build on that property and not to worry. And here they are (pointing to construction).
Rehak: I’ve heard that same story from a dozen different people!
Dunlap-Smith: You get told something and you take it as gospel truth. And you run with it. You don’t check. You don’t research it. You just believe it because they’ve been honest up until now. Which is unfortunate.
Rehak: Do you have any idea what the financial loss is so far?
Counting Her Blessings, Minus the PTSD
Dunlap-Smith: Not really. Honestly, I counted my blessings. It could have been a lot worse. I saw what those people in Elm Grove were hit with. And my husband lost everything in the ’94 flood, including his whole family home. He lived right behind where Reeves furniture used to be on 59. It’s an antique store now. He lived on Treasure Lane. In ’89 there was a flood. They lost everything. But then the one in ’94 really did them in.
As far as the financial? I’m grateful. I know it could have been worse. But I know there’s been a huge emotional cost. It triggered PTSD in my husband.
Praying as the Water Rose
Dunlap-Smith: My husband is 6’4”. Not a little guy. He dwarfs me. Works for the Harris County Sherriff’s office. Takes down inmates every day. He’s not a timid guy.
When water was coming in the house, he sat down with his head in his hands and had tears. And I’ve never seen him cry.
We both were under stress. Water’s coming in our house. I have our dogs in a kennel. And I realized then…oh my gosh. The dogs are standing in water inside their kennels. So I moved them up. My husband and I were both getting a little snippy, which isn’t in our nature. There we were. Standing up to our ankles in water in the middle of our living room. He grabbed my hand and I grabbed his, and it’s like, “OK, right here. Right now. We’re praying. Stop. We have to see this for what it is not. It’s not as bad as it could be. And now he’s seeing that.
That Sour Smell
Rehak: Are you going to have to pull out wallboard and electrical?
Dunlap-Smith: I don’t think so. That’s why I said, “I’m counting my blessings.”
Dunlap-Smith: (sighs heavily). Probably. After the first three or four days, I could smell the sour. There was a heavy sour smell. Not so much mildew, but sour.
May 15th was the deadline to dispute our taxes and ours went up like $10,000. So I’m disputing them. I fired off a letter. (She begins reciting complaints in the letter.) “Are we going to be in a flood plain now?” “Are we going to require flood insurance?” We’re not a high-income neighborhood. We don’t have money to throw at that stuff.
Rehak: What kind of assistance have you gotten from Montgomery County so far?
Dunlap-Smith: I would like to get those sticky floor tiles at cost or at a highly discounted rate. I don’t know. I would like to get a dehumidifier because they’re not doing squat about this or taking accountability. My husband and I don’t have credit cards that we can buy things with.
We bought two dehumidifiers out of our pocket. That was nearly 500 dollars. You’re living paycheck to paycheck and you want to fix your house back. My Aunt told me to call Red Cross. But I’m not going to take money out of somebody’s hands that I can see needs it more than I do. I’m not going to do that.
Wants Developer to Restore Drainage
Rehak: Let me rephrase the question. In regard to your development, what would you like to see Montgomery County and the developer do?
Dunlap-Smith: For starters, come in and dig out the ditches. Maybe lower the streets to create more capacity for the water before it gets into our homes.
Rehak: And in regard to that new development going in over there?
Dunlap-Smith: I would love to see the County force the developer to create a true, correct drainage ditch.
Rehak: Do you think the county is even aware that you flooded?
Dunlap-Smith: No. They sent out a message on Twitter saying, “Contact us if you had any flooding.” I don’t think they have any clue.
We had water backing up and leaking from our toilet. Our tub was filling up with this noxious looking water and a septic smell. It was brown.
No, I don’t think the county knows that it happened in a place that it’s never happened before. The developer says they aren’t the culprit. But they changed the drainage. And they’ve gone too far to turn back.
Rehak: You can’t put back nature the way it was.
Dunlap-Smith: Agreed. I wish the county could force them to create drainage. This flooding will happen again if things stay as they are.
Reluctant to Water Plants
Rehak: How do you feel about your future here?
Note: As with other flood victims I have interviewed, curiously, Ms. Dunlap-Smith thinks in terms of tomorrow, not next year.
Dunlap-Smith: We have a little joke here. Every time I water my plants, it rains. For some people it’s washing their cars. But I told my husband this morning that, “I’m afraid to water my plants.” So … if that tells you anything. (Laughing) I’d rather let the plants die.
At least four lawyers have discussed filing suits on behalf of neighbors against Figure Four Partners and Rebel Contractors. The Webster and Spurlock law firms alone initially filed suits earlier this week on behalf of approximately 100 plaintiffs and added approximately 80 more by the end of the week. So you would think the defendants would be on their best behavior. But never underestimate the chutzpah of men who drive bulldozers. Here’s what happened.
Though Shalt Not Dump, Especially When Being Sued
After interviewing a Porter flood victim, I was heading north on Webb Street past the entrance to the northern portion of the Woodridge job site, when suddenly, a large piece of earthmoving equipment shot out in front of me. The operator dumped a load of sticks and mulch into the ditch of a neighbor on the far side of the street. My jaw dropped! I grabbed my camera and photographed this sequence while waiting to get through. It shows him scraping mulch into the neighbor’s drainage ditch.
When the operator saw my camera, he backed into the work site and ducked around the corner.
Later that evening, one of the neighbors took the photo below at the same location. It shows that the operator dropped muchmore mulch into the neighbor’s ditch after I left.
Property Owner Did Not Request Mulch
I returned Friday to talk to the owner of this property who wishes to remain anonymous. He says he did NOT ask the contractor to dump the mulch there, NOR did he give them permission to dump it. They just dumped it.
He theorized that it might be a feeble attempt to repair the road. However, to me, it looked more like an attempt to cover up road damage. But that didn’t work well either. As I photographed the pile the next morning…
By Saturday, Even More Dumping on Neighbor
Link Between Dumping and Street Flooding
During the next big rain, this mulch will likely wash away and block the neighbor’s culvert. When that happens, his property will flood AGAIN…on what will probably be a smaller rain.
The homeowner said that the contractor had “assured him” that they would fix the street before they left. However, he also assured me that they had not given him anything in writing.
You Can’t Put Lipstick on Bulldozers
In the meantime, Perry Homes (whose subsidiaries own this property and hired the contractor) has reportedly brought in a high-powered PR team to help shore up their image on this project, Jim McGrath and Chris Begala. Begala and McGrath have strong political ties that include former presidents! Interesting that Perry Homes thinks this is a PR problem and not a quality-control problem.
Suggestion: Just Widen Your Driveway
You don’t have to drive or dump on others’ property. You don’t have to destroy a public street. Just widen YOUR driveway. There’s plenty of room. You have 268 acres!
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/19/2019
628 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/NorthSection_12.jpg?fit=1500%2C1000&ssl=110001500adminadmin2019-05-18 23:09:132019-05-19 08:38:11Caught On Camera: Woodridge Contractor Dumping on Neighbor’s Property