Tag Archive for: Porter

Another RV Resort Coming Near North End of Woodland Hills Drive

Yet another “RV Resort” is coming to the Kingwood/Porter area. This one will be at the north end of Woodland Hills Drive about a block north of Kingwood Park High School. Plans show parking for 43 RVs on the 4.4 acre property.

The Porter Strong RV Resort, which contains a recreation building, dumpsters, and concrete driveways, will back up to homes along Birchwood Springs Avenue in Woodridge Forest.

The drainage calculations look impressive…until you consider the way they estimated impervious cover.

Location map from construction plans obtained via a FOIA Request to MoCo Engineering. Note: High School is mislabeled. Should say, “Kingwood Park High School.”

Access from Porter For Now

Access to the RV resort – at least for now – will be via Needham Road and Collette Lane in Porter. However, plans show a dotted line for an extension of Woodland Hills Drive, which currently stops approximately 300 feet short of the development. It’s not immediately clear whether Montgomery County or the developer plans to extend Woodland Hills north at this time.

Drainage and Detention Plans

For the full construction and drainage plans, click here.

Drainage in this area flows south to Bens Branch. Note in the layout above that two 7-foot-deep, dry-bottom, stormwater-detention basins flanked by drainage swales will help intercept stormwater flowing south before it reaches adjoining properties.

FEMA shows no floodplains in the area and USGS shows no wetlands on the site.

The detention basins for the 4.4 acre site will hold 4.4 acre feet of stormwater before they start to overflow. That exceeds Harris County Flood Control District’s minimum recommendation for areas flowing into Harris County.

Moreover, the engineer claims the site only requires 3.4 acre feet in a 100-year storm. That calculation is based on Atlas-14 requirements adopted by Montgomery County.

The engineer indicates that the maximum discharge rate for the ponds, which will be pumped, is about 8 cubic feet per second less than the natural runoff rate for the site. So for everything up to the 100-year storm, runoff going into Bens Branch from this area should be reduced.

All that is good news. Now for the bad news.

The engineer seems to have based all those calculations on 29% impervious cover.

That seems unlikely for this type of project. The number of parking spots per acre is roughly equivalent to the Laurel Springs RV resort which claimed to have 66% impervious cover, but likely has much higher.

Best practices require excluding detention basins from impervious cover calculations. A quick glance at the construction diagram above suggests that concrete will cover much more than a third of the remaining property.

Also, the engineer says it will take 48 hours to drain the ponds after a 100-year rain. The ponds do not appear to empty by gravity, however. They will require pumps, which could present problems in a power outage. Such outages frequently occur in storms strong enough to create floods.

Pictures Taken on 2/1/24 Show Extent of Construction

Currently, the site is being cleared. Construction has not yet started. I took the shots below on 2/1/24. They show the extent of clearing as of last week.

Looking SW at construction site. Woodland Hills and Kingwood Park HS on left. Northpark Rec Area top center. Homes are in Woodridge Forest.

Looking W toward Woodridge Middle School at top of frame.
Reverse Angle. Looking E toward Woodridge Village. Surrounding areas already include a number of mobil homes and RVs.

Bens Branch Getting Crowded

I hope contractors build what the plans indicate. Bens Branch has enough flooding problems of its own. The Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis showed that parts of the stream could flood in a two-year rain.

Since that study, several high-density developments have been built nearby in the watershed. They include The Preserve at Woodridge, which apparently understated the amount of impervious cover, and Brooklyn Trails, which was grandfathered under pre-Atlas-14 requirements.

And then there’s the Northpark Drive Expansion Project, which is seeking more room for another detention basin to mitigate its own increases in impervious cover.

For now, the best thing to do is remain vigilant.

Posted by Bob Rehak on Feb. 7, 2024

2353 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.

Amazon Expands the Concrete Jungle

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.

Looking NNW across the future Amazon site toward the intersection of I-69 and SH99.
Walls are up and the roof is on. A nice touch, from a flood-reduction point of view, is the preservation of what appear to wetlands in the foreground and other portions of the site. See the construction plans here.
White Oak Creek and its floodplain (wooded area in center) form the northern boundary of the Amazon site.
According to Community Impact newspaper, Amazon hopes to open the facility late this year. The site has three detention ponds, all visible in this shot, which is looking south. They are in the foreground, upper left, and near the freeway in the upper right.
Looking SW across the new building and I-69. Note the big cleared area in the distance and see below.
No progress since the last report in early May across the highway at Signorelli’s planned medical center complex.

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.

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

Perry Contractors Encroaching on Porter Drainage Ditch West of Woodridge Village

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.

Looking south toward Kingwood along the western edge of Woodridge Village in Montgomery County.

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.

This enlargement, cropped from the photo above, shows how the perimeter road is pushing into the drainage ditch for homes in the older Adams Oaks subdivision to the right.
Hovering over Flower Ridge in Porter and looking southeast. Note how workers have pushed past Perry’s own silt fence (upper right) that marked the old edge of the ditch and how dirt from construction is now collapsing into the ditch.

Heavy Rainfall Forecast for Saturday

After months of inactivity, it’s gratifying to see workers hustling again. But as the old saying goes, “Haste makes waste.” Forecasters are predicting widespread heavy rains this weekend. Predictions range from 2 to 4 inches, with pockets up to 6 inches.

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. 

As of Thursday, NOAA and the National Weather Service predict heavy rains and possible flash flooding across all of SE Texas.

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.

Video shows Taylor Gully Restoration Reaching County Line; Giant Berm Now Separating Elm Grove and Woodridge

Elm Grove resident Jeff Miller submitted two more videos and a still photo today. They show:

Harris County Flood Control crews restoring conveyance of Taylor Gully near Harris/Montgomery County line. Video courtesy of Jeff Miller.
Woodridge S2 Detention Pond, immediately upstream from Elm Grove on Taylor Gully. Video courtesy of Jeff Miller.

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.

LJA Surveying crew working in Elm Grove on Saturday, July 13, 2019. LJA Surveying is a subsidiary of LJA Engineers, the company hired by the developer of Woodridge Village. Note dumpster in background. Families are still repairing homes more than two months after the May 7th flood. Image courtesy of Nancy Vera.
LJA Surveying Truck in Elm Grove. Note: glare caused by shooting photo through windshield. Image courtesy of Nancy Vera.

I’m not sure what’s going on here. It may have something to do with the countersuit by the subsidiaries of Perry Homes. They allege, in part, that the flooding on May 7th is not their fault “because Plaintiffs assumed the risk that resulted in Plaintiffs’ alleged damages.” (See Point #10, page 5). However, their lawsuit does not specify what they mean by that.

I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that they’re going to claim that some of the homes were in the 100- and 500-year flood plains. Of course, that ignores the fact that none of those homes had every flooded before, not even in Harvey.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/17/2019 with contributions from Jeff Miller and Nancy Vera

687 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Woodridge Problems Still Piling Up for Porter Resident Chris Yates

Photo looking west toward Yates property just out of frame on right. Developer continues to build site up relative to neighbors – before installing drainage. This has created problems for Chris Yates and his neighbors in Porter.

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.

Yates’ daughter Amber in back yard before clearcutting began. Looking east. A small ditch ran through the tree line which forms the property line between Yates and Woodridge. Note the telephone lines at the top of the picture for reference in subsequent photos.
Yates with family in happier times. This was taken after construction began but before water started piling up. Note piles of dirt being stacked up on Woodridge property in background.
After clearcutting and grading of the Woodridge property in the background, water started collecting in Yates’ yard. This rain fell in March and remained there until Friday, May 31, when Yates pumped it out.

Contractor Should Have Maintained Positive Drainage at All Times

Page 6/Point 12 of the Woodridge Village Detention Plan states that, “Contractor shall maintain positive drainage from construction site at all times. Any damage to existing ditch system as the result of the contractor’s activities shall be repaired to existing or better conditions.” Oops! Neighbors up and down the western border of Woodridge have experienced stagnant water. Some have even experienced flooding.

Almost 4 Feet of Standing Water Before Any Drains Away

The Yates back yard on May 7. Their four-foot fence is barely visible in these two shots taken as water built up. It could not drain away according to Yates until the stormwater crested at a high point to the south between his home and Sherwood Trails..
This recent shot shows how the standing water killed Yates’ grass. Silty runoff ponded for two months.
Today, Yates pumped the water out to his street drain. It took him eight hours, pumping at 3,700 gallons per hour. While this kind of damage does not compare to the loss of a home, I’m sharing this story because it seems to illustrate the contractor’s disregard for the problems it causes neighbors.
Yates raises several animals on his property but has had to keep them caged for months because of the standing water.
Detention plans show that developer knew runoff was moving west to east toward development.
Page 12 of the Water, Sanigtary Sewer and Drainage Facilities & Paving Appurtenances Plan shows that developer was expecting to compensate for 10-aces of offside drainage from the Yates neighborhood, but didn’t start installing the storm drains for months, until well after three heavy May rains.
Looking north from Yates back yard along western boundary of Woodridge. Note the standing water between development and neighbors. The Woodridge side of the property (right) was elevated approximately 3 feet before drainage was installed. Photo taken 5/31/2019.
Plans show that this drain should eventually handle water that collects between Yates’ property and Woodridge. Question: Why wasn’t this installed before the Woodridge property was elevated? Said Yates who has years of construction experience, “Drainage is put in by elevation so this could have been put in before building up.” Photo taken 5/31/2019.

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 sequencing complaint echoed the concerns of Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest residents. They flooded, in part, because the developer clear cut the entire 268 acres before installing critical detention ponds.

The Silt Fence Saga: Part 2

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.

Additionally, the developer finally installed silt fences last week. The developer was supposed to install them before clearcutting began. For months, residents complained about sand, silt and clay pouring out of the construction site into streets and storm drains. Then about a week or so ago, after a complaint to the TCEQ triggered an investigation, silt fences finally appeared. Now they are buried under dirt again.

1-2 Week old silt fence … buried under silt. Said Yates, “What’s the point of silt fences if you are piling dirt on top of them an on the other side of them?” Photo taken 5/31/2019.

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.

Gretchen Dunlap-Smith’s Flood Experience: “You Sunk Us”

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.

USGS National Wetlands Inventory shows that government classified much of the northern section of Woodridge as wetlands (dark green overlays). Porter borders Woodridge Village to the west. Smith home located in white circle.

“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.

Note dirt pushed in ditch along western edge of Woodridge Village. Homes from the north end of this development in Porter all the way down to Mace and Joseph streets flooded, including Dunlap-Smith’s home on Flower Ridge.

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?

Where drainage from Flower Ridge in Porter joins the new Woodridge Village in Porter.
Residents say water now stands so long in altered ditches that it grows algae.

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.

Photo by Gretchen Dunlap-Smith from May 7 of Flower Ridge in in Porter.

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.

Swamped utility room after the flood. Photo. by Gretchen Dunlap-Smith.

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.

Gretchen Dunlap-Smith tries to save her carpet by drying it on the bed of her truck.

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.

Where N1 detention pond and drainage ditch should have been before flood. Excavation still had not started weeks after flood. This area used to be wetlands before the developer “improved” the drainage.

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.

Trash pile at end of Ivy Ridge. Looking east toward new development where drainage used to go.

“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.

Rehak: How?

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.”

Rehak: Floorboards?

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: Nothing. (Pause) Absolutely nothing.

Too Poor to Repair, Too Proud to Ask for Help

Rehak: What would you like to get?

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.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/31/2019

640 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Caught On Camera: Woodridge Contractor Dumping on Neighbor’s Property

On Thursday, May 16, I photographed a contractor for a subsidiary of Perry Homes dumping dirt, mulch and sticks in a neighbor’s drainage ditch.

I was investigating flooding around the edges of a new development called Woodridge Village in Montgomery County just north of the Harris County line. The developer, Figure Four Partners (a subsidiary of PSWA and Perry Homes), has hired Rebel Contractors to clear and grade approximately 268 acres of land north of Elm Grove Village in Kingwood.

Hundreds of nearby homes that never flooded before flooded during heavy rains on May 7. It appears that something happened during the clearing and grading to change drainage.

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.

He held traffic up in both directions for several minutes.

When the operator saw my camera, he backed into the work site and ducked around the corner.

I drove forward and got this close up. There was one load of mulch when I left. Notice the deep truck ruts and broken asphalt being covered up.

Later that evening, one of the neighbors took the photo below at the same location. It shows that the operator dropped much more mulch into the neighbor’s ditch after I left.

Photo courtesy of Gretchen Dunlap Smith.

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…

…large construction trucks continued…
…to crack off large chunks of the street and push the material father into the ditch.
Where a nice lawn once grew, there was an ugly, useless pile of mulch to clog drains and culverts down the street during the next rain. That’s how dumping worsens street flooding.

By Saturday, Even More Dumping on Neighbor

By Saturday morning, the pile had grown wider and deeper.
It became clear that 18-wheelers where using the bed of mulch to…
…widen the turning radius into a driveway that was too narrow to accommodate large equipment.

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!

Here’s the location of the incident in case Begala, McGrath, Perry Homes, Figure Four or Rebel Contractors want to do the right thing. Neighbors in Elm Grove complained of these same problems and more.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/19/2019

628 Days since Hurricane Harvey