Upstream rains. Downstream pains. On what could be one of the best soccer days of the year, the soccer fields at River Grove Park are mostly underwater this morning. And more rain could be on the way this afternoon.
Conditions Near West Fork Tuesday Morning
At 10 a.m. on 5/16/23, the San Jacinto West Fork was out of its banks by about a foot and a half. The water surface elevation stood at 50’8″.
Here’s what that did to River Grove Park.
Last Month Compared to Normal
The last month has been wet!
Luckily, most of the rainfall has been spread out. At 59 and the West Fork, the highest daily total was 1.8″.
But it ain’t over yet. Jeff Lindner, Harris County Meteorologist, says daytime heating today could bring another round of thunderstorms with 2-3 inches in isolated areas.
How does that compare to normal for this time of year? The National Weather Service shows these average rainfall totals by month for the last 30 years for Houston Intercontinental Airport.
The average for April is 3.95″ and May is 5.01″ inches.
The good news: The rainfall was spread out. So few, if any, homes flooded. Mostly, just low-lying areas near rivers and streams flooded, such as River Grove Park.
Parks represent the highest and best use for areas near rivers that frequently flood. When the water goes down, it’s “game on” again. No soggy carpet to replace. No drywall to repair. And they don’t reduce the storage capacity of the floodplain.
Many thanks to the Kingwood Service Association which owns and maintains all five parks and recreation areas in Kingwood.
The pier, which had grown old, sustained damage during recent floods. The planks had so much give in them, that I often wondered if they would hold me.
It’s Finally Time
After Harvey, though, KSA had so much work to do in the park – removing sand, replacing pavement, fixing fields, restoring restrooms, and dredging in front of the boardwalk – that replacement of the pier just had to wait, according to Dee Price, KSA president.
Earlier this year, KSA had a professional engineer draw up specs and then it solicited bids. “The winning bid was affordable and the contractor is doing excellent work,” said Price.
I would second that from everything I saw today at the park. Both the wood and workmanship appear top notch. This will make an excellent addition to the park.
Pics of New Pier Under Construction
Expected Completion Soon
Price says she expects the work to be done this week or next, depending on weather. The launch remains open in the meantime, but is blocked periodically for short periods by the pile driver as you see here.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/2/2021
1526 Days after Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/20211101-DJI_0655.jpg?fit=1200%2C799&ssl=17991200adminadmin2021-11-01 21:44:062021-11-01 21:44:10KSA Replacing River Grove Boat-Launch Pier
The Diversion Ditch project would help address several potential problems. Expanding it would remove 62 structures from inundation areas and another 586 structures would benefit from improved local drainage. In addition, the project:
Can divert floodwater from Ben’s Branch, which will be a much more complicated project, taking more time.
Has a 300-foot right-of-way, of which only half is being used
Has bridges that already span the entire 300 feet.
Will help carry floodwaters from rapidly growing south Montgomery County.
History of Diversion Ditch
In the early days of Kingwood, Friendswood Development Company built the Diversion Ditch to reduce water flowing into Ben’s Branch. But since then, upstream development and larger rains have stressed the capacity of both Ben’s Branch AND the Diversion Ditch. Engineers estimate that peak flows have doubled since 1985.
Most of Ben’s Branch is Natural Channel
Ben’s Branch cuts diagonally through the heart of Kingwood. See red lines below. More than half its length – between Woodland Hills and Rocky Woods Drive is natural channel. Widening it will be complicated and take much time.
Ben’s Branch Now at 2-Year Level of Service
However, areas on both sides of Ben’s Branch are threatened by flooding as you can see in the image below from FEMA’s Flood Hazard Viewer.
When flood maps are updated based on Atlas-14 statistics, those floodplains will likely expand…unless we do something to handle more floodwater before then.
However, Ben’s Branch will not move to preliminary engineering right away.
How to Protect Against Bigger Rains and More Upstream Development
The Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis sought to understand what we need to do to restore a 100-year level of service to all ditches and streams based on Atlas 14. Of the 19 ditches and streams studied, nine need improvement. The level of service for some, including Ben’s Branch, has been reduced to 2 years.
Expanding the Diversion Ditch is the fastest way to take pressure off of Ben’s Branch.
The Diversion Ditch intersects Ben’s Branch at the new St. Martha Church. It then flows south to Deer Ridge Park and then winds through River Grove Park. See the white line below.
Expansion Capacity Already Built into Diversion Ditch
Engineers foresaw the day when Kingwood would need more drainage capacity due to upstream development in Montgomery County. They built the Kingwood Diversion Ditch to handle the extra stormwater. They also made the bridges over the diversion ditch wider than they needed at the time. Finally, they dedicated a flood easement on both sides of the ditch that was wider than they needed, so they could expand the ditch later without encroaching on neighboring properties. Here’s how it looks from the air.
Both Kings Mill and Kings Manor now drain into the Diversion Ditch. But they came long AFTER Diversion Ditch construction. Other new upstream developments that drain into the Diversion Ditch and Ben’s Branch include Brooklyn Trails and Woodridge Forest, both in Montgomery County.
As a result, the Diversion Ditch itself has decreased to a 2- to a 25-year level of service in places. However, it still offers a 100-year level of service in others.
Impact on River Grove Park
Once the Diversion Ditch passes through the area shown in the photo above, it enters wetlands and winds through River Grove Park. Two questions arise. How do we protect, from additional flow:
People downstream on the West Fork?
The first question is simple: split the flow in two. Take part through the undeveloped area west of the park. See the green below.
The second question is more complicated. We need a retention basin to hold the extra stormwater until the peak of any flood passes on the West Fork. But where? The closer you get to the river, the lower the elevation. Because of that, the basin could fill with floodwater from the river before it fills with floodwater from upstream. Fortunately, some large tracts of land exist on higher ground that could be purchased. HCFCD estimates the need at 1248 acre-feet. Preliminary engineering should start soon to address these issues.
Upstream Development Not Addressed by Analysis
Unfortunately the Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis did not address upstream development issues in Montgomery County. That was beyond the scope of work. Regardless, such issues must be addressed somehow, someday soon. Otherwise, even the improvements we invest in today could soon be overwhelmed by additional floodwaters.
In that sense, these channel improvements represent a stopgap measure. The real solution lies in making everyone in the region realize that we are all in this together.
The ten remaining channels/streams already offer a 100-year level of service. Therefore, no improvements are needed. HCFCD felt Taylor Gully should be the next priority after the Diversion Ditch. But the possible purchase of Woodridge Village may require re-thinking project requirements. Specifically, if Woodridge turns into a giant detention basin, the channel may not need as much deepening or widening.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/20/2020
1148 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/RJR_4304.jpg?fit=1500%2C1000&ssl=110001500adminadmin2020-10-20 21:09:102020-10-21 09:32:19HCFCD Recommends Expanding Diversion Ditch as First Priority in Kingwood
The storm deposited so much sand in this park, there were times when I doubted it could be restored. The park’s comeback is a remarkable tribute to a handful of dedicated volunteers and contractors (led by Dee Price and Bruce Casto), with big assists from the people of Kingwood, the Army Corps of Engineers and Kayden Industries.
Here are the slides and text from Price’s presentation to the BizCom meeting. The presentation also includes information about KSA, which newcomers may find helpful.
Dee Price BizCom Presentation on River Grove Park
Good Morning. I’m going to spend a few minutes talking about the recovery of Kingwood’s River Grove Park from the impact of Hurricane Harvey. But first let me give you a brief overview of the Kingwood Service Association aka KSA.
KSA is a Texas non-profit corporation that was chartered in September 1976 by the Kingwood developer. Its stated purpose is to provide for community, civic, and social welfare in the Kingwood area and to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the Kingwood area residents.
Carrying out this purpose has evolved over the years as Kingwood became part of the City of Houston.
Representing 32 community and commercial associations throughout Kingwood, KSA has continued to be a focal point in working community-wide issues that impact multiple villages in Kingwood.
KSA owns, operates, and maintains the five major parks in Kingwood. It also maintains the two major entries into Kingwood at Kingwood Drive and North Park Drive. KSA actually owns the entrance area on Kingwood Drive on which the ponds are located.
Like many areas in Kingwood, River Grove Park was heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey. A huge amount of sand was deposited in the park. In addition, many of the park facilities suffered a significant amount of damage. The pictures on the slide above illustrate the amount of damage suffered.
It took a significant amount of effort to recover from the damage caused by the hurricane. First, we had to remove 364 truckloads of sand. We had to drill a new well, pressure wash all of the park facilities, and repair the damage to the facilities. We also had to restore the sports fields closest to the river that had been inundated by sand deposits.
The final step of dredging the portion of the river along the park’s perimeter had to be put on hold until the US Army Corps of Engineers completed their project to dredge the San Jacinto River. The Corps removed the big sand bar formed during Harvey that was blocking access to the river from River Grove Park. This was a big help to KSA and very much appreciated.
Once the Corps was finished with their dredging project, KSA was able to proceed on its project to dredge the area along its boardwalk and boat ramp. The picture shows that a large amount of sand was deposited in the area by Harvey.
Since the dredging had been put on hold for 3 years, vegetation took hold on the sand and had to be removed before the dredging itself could begin.
Once the vegetation was removed the removal of the sand could proceed. Ultimately, the project removed 10,000 cubic yards of sand, dewatered the sand on-site using a dewatering machine, and then hauled off the sand to an approved location.
The project took 3 months to complete including working during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. The boat ramp, which was closed in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey, was re-opened in April 2020 and has been heavily used since that time.
The last slide is a picture of the park after the first stage of recovery had been completed and the park was re-opened in March 2018. That concludes my discussion. Thank you very much.
The spirit and tenacity of volunteers in Kingwood are one of the things that make this such a great place to live.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/7/2020with thanks to Dee Price, KSA, the KSA Parks Committee, Bruce Casto, Kayden Industries, the Army Corps of Engineersand people of Kingwood
1074 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/LHCC-Bizcom-08-06-2020_Dee-Price_Page_09.jpg?fit=1023%2C765&ssl=17651023adminadmin2020-08-07 09:41:422020-08-07 09:41:57The Remarkable Restoration of River Grove Park After Harvey
I always associated the word “Riviera” with a coastal region in France and Italy on the Mediterranean. But being a student of language, I frequently look up words that I think I know. Much to my surprise, I learned that the word has a second meaning. It also applies to any coastal region with a subtropical climate and vegetation. The origin of the word stems from 18th century Italian. It literally meant “seashore.”
History and Meanings of Riviera
The 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which is really a history book of the language, indicates that railroad barons frequently used the word in the 1900s to lure vacationers to coastal areas around the world. OED’s last entry is from the October 19, 1943 edition of the Saturday Review, an influential magazine at the time. The OED quoted the Saturday Review as saying, “Every properly equipped nation must have a Riviera.”
Getting From There to Here
The term occurred to me when I saw the scene below while flying up the San Jacinto West Fork last Sunday near River Grove Park. So it is with tongue in cheek and humor in my heart that I apply the term to River Grove.
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/20200530-DJI_0128-2.jpg?fit=1200%2C900&ssl=19001200adminadmin2020-06-06 19:22:032020-06-06 19:41:43River Grove Riviera: Park Adds New Feature
Ever since Harvey filled up the lagoon next to the River Grove boardwalk, Kingwood residents have clamored to restore the area. This week they got their wish. Kayden Industries has removed its two dredges and the giant “shaker” that separated sand from water. This morning, all that remained of the operation was a front-end loader, a giant pile of sand, and dump trucks rapidly carrying it away. They should be done with the operation this week.
Damage Due to Harvey
Here’s the story in pictures starting with Harvey.
Army Corps Breaks Through Blockage
KSA Excavates Park and Plans Dredging
It took the next year for KSA to:
Remove up to five feet of sand covering the parking lot and areas near the boardwalk
Restore soccer fields also covered in sand
Repave access roads and parking lots undermined by churning floodwaters
Inspect the boardwalk to ensure it was structurally sound.
Draw up a dredging plan for the lagoon with an engineer.
Identify a suitable place to put the spoils.
Bid the job.
Approve the plan and expenditure.
It was a monumental effort. Dee Price, KSA President and steward of River Grove Park, and Bruce Casto, KSA’s maintenance man, deserve kudos for spearheading the effort and saving this park.
Almost two months after it started, Kayden began demobilizing. Resident Josh Alberson captured the image below with his drone.
Water along the boardwalk is 3-5 feet deep, so don’t let kids play in it. That could be dangerous.
Some Repaving Left to Do
All the heavy traffic has taken a toll on park roads. “Everyone needs to understand that the paving problems on the road between the gate and the first stop sign were there long before we started trucking dirt,” said Dee Price, KSA President. “We have patched that area numerous times in the past.” Price said KSA needs to mill and re-pave that piece of road as the group did with the soccer road. Price plans to put that project in the next fiscal-year budget. But for now, she says, “We need to patch it again until we can do the major improvement next year.”
Posted by Bob Rehak with thanks to Josh Alberson for the drone imagery
958 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20200413-RJR_0511.jpg?fit=1200%2C800&ssl=18001200adminadmin2020-04-13 13:20:592020-04-13 13:21:44River Grove Dredging Done, Only Cleanup Left
Since Hurricane Harvey, KSA has worked diligently to restore the damage to River Grove Park. It has been a massive job. Harvey filled in the lagoon in front of the boardwalk; left five feet of sand in the parking lot, disc golf course, and playing fields; and deposited a sand bar more than a quarter mile long and 12 feet high in front of the boat dock.
Army Corps Restored River Access
The Army Corps cut a channel through the sand bar that blocked the drainage ditch that empties the western third of Kingwood. That was a huge sigh of relief for a large part of Kingwood. But much work remained to restore the park itself. Among the last items on the agenda: restoring the lagoon and boat ramp access.
It’s hard to capture the scope of dredging operations from the ground – especially with access restricted for safety reasons. But last week, I did a flyover and captured these pics from a helicopter.
In the photo above, you can see the 50-foot strip where Kayden removed vegetation. That will be the limit of dredging. KSA plans to remove 4-5 feet of sand from this area. The area still covered with grasses will remain wetlands. It will provide cover, habitat and food for birds and other species. That should help make River Grove a destination for birders again.
A Bit of the Oil Field Comes to River Grove
Expected Finish By End of March
KSA expects the dredging project to finish by the end of March, weather permitting. However, the boat ramp may not open immediately. The heavy equipment has damaged the asphalt in the parking lot. Repairs and restriping may take a few weeks more.
Originally, KSA expected to remove 10,000 cubic yards of sediment. The contractor now predicts they will remove 11,000 to12,000 cubic yards to complete the scope of work.
Other Park Improvements
The good news: When all of this is done, River Grove Park should be back and better than ever. During repairs, KSA decided to:
Convert several of the soccer fields from “league fields” to “public fields.” Residents have long requested that change.
Change the speed bumps to milder speed humps in the traffic circle. Boaters have long requested that.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/9/2020
923 Days since Hurricane Harvey
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/20200306-RJR_9605.jpg?fit=1200%2C800&ssl=18001200adminadmin2020-03-09 15:54:072020-03-09 15:57:09New Aerial Photos of River Grove Park Show Extent of Dredging Project
Yesterday’s second post about the wettest AND driest decade in our lifetimes helped explain something I’ve been puzzling about. Multiple mouth bars are forming around Lake Houston. The loss of tens of thousands of trees during the drought exposed soil. One massive storm after another then washed that soil toward the lake. Voila! Mouth bars.
Diversion Ditch Blockage
We already cleared the massive side bar that blocked the mouth of Kingwood’s diversion ditch.
West Fork Blockage
The Army Corps removed about a fifth of the West Fork mouth bar.
This is not surprising for a man-made lake that’s 65 years old. Dams have a tendency to hold back sediment. Sediment drops out of suspension where the moving waters in a ditch or stream slow down as they meet the still waters of a lake.
These mouth bars increase flood risk for everyone who lives near them. They form sediment damns that restrict the conveyance of the channels behind them. That forces water up and out of the channel into people’s living rooms.
Clearing the Way for Political Solutions
So how do we get rid of these mouth bars?
State Representative Dan Huberty is organizing another dredging program that should start soon. Primary targets will be the West and perhaps East Fork Mouth mouth bars. These smaller bars represent, believe it or not, a larger problem though. They fall into a jurisdictional quagmire. Does the water body they are on belong to adjacent property owners, the City, the County, or the State?
That will determine where the money for dredging comes from. And more importantly, whether the money that is already available can be used to attack the problem when a dredge is in the lake.
The bar is in an unincorporated section of Harris County. But the City owns the shoreline, and usually the first few hundred feet of channels.
Who will take ownership of problems like Walden’s? These details still need to be worked out.
HB1824 May Help
Ironically, HB1824, which I criticized because I believe it opens the door to river sand mining, may help in cases like Walden’s. The bill allows Harris County Flood Control to take sediment from the San Jacinto and its tributaries without obtaining a permit or paying a fee as long as HCFCD deposits the sediment on private land. (Remember: Lake Houston IS the San Jacinto River.)
I suspect the Walden ditch will become precedent for how such minor tributaries are treated. Walden’s nearness to the West Fork mouth bar would argue for making it part of any dredging program there.
A new year, new challenges!
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/1/2020with photo and video from Jack and Greg Toole, and BCAeronautics.
855 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 104 since Imelda
https://i0.wp.com/reduceflooding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/DJI_0032.jpg?fit=1200%2C675&ssl=16751200adminadmin2020-01-01 19:54:352020-01-01 20:20:31Multiple Mouth Bars Forming Around Lake Houston; Check out Walden’s