Tag Archive for: rivers of mud

Rivers of Mud: Largest Development in Liberty County Openly Flaunts Drainage Regulations

To prevent erosion that sends sediment downstream, current Liberty County Drainage Regulations specify that developers must:

  1. Plant grass on the banks of ditches
  2. Construct backslope interceptor swales

But aerial photos taken this week show that drainage ditches in the massive Colony Ridge development rarely have grass on their banks. And while criss-crossing the development in a helicopter on Monday, December 7, 2020, I did not see one backslope interceptor swale. This, DESPITE Colony Ridge being the largest development in Liberty County. Or maybe it’s BECAUSE Colony Ridge is the largest development in the county. Perhaps they think they can flaunt regulations.

Colony Ridge is even larger than any of the cities in Liberty County – by far. You would think that would make violations more visible. But apparently, it makes them less so. Much to the detriment of downstream communities.

What Ditches Should Look Like If Regulations Were Followed

Regs in Liberty County are similar to those in Harris County. Here’s a photo of a drainage ditch in Harris. It shows both grass and interceptor swales in use and how they help prevent erosion. Note the swales behind the shoulders of the ditch. Also notice the concrete structures that help pipe rainwater from the swales to the bottom of the ditch. They prevent water from washing down the ditch slopes and causing erosion. Had the developer followed the regs, which represent best practices, his ditches should look like the one below.

Backslope interceptor swales with drain pipes leading to bottom of ditch help prevent erosion. Photographed in Humble in Harris County.

Erosion Control as Practiced in Colony Ridge/Liberty County

Now, compare that to the following 18 photos. I took all of them over Colony Ridge on Monday. Some show newly developing areas subject to the latest regulations adopted in 2019. Others show areas already developed under regulations from 2004. The older regs required grass, but no interceptor swales. The newer regs require both. No attempt has been made to bring the older ditches up to newer standards despite obvious erosion problems.

Note how the developer has a habit of piling dirt next to the ditches. The TCEQ cited the developer for that practice earlier this year because dirt could wash back into ditches during rains. However, the developer obviously doesn’t fear the TCEQ. He’s still doing it. On a grand scale.

Ditch on right has grass on banks but no backslope interceptor swales. Note dirt piled on banks and how it’s already eroding into ditch.
No grass. No swales. Piles of dirt on the ditch’s shoulders.
Again. No grass. No swales. More dirt on shoulders.
Some weeds, but no grass. No swales. And a river of mud.
Another river of mud.
Rio de Lodo. “Lodo” translates to mud, sludge or mire in English.
This ditch has more corrugations than a cardboard factory thanks to the total absence of erosion-control measures.
Ditch in new area without erosion control measures near Highway 99 extension (in upper left of frame). Note eroded sediment already moving down the ditch. See close-up detail below. Regulations say that grass should be planted on ditch shoulders immediately after ditch construction.
Detail from upper right of previous photo.
Note erosion in ditch in foreground and other ditch T-ing into it.
Pipe from resident’s home enters ditch at top, accelerating erosion. Enlargement shows brownish liquid dripping from pipe.
Even newer stick-built homes on left don’t get erosion protection.
Note a wheelbarrow next to the man. Perhaps he’s trying to excavate blockages in the ditch behind his house.
Note how erosion has taken dirt from under fences. Better keep the dog on a leash!
The mud in ditches has made them playgrounds for ATVs, further contributing to erosion.
The mother of all eroding ditches in Colony Ridge. (BTW, note the absence of fire hydrants on the long street left of ditch.)
Baby ditch with another river of mud.
Erosion has created a training ground for mountain goats in Colony Ridge.

Externalizing Development Costs

All this erosion (from approximately 12-13,000 acres) eventually winds up in the East Fork of the San Jacinto and Lake Houston. There, taxpayers must pay to have it dredged and filtered out of the water supply.

Downstream from Colony Ridge. East Fork Mouth Bar after Imelda. After depth in this reach is now 3 feet. It was 18 feet before Harvey.
New Northeast Water Purification Plant at Lake Houston will cost taxpayers $1.4 billion.

The East Fork Mouth bar forms a sediment dam that also has contributed to the flooding of more than a thousand homes.

Meanwhile, the developers cheaping it out are counting their change all the way to the bank.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/10/2020

1199 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 448 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.