Wayne Dolcefino announced this afternoon that Liberty County Judge Jay Knight has confirmed the county will launch a major investigation into the controversial Colony Ridge Development. Dolcefino is one of the country’s leading investigative journalists.
Flooding Concerns at Heart of Investigation
The massive housing development between the San Jacinto East Fork and Luce Bayou has sparked flooding concerns for tens of thousands of families both nearby in Plum Grove and downstream as far as Lake Houston.
Plum Grove hired Dolcefino to fight years of neglect by county officials as floods washed out roads and damaged most of the structures in the tiny town.
The investigation comes after a widening investigation by Dolcefino Consulting and one day after publication of a post in ReduceFlooding.com titled Flooding of the Fifth Kind: By Government Neglect.
“Right before the new year, two inches of rain in Colony Ridge produced flooding. Creeks in Plum Grove were full to the brim. That’s raising alarm bells,” said Dolcefino.
Pictures of flooded lots WITHIN Colony Ridge also raised alarms. They show that water is not soaking in or running off the way it should.
Soil Types Are Key Issue
There is evidence to suggest that LandPlan Engineering mischaracterized the type of soil in its drainage plans for Colony Ridge. Their calculations assumed the soil had a high rate of infiltration when it actually had a low rate.
So instead of water soaking into the ground, it runs off. The presence of so many wetlands in Colony Ridge before development should have been a tipoff.
By misrepresenting soil types, LandPlan Engineering understated the amount of detention and drainage capacity needed by 6X to 9X, according to TXDoT guidelines.
Had LandPlan properly represented the soil, Colony Ridge would have had to put in more detention ponds and widen ditches to prevent flooding. But that would have been costly for the developer.
Harris County Flood Control officials worry the drainage problems in Colony Ridge increase flood risk in Harris County. So do downstream residents. I talked to one in Harris County today who has flooded repeatedly since Colony Ridge started clearing land. She is disabled and can’t afford to move. Neither can she afford to stay.
Missing Reports Another Part of Investigation
Liberty County also admits that many of the drainage analysis reports – required by county ordinance – are missing. The county made the admission after Dolcefino Consulting filed formal requests to see the records used by former Liberty County engineer Louis Bergman to recommend approval of the large development.
Liberty County Attorney Matthew Poston confirmed to Dolcefino that 19 missing reports will be part of the investigation.
“We want to see what Bergman signed, and if the investigation proves claims about the soil are untrue that could be a big problem,” Dolcefino said. The former county engineer has refused comment.
His daughter is the new District Attorney for Liberty County. One can only hope that she recuses herself from any part of this investigation.
If damning evidence exists in reports the county DID supply, one can only imagine what’s in those the County can’t or won’t produce.
How the Other Half Lives
Colony Ridge developers “owner financed” many of the lots in the sprawling neighborhood, in part, because many residents do not have driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers. Nearly 97 percent of the foreclosures in Liberty County last year came from Colony Ridge.
Said Dolcefino, “This is the first step in holding Liberty County officials accountable before another neighborhood is approved. We need to know why these documents are missing, and we are going to get to the bottom of this one way or the other.” I second that.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/4/2021 based in part on information from Wayne Dolcefino
1224 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.