Tag Archive for: Taylor Gully Preliminary Engineering Study

New Woodridge Village Detention Basin About 12% Excavated, Engineering Study Almost Done

A new Woodridge Village Stormwater Detention Basin that could almost double detention capacity on the site continues to move forward slowly as housing starts slow. The trend at Woodridge seems consistent with other excavation and removal (E&R) contracts countywide.

Meanwhile, the first draft of a preliminary engineering study for the Woodridge site and Taylor Gully is complete and going through management review at Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD).

Status of E&R Contract on Woodridge Village Site

As of mid-September 2022, Sprint Sand and Clay had removed 57,785 cubic yards of dirt from a planned detention basin on the Woodridge Village property in Montgomery County. Sprint is working under an E&R contract with HCFCD. The contract calls for them to remove up to 500,000 cubic yards at a minimum of 60,000 cubic yards per year or 5,000 per month.

Looking NE across new basin. Last month, it extended as far as the middle of the far pile of concrete pipes on the right.

So the company, which began work in February, has virtually met its first year minimum after eight months. However, the rate has slowed somewhat in recent weeks as housing starts have slowed due to a rise in interest rates. In the last four weeks for which totals are available (8/22/22 – 9/18/22), Sprint has removed only 3,045 cubic yards. To date, that brings the total excavated to 12% of the contract max.

Housing starts in the South have been especially hard hit. According to the Census Bureau, starts in August fell 13.5% compared to July and 15.4% compared to a year ago. That depresses demand for fill dirt and makes it harder for Sprint to find buyers for it.

Under the terms of its HCFCD E&R contract, Sprint gets only $1,000 for removing up to 500,000 cubic yards, but has the right to resell all the dirt at market rates. That’s how it makes its profit.

Woodridge Vs. Countywide Data

To see whether Woodridge was an anomaly or part of a trend countywide, I asked HCFCD to show readers the bigger picture. Alan Black, Deputy Director of Engineering and Construction supplied the data below. The chart shows the trend in all HCFCD E&R contracts countywide going back 10 years.

Source: HCFCD via FOIA Request

All data is open to interpretation. But I see three main “regions” in the chart above.

  • The first is pre-flood bond – before August 2018. With the exception of a few blips, excavation remained below 5,000 cubic yards per month. That’s roughly equal to the average being removed from Woodridge Village each month.
  • The second is a huge spike that occurred after flood-bond approval. it peaked at almost 35,000 cubic yards per month as HCFCD readied engineering studies on more than 180 projects countywide.
  • Third, HCFCD had a sharp falloff at the start of the pandemic in January 2020. After things stabilized, we see a gradual rebuilding. It coincides with a housing boom and is followed by another gradual drop-off. The latter coincides with rising interest rates and falling housing starts.

Regardless, the trend in the last few months does not bode well for those concerned about finishing the new Woodridge Stormwater Detention Basin quickly.

Looking W. The new Woodridge Village stormwater detention basin at the top of the frame could eventually fill most of the area between the road on the left and the ditch on the right.

Status of Preliminary Engineering Study on Taylor Gully

We should remember, however, that HCFCD always intended the Woodridge E&R contract as a head start on excavation while IDCUS finished its preliminary engineering study on Taylor Gully and Woodridge Village. The study began in mid-2021. IDCUS had 300 days to complete it.

IDCUS submitted the first draft of its results several months ago.

Amy Stone, HCFCD spokesperson

Since then, HCFCD staff has reviewed it and asked IDCUS to take a closer look at some areas, said Stone. At this point, the revised draft is working its way up to HCFCD top management for final review and comment. HCFCD has started preparing a presentation for all those affected in the area and exploring the best dates for a community input session.

Assuming HCFCD management doesn’t ask IDCUS for more revisions, we should know recommendations and next steps this fall. Following a public comment period, more changes may need to be made to engineering plans before design and construction start.

Folks who flooded in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest as well as others farther downstream in Mills Branch and Woodstream Village eagerly await the findings. More news when it becomes available.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/30/2022

1859 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Kingwood Diversion Ditch and Taylor Gully Preliminary Engineering Projects Begin

On June 29, 2021, Harris County Commissioners approved two contracts for preliminary engineering on the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and Taylor Gully Projects. This week, I’ve been getting reports of boots on the ground. So I grabbed my camera and went looking for activity this morning. I found a soil survey truck at Kingwood Drive next to the Diversion Ditch. I also found regular surveyors on Taylor Gully about a block south of Woodridge Village.

Both activities are among the first steps in preliminary engineering. And both are among the first steps in finding flood-mitigation solutions for a huge percentage of Kingwood’s population.

This drone shot shows the surveying crew a little more than one block south of Woodridge Village on Taylor Gully.
Looking downstream in opposite direction toward Rustic Elm Bridge out of sight around bend.
The surveyors were capturing elevations of the banks, slopes, ditch bottom, and backslope swales of Taylor Gully.

Taylor Gully Objectives and Scope

HCFCD has asked Idcus, Inc. to develop up to five conceptual alternative scenarios for modifying Taylor Gully. Alternative scenarios may include:

  • Expanding Detention On Woodridge Village Site so that no channel improvements are necessary.
  • Determining amount of detention and channel improvements necessary to ensure no adverse impact all the way to Lake Houston.
  • Finding the optimum balance between maximum flood protection and minimum construction costs.
Deliverables include:
  • Channel and basin layouts
  • Estimates of benefits for various levels of storms (100-year, etc.)
  • Right-of-way requirements
  • Cost estimates for right-of-way acquisition, engineering and construction management.
  • Performance metrics, i.e., estimated acreage of land inundation, number of structures in floodplain, number of structures flooded and miles of inundated roadway.
  • A scoring matrix to rank alternatives.
Scope of Taylor Gully Project includes the two halves of Woodridge Village outlined in gold above the ditch.

Kingwood Diversion Ditch Objectives and Scope

HCFCD hired Neel-Schaffer, Inc. for preliminary Kingwood Diversion Ditch engineering. They must:

  • Evaluate existing site conditions, previous studies, other projects that could affect this one, topography, rights-of-way, utilities, and soil surveys.
  • Evaluate existing bridges
  • Conduct and H&H analysis to assess existing and proposed conditions (from 2-year to 500-year storms).
  • Analyze Channel Improvements including the:
    • Impact of TIRZ #10’s latest design to replace the Northpark Bridge
    • Diversion structure at the confluence of Bens Branch and the Diversion Channel
    • Drop structures in lieu of a concrete lined channel to minimize high velocities due to the steep grade between 
      Walnut Lane and Deer Ridge Estates Blvd.
  • Develop phased construction plans based on available funding, potential impacts and benefits.
  • Conduct two public engagement meetings and coordinate with community groups.

Deliverables include:

  • Surveys
  • Geotechnical investigations, i.e., bridge borings
  • Environmental assessment
  • “Jurisdictional” determination. Does this channel fall under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps as it nears the West Fork? If so, channel design may need to be altered.
  • Determination of detention pond requirements
  • Exploration for subsurface utilities
  • Obtaining permits from the Corps
  • Landscape architect services
Scope of Diversion Ditch Project runs from St. Martha Catholic Church in Montgomery County to the San Jacinto West Fork at River Grove Park. This is the ditch that runs past the fire station on Kingwood Drive.

Why These Two Projects First?

Both of these projects evolved from the Kingwood Drainage Analysis finalized late last year. That study identified nine channels that needed improvement. These two were recommended for immediate help because:

  • They help the largest number of people.
  • HCFCD already owns land to expand and deepen the Diversion Ditch.
  • Diversion Ditch enhancement will immediately take pressure off Ben’s Branch, and help flooding there.

Note that Ben’s Branch has already gone through a four-phase major maintenance project designed to restore its original conveyance.

Here is Harris County Flood Control District’s Summary of Results from the 600-page Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis.

A Good Sign

Both of these projects go far beyond maintenance, which portions of both of these ditches have already received. While we’re still far from construction, the work that kicked off this week will improve flood safety for a large part of Kingwood.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/4/2021

1436 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Commissioners Approve Excavation Contract for Regional Detention Pond on Taylor Gully

In yesterday’s Harris County Commissioners Court meeting, commissioners unanimously approved a contract with Spring Sand & Clay LLC for excavation of a regional detention pond on Taylor Gully in Montgomery County at the Woodridge Village site.

Preliminary Engineering Began in Early July

Earlier this year, Harris County purchased Woodridge Village from Perry Homes for this purpose. Currently, engineers are examining several Taylor Gully alternatives.

Woodridge Village
Looking north across Woodridge Village toward Porter from over the Harris/Montgomery County line. The abandoned development currently has five detention ponds that will hold about 60% of the rain in an Atlas-14 100-year storm.

Currently, Idcus, Inc., an engineering company, has been contracted to look at:

  1. Whether existing detention and proposed channel improvements would suffice to mitigate flooding
  2. Whether expanding existing detention would eliminate the need for channel improvements
  3. A combination of the two scenarios above – determining the amount of additional detention and channel improvements necessary to ensure no adverse impact all the way to Lake Houston.
  4. Out-of-the-box alternatives that ensure no adverse impact while maximizing flood mitigation and minimizing construction costs.

The Idcus contract calls for the company to deliver channel and basin layouts for Taylor Gully no later than 300 days from the notice to proceed, which presumably was given in early July. However, excavation could start much sooner than that. (See below.)

Pieces of Puzzle Falling into Place

The no-cost contract with Sprint lets them set their own timetable as long as they complete improvements within three years. Sprint’s timetable will be driven by the company’s ability to sell the material they excavate; that forms their compensation.

The next step is for Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) to provide a grading plan to the contractor. While that will not happen tomorrow, the good news is that it won’t require waiting 300 days.

HCFCD can start excavating the retention pond before plans are finalized. After all, it’s not a problem if a detention pond holds more than the minimum required. It’s only a problem if it holds less. Engineers and contractors can adjust plans if necessary after excavation starts. This approach should minimize flood risk for worried Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest residents.

All the pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/21/2021

1422 Days since Hurricane Harvey

HCFCD Taylor Gully Repair Project Approximately One-Third Complete

On January 19, I posted about Harris County Flood Control District’s (HCFCD) second major repair project on Taylor Gully since 2019. Thirty-nine days later, HCFCD has completed about one third of the project. They have now started on the downstream side of the Maple Bend Bridge in Kingwood’s Woodstream Village.

Pictures of Work to Date

Here are pictures of the Taylor Gully repairs taken today, 2/28/2021.

Looking upstream from Maple Bend Bridge at completed portion. Compare how this looks to a little more than a month ago.
Reverse angle, looking downstream from start of repairs toward Maple Bend Bridge.
Look at the size of that new storm drain. That should get water to the ditch in a hurry.
There’s another new, huge pipe downstream from the bridge. Compare the size of the old one on the opposite side of the creek.

Purpose of Project

The purpose of the project: to repair erosion and side-slope failures; repair or replace outfalls; rectify flowlines; and rehabilitate existing backslope swale systems. 

  • Erosion repairs include the placement of fill material, placement of 3″x5″ granular fill and the placement of grade #1 riprap. 
  • Channel cross sections will be restored to the original design where feasible. 
  • The oldest recorded drawing on file is for the proposed channels from Elm Grove Village to White Oak Creek completed in March 1982. Record drawings typically show a 6-foot wide channel bottom with 3:1 side slopes.

Separate From Preliminary Engineering Study Approved on 2/5

Before HCFCD leaves a project, they will establish grass on the side slopes to prevent erosion and more downstream sedimentation.

This project is separate from a Taylor Gully preliminary engineering study for capital improvements that was approved by Harris County Commissioner’s Court at its last meeting. The capital improvements could include more upstream detention on the Perry Homes Woodridge Village Property, which is still pending purchase 1.5 years after Imelda.

A previous study, the Kingwood Area Drainage Analysis, proposed improvements to Taylor Gully in October 2020.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/28/2021

1279 Days since Hurricane Harvey