Tag Archive for: thanks

Giving Thanks for Flood Mitigation Projects Completed and Underway

It’s easy sometimes to focus so much on problems, that we forget about progress. So let’s give thanks on this fourth Thanksgiving since Hurricane Harvey. We should truly take heart in what we have accomplished in flood mitigation so far.


The San Jacinto River Basin Master Drainage Study is virtually completed. This lays the groundwork for mitigation projects throughout the 2900-square-mile, seven-county region. It identifies possible locations for upstream detention, one of the three main legs of the Lake Houston Area flood-mitigation strategy (dredging, detention, gates).


Several dredging programs have been completed and more are underway.

This small strip is all that’s left of the once mighty mouth bar on the San Jacinto West Fork. Dredgers will use it as a base of operations in the next phase of dredging.
Approved, but Not Yet Completed:

Additional Gates

The City of Houston, Harris County, and Coastal Water Authority secured a grant from FEMA to study ways to increase the discharge capacity of the Lake Houston Spillway. That study is almost complete. It identified five alternatives for increasing the discharge capacity.

Engineers are now evaluating the benefit/cost ratios of each. They are also securing environmental permits.

Looking west across Lake Houston Spillway

Next step: FEMA will review the preliminary engineering results. Assuming the benefit/cost ratios justify the projects, FEMA and local partners will fund construction of the selected alternative. Another $47 million has already been set aside for that, but approval is not automatic.

Lake Conroe Lowering

A big thank you to the board of the SJRA which voted earlier this spring to continue its seasonal Lake Conroe lowering policy in the face of withering protests from Lake Conroe boaters. This policy provides an additional margin of safety to those in the Lake Houston Area until other mitigation projects can be completed.

Bens Branch Clean Out

During Harvey, 13 people died after Bens Branch flooded. The now complete Kingwood Drainage Analysis showed that it had been reduced to a two year level of service. That means sediment had reduced its conveyance to the point that it will flood on a two year rain.

Even before the study was completed, Harris County Flood Control started cleaning it out in phases to restore conveyance. From upstream:

Ben’s Branch on 4/21/2020 between the YMCA and Library

Two more phases remain:

Rogers Gully Clean Out

Harris County Flood Control cleaned out a stretch of Rogers Gully in Atascocita that was several blocks long.

Finished excavation of Rogers Gully by HCFCD

Other Ditch Repairs

HCFCD also repaired erosion in the Kingwood Diversion Ditch between Walnut Lane and Kingwood Deer Springs Drive.

HCFCD Diversion Ditch repairs in Kingwood

The City of Houston and Harris County Flood Control also cleaned out and repaired several severely clogged ditches in Forest Cove, Kings Forest, Elm Grove, and Kings Point/Fosters Mill. There may have been more than I missed.

Grants for Additional Crucial Studies Under Consideration

The Texas Water Development Board advanced for SJRA Grant Applications for consideration in the final phase.

Upper San Jacinto River Basin Regional Sedimentation Study 

Would identify and create a plan for implementing potential sedimentation solutions in the Upper San Jacinto River Basin (Lake Houston watershed). It would evaluate the input, output, and storage of sediment for the entire basin as well as for sub-watersheds.  

This sandbar formed overnight during Harvey and blocked the West Fork by 90% according to the Corps. Boats that drew 18 inches of water could not navigate upstream past this sandbar, which has since been removed.

Spring Creek Watershed Flood Control Dams Conceptual Engineering Feasibility Study 

Would perform a conceptual engineering feasibility study of two potential dam/reservoir locations within the Spring Creek watershed. 

Lake Conroe – Lake Houston Joint Reservoir Operations Study 

Would develop a joint reservoir operations and communications strategy for Lake Conroe and Lake Houston. 

Flood Early Warning System for San Jacinto County 

Would provide for installation of rain and river/stream gages at three locations identified as critical by San Jacinto County to provide early warning information to the county during storm events.  

Park Restoration

KSA restored two parks in Kingwood that were severely damaged by Harvey and Imelda. KSA repaired trails in East End Park after each storm. Some had to be relocated because of erosion of the river bank. The Eagle Point trail in East End will become a 2021 project. KSA wants to put down a geo-stabilizing system on top of approximately ten feet of sand deposited by the two storms.

Standing on five feet of sand deposited in East End Park wetlands after Harvey

At River Grove, the Army Corps of Engineers cut an opening through a massive 12-foot-high and quarter-mile-long sand bar blocking the boat ramp and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch. Then KSA excavated parts of the park out from under five feet of sand, created new playing fields, restored the boardwalk, and dredged the lagoon adjacent to the boardwalk.

Dredging of lagoon and boat dock at River Grove Park


Harris County Flood Control started buying out townhomes damaged beyond repair in Forest Cove. At last count, they had purchased 69 of 80. Four of the remaining 11 are in various stages of the buyout process. Owners of the rest had reportedly vanished after the storm, complicating buyouts. Those may need to be condemned before HCFCD can tear down the remaining townhomes.

Edgewater Park and Trails

Harris County Precinct 4 purchased land on the northeast corner of US59 and the West Fork to create a new park called Edgewater Park. Construction was supposed to have started more than a year ago on a park headquarters building, a boat launch, and rest rooms. The County fenced off the property, then delayed construction for unspecific reasons.

Tentative plans for a new Edgewater Park at Hamblen Road and Loop 494

As part of the project, the Houston Parks Board (a private charitable organization which works with the City Parks Department) proposed building a trail that would connect the Spring Creek Greenway with the Kingwood Trail Network. Unfortunately, the trail would have to go through the townhome-buyout area. And buyouts have been delayed.

Commercial Rebuilding

Merchants have totally restored the H-E-B shopping center at Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway. Renovations should soon be announced at other centers. Kings Harbor has been restored and new building is underway. Kingwood Village Estates and other condo/apartment complexes have been re-built. And a whole new shopping center has gone in on the southwest corner of US59 and Northpark Drive.

A new CVS store is replacing the old Chase Bank at Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway.

Schools Back and Better

Both Kingwood High School and the St. Martha School have been renovated and flood-proofed. Kingwood College is not only back, it’s expanding.

Woodridge Village Detention Completed

Perry Homes finally finished the detention ponds on its Woodridge Village site earlier this year. They don’t have enough capacity to hold a 100-year rain. But they sure work better than what they had in 2019 when the lack of detention contributed to flooding Elm Grove Village twice. Hopefully, they will suffice until the City and County can work out a deal to purchase the property and build enough detention to hold a 100-year rain.

Woodridge Village N2 Detention Pond
Woodridge Village N2 Detention Pond, the largest of five now on the site, during a heavy rain in September.


TxDoT replaced the southbound US59 bridge and re-opened it months ahead of schedule. Union Pacific replaced its ancient bridge over the West Fork with a modern replacement. Both bridges have supports wide enough to let trees pass through in future floods. That should hopefully avoid the logjams that back water up, flooding surrounding areas.

New Union Pacific Bridge completed in May 2020 allows trees to pass through during floods.

The City has also made several repairs to the West Lake Houston Parkway Bridge. They not only reinforced the supports, they leveled the road bed.

Community is Back and Better

More than three years after Harvey, the Humble/Kingwood Community is back and better. Because of dredging and ditch repairs alone, we are already safer than before Harvey, when we didn’t recognize many of the problems lurking around us.

Yes, some homes and businesses remain vacant. And much remains to do. But the future of the community is no longer in doubt. That’s thanks to the determination of residents to vowed to restore one of the most unique and livable communities in America.

Thanks also go to local leaders such as Congressman Dan Crenshaw, State Representative Dan Huberty, State Senator Brandon Creighton, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, HCFCD, and Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin. We shouldn’t forget Mark Micheletti and Kaaren Cambio, two SJRA directors from the Lake Houston Area and others on the SJRA board who voted for lake lowering. Nor should we forget the Lake Houston Chamber of Commerce. And especially Guy Sconzo who led the area’s recovery task force before succumbing to cancer.

My apologies to anyone I left out. Or for any worthy projects that I omitted.

Despite the fact that we still have much left to do, we should not lose sight of our achievements to date. Understanding how far we have come will sustain us in the battles that still lie ahead.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/26/2020 (Thanksgiving)

1185 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Giving Thanks for Committed People on Thanksgiving

Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m., most of America had already physically or mentally checked out for the long Thanksgiving holiday. Those still at work were making shopping lists or travel arrangements. Those still trying to DO work, found it harder and harder. Clients had left for vacation. Telephone calls went unanswered. Suddenly the calculus had shifted. What you could accomplish at work paled in comparison to what you had to do at home.

An Improbable Meeting on the Eve of Thanksgiving

So it surprised me when Kaaren Cambio, Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s field representative, invited me to a meeting near Luce Bayou in Huffman. But I knew many people had flooded there during Imelda, so I went.

When I arrived, I discovered I was at the flooded home of Dr. Tom Kelchner and his wife Laura. Most of the group had already gathered in Tom’s front yard. It turned out this would be a stand-up meeting. There was no place to sit. The Kelchner home was still under repair. Harvey and Imelda hammered them.

Like so many others in different places around Lake Houston, they worried about repetitive flooding. They saw sediment and dead trees building up in the Bayou and worried about backwater effects that could flood them again. As they explored ways to get the trees and sediment removed, they discovered they had fallen into a black hole.

Fallen trees, such as these, can form “beaver dams” that back water up and flood homes.

No one governmental entity, it seemed, had responsibility for the maintenance of Luce Bayou. The Inter-Basin Transfer Project had thrown it into a bureaucratic black hole. Harris County, Flood Control, the Coastal Water Authority and the City of Houston would all have to collaborate to fix the problems on Luce Bayou.

Thanksgiving Miracle #1

Now here’s where we get to the holiday magic part of the story. Rather than let these residents labor indefinitely under the threat of more flooding, Ms. Cambio called representatives of all the groups together. AND THEY ALL SHOWED UP! That was the first miracle.

Left to Right: Laura Kelchner, Dr. Tom Kelchner (Property Owners); Nick Dragon, Property Manager, Tetra Tech; Kaaren Cambio, Field Representative, Office of Congressman Dan Crenshaw & Board Member, San Jacinto River Authority; Layne Yeager, Property Manager, Harris County Flood Control District; Shane Hrobar, Urban Forester,  Harris County Flood Control District; Dr. Reynaldo Guerra, Capital Improvement Program Manager, Harris County Commissioner – Precinct 2; Jeremy Phillips, Senior Director of Infrastructure,  Harris County Commissioner – Precinct 2; Mike Lykes, Chief of Staff,  Harris County Commissioner – Precinct 2; Maria Martin, Property Owner; Anthony Bowie, Deputy Director-Operations, Solid Waste Management Department, City of Houston.

After handshakes and introductions, the meeting moved from the front to the back yard where you could see Luce Bayou and some of the problems. For more than an hour, the group discussed technical and organizational issues. Everyone who needed to be part of the solution was there. And before the meeting ended, all participants knew exactly what they had to do.

In one hour, the problems went from “What’s this meeting about?” to “Let’s do this.”

The ad hoc “team” discusses needs and possible solutions.
Layne Yeager from Harris County Flood Control and resident Maria Martin discuss where the issues are.

Thanksgiving Miracle #2

There was no bureaucratic jealousy. No egos got in the way. No “This is not my problem.” And no “Death by PowerPoint.” That was the second miracle.

It reminded me that thousands of public servants like these join government to make a difference and, in this case, I suspect they will. This Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful for committed people like these.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/21/2019, with thanks to the committed staff at Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s office

821 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 70 since Imelda