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.
- Emergency West Fork Dredging Plan – 1.8 million cubic yards
- US Army Corps of Engineers – 500,000 cubic yards south of Mouth Bar
- City of Houston – 400,000 cubic yards from Mouth Bar
Approved, but Not Yet Completed:
- Mouth Bar Phase III (City) – Area north of Mouth Bar, volume TBD
- FEMA Supplemental Plan – 1 million cubic yards
- Texas Water Development Board Grant (based on Huberty Amendment to SB500 providing $30 million for additional dredging)
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.
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:
- North Park Drive to Kids in Action (de-silting)
- Kids in Action to Rocky Woods Drive (de-snagging the natural portion of the channel)
- Kingwood Drive to YMCA (de-silting)
Two more phases remain:
- Rocky Woods to Kingwood Drive, scheduled for de-silting starting in January (most likely)
- YMCA to West Fork
Rogers Gully Clean Out
Harris County Flood Control cleaned out a stretch of Rogers Gully in Atascocita that was several blocks long.
Other Ditch Repairs
HCFCD also repaired erosion in the Kingwood Diversion Ditch between Walnut Lane and Kingwood Deer Springs Drive.
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.
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.
Would perform a conceptual engineering feasibility study of two potential dam/reservoir locations within the Spring Creek watershed.
Would develop a joint reservoir operations and communications strategy for Lake Conroe and Lake Houston.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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