Tag Archive for: trees

Contractors Clearing South Side of Northpark Entry at US59

October 2, 2023 – Contractors finished clearing the north side of Kingwood’s Northpark entry last week. Now they have shifted their focus to the south side to make room for two stormwater retention basins that will double as decorative lakes.

TxDoT requires the basins to catch extra runoff caused by widening of the road.

Photos Show Progress of Northpark Entry Construction

The focus of the project’s landscape architects now is saving as many trees as possible. I took the photos below with one exception on 9/30/23.

Looking west. Trees remaining on the south (left) side of Northpark have been marked for transplantation. Excavation of pond on north (right) side should begin in mid-October.

In the photo below, note the rings around the remaining trees on the south side.

Those rings help retain water and nutrients being given to the trees to enhance their chances of surviving transplantation.
Looking E. Note how row of trees on the left screen the entry from the busy shopping center behind them. Also notice how the right side does not have a similar row of trees.

Landscape architects will relocate most of the remaining trees on the right/south side of Northpark to create a backdrop for the new pond. Some trees will remain in front of the pond. See the latest plan below.

Northpark entry plan

Handling Overflow from Ponds during Heavy Rains

To avoid flooding the Northpark entry area, contractors will channel overflow from the ponds west to Bens Branch and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch.

Looking east. Note clearing on the left/north side of Northpark to lay the new stormwater line that will carry overflow from the ponds to the east.
Looking west toward 59. The stormwater line will go behind Public Storage (upper left) and carry water toward the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and Bens Branch.
Northpark Drive expansion;
Route for excess water. Circle shows location of photo above this one.

Status from Diversion Ditch to 494

Looking east from Russell-Palmer to Kingwood Diversion Ditch. Virtually all of the ditch has been replaced by box culvert.
A coffer dam remains around an out-of-place water line that needs to be lowered.

Re-engineering of the water line has begun in concert with the City of Houston.

Farther east where culverts have already been placed, you can start to see how Northpark will be widened inward toward the center to create two extra lanes of traffic.
Looking west from Russell-Palmer, contractors are still waiting for Centerpoint to move a gas line out of the median to the side of the road.

Until Centerpoint moves that gas line, contractors will focus on other parts of the project, such as the entry.

Saving Money While Saving Trees

At their monthly meeting last Thursday, Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ board members discussed the escalating cost of relocating trees. Costs increased as trees grew between the original estimate and today.

After the meeting, Ralph De Leon, the project manager, met with contractors, the landscape architect and project designer. They developed a new plan to help hold down costs.

Previously, some trees were to be moved twice, first to a temporary holding location on the north side of Northpark and then back to their final spot on the south side. Why? Contractors needed to build up land behind the pond on the south side of Northpark before transplanting the trees.

The new plan calls for building up the land before moving ANY trees. That will eliminate the cost of the double move. It will also reduce traffic disruption. Tree moving equipment will no longer have to cross Northpark.

Main Goals of Northpark Project

Overall, the main goals of the Northpark project include:

  • Widening the road to reduce delays caused by increased traffic
  • Building a bridge over the UP railroad tracks to eliminate traffic blockages
  • Creating a reliable, all-weather evacuation route for Kingwood

For More Information

For previous posts about Northpark construction, see the following:

Also visit the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ 10 Project pages at https://lakehoustonra.com.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/2/23

2225 Days since Hurricane Harvey

RV Resort Contractor Cut Down Trees in County’s Edgewater Park

The contractors for the Laurel Springs RV Resort west of Lakewood Cove got a little overzealous with bulldozers. They killed up to 50 feet of mature trees in Harris County Precinct 4’s Edgewater Park along the entire property line. TCEQ and County inspectors visited the site last week and documented problems. According to one resident, the City also had inspectors there. Ever since, the contractors have been scrambling to correct problems, such as erosion, and to install pollution-prevention measures that should have been there months ago.

Mature Trees Hard to Replace

But some problems, like the trees will be hard to correct. It could take decades for newly planted trees to reach the height of the old ones.

It’s hard to say exactly how many square feet of trees were lost beyond the property. The distance varies along the southern perimeter of the RV site. But another resident and I, using a tape measure and eyeballs, estimated the damage extended into the park for up to 50 feet south of a surveyor’s stake at the southern property line. If the estimates are close, that would mean the contractor harvested almost an acre of County trees.

Attempts to Clean Up Site

Since a two-day shutdown after the discovery of contractors flooding Edgewater Park with silty stormwater, the construction site has bustled with activity. Some employees have continued laying pipe, spreading fill, and grading. Meanwhile, others try to fix problems pointed out by inspectors.

Yesterday, contractors tried to retrieve dirt that eroded into or was placed in Edgewater Park. Last night, they erected silt fence along most of the southern perimeter. The muck-retrieval team was still working this morning. The contractors created a new entrance with fresh bullrock. And they also placed silt filters in front of storm-sewer grates along Laurel Springs Lane.

Photos Show Extent of Tree Loss

The orange stake below represents the southernmost stake of the developer’s RV park. It lines up roughly with the southerns edge of the detention pond’s bank. Edgewater Park is to the left.

Photo taken yesterday, 2/11/22 from Laurel Springs Lane looking west. County’s Edgewater Park is left of stake.

The position of the orange stake in this wider shot lines up a little bit north of the left end of this traffic island in Laurel Springs Lane.

Note position of orange stake relative to tip of traffic island. Photo taken 2/11/2022.
Note where southern boundary would cross southern tip of traffic island on right – same place as in photo.
Note how far clearcut goes below southern tip of traffic island. Silt fence (placed last night) does not mark property boundary. It was placed where ground was dry enough to hold stakes, hence its irregular shape. Photo taken today, 2/12/22.
Photo taken 2/12/22. On the western edge of the property, the new silt fence lines up with the southern edge of the pond bank and a little bit north of the still-standing trees above the fence. Note the same trees in the first photo relative to the orange stake.

Had the silt fence been installed from the start of construction – as the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan said it should have been – perhaps contractors would not have cut down the trees.

Pipe Apparently Still Buried

After digging a trench in the southern wall of the pond to discharge silty stormwater into Edgewater Park at the top of the frame, contractors then buried a pipe to create a permanent conduit. They still have not removed it to my knowledge. I visit this site every day and would likely have noticed people working on that. But all I saw was some dirt placed in front of the inlet and outlet. If still embedded, leakage through the pipe could explain the continued presence of silty water below the pipe in the trees at the top of the frame.

Red line marks approximate path of pipe buried by contractors. Photo taken 2/12/22.

Sometimes trying to take shortcuts can cost you more money in the long run than you save. Developers and contractors often get away with things because neighbors rarely read plans and watch to make sure they are followed. The assumption is that regulators inspect these sites daily. They don’t. We just don’t have enough of them.

Tomorrow…details of the developer’s Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan filed with the TCEQ. You definitely don’t want to miss that one.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/12/2022

1628 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.

You Don’t Have to Destroy Nature to Profit From It

I smelled it before I could see it. While flying up the San Jacinto West Fork on 6/16/2020, acrid smoke from burning trees filled the air for miles. Then I saw it. The comforting, green blanket of trees that surrounds Houston had another massive gash in it. This is one of the main ways flooding starts. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to destroy nature to profit from it.

Death of a Thousand Cuts

You’ve heard it. A thousand times. “What I do on my property is my own damn business.”

Extrapolate that out a hundred years. Multiply it times millions of people. Before you know it, you have…Houston. And flooding. Often born out of lack of awareness of alternatives.

Start of a new development between FM1314, SH99 and the West Fork, adjacent to Cumberland.
Red marker indicates location of pictures. North is up and FM1314 cuts diagonally through frame on upper right.
The developer had trees lined up like the dead bodies of fallen soldiers on a battlefield.
Perhaps someday, this will be the site of a strip center.
Maybe they will call it Memorial in honor of the silent sentinels that once helped protect this land from erosion and flooding.
It’s easier for contractors to work without trees. But it is possible to work around them.

How Trees Reduce Flooding

Nearby, homes in Cumberland showed that development can co-exist with nature. In fact, people pay a premium to be surrounded by nature.

Google “role of trees in reducing flooding” and you will get 240 million results. Here are some of the main ways.

Trees reduce flooding by:

This page by the EPA contains an excellent summary of the benefits and dozens of documented case histories from all over the county.

Alternatives to Clearcutting

Whole industries are set up around clear cutting. Try to build something someday. Most likely everyone from architects to engineers, land clearing companies, and building contractors will tell you that trees are a nuisance during construction. They say it’s best to get rid of them and replant when you’re done building.

I’m not a professional developer. But I did construct an award-winning office building in the forest without killing everything around me. I even managed to preserve a small patch of wetlands with a seasonal pond on the property. It became the focal point of the main entry. Deer routinely grazed outside my windows. Hawks hunted on the property. Everyone felt connected to nature.

A building that made everyone feel as though they worked in the forest.
Fawn born on RCS lawn, near the red sign above.
Red Tailed Hawk kept rodents away.
The peaceful quiet of a December snow. Can you see the street just 75 feet away?

You Don’t Have to Destroy Nature to Profit From It

The Texas Society of Architects named it one of the top 25 buildings in Texas the year it was built. And the American Institute of Architects gave the building its highest award for Environmental Design. People loved the relaxed atmosphere of working in the building; nature has a soothing quality. My company’s productivity and profits soared. And when it came time to retire, I sold the building for a nice profit that lets me live comfortably.

All it took was a vision and the determination to build a team of contractors who shared it.

These are the kind of stories you don’t hear from people who make their money with bulldozers.

Oh, and by the way. The building never flooded. Never even came close. Nor did anyone ever say that I was making their flooding problems worse.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/27/2020 with thanks to Melton Henry Architects and Crawford Construction

1034 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Photo of the Day #290

South of the Kingwood Country Club’s Forest Course and Kingwood Greens, Hurricane Harvey deposited several feet of sand and destroyed thousands of trees. Photo taken before dredging and debris removal.

Debris Removal from Lake Houston Begins

Debris removal from Lake Houston has begun. On Sunday, May 27, I received a brief note from Keith Jordan, a Kingwood resident who has been active in flood recovery. His note said, “Toured the river today. Saw two barges with cranes picking up large piles of tree debris along the banks, but no dredging occurring.”

A few hours later, I received another note from Dianne Lansden, co-chair of the Lake Houston Area Grass Roots Flood Prevention Initiative. She forwarded a newsletter to me from State Representative Dan Huberty. The newsletter quoted statements from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council Member Dave Martin about debris removal.

Removing Dead Trees

Turner stated, “I’m pleased to inform you that debris removal operations on the Lake Houston Reservoir began last week with the goal of preventing flooding and improving the use of the lake for recreational purposes and as key water supply source.”

The flood associated with Hurricane Harvey destroyed thousands of trees, which are now being removed from Lake Houston.

“Houston debris contractor DRC Emergency Services, LLC is performing the work with four barges and is expected to add two more by June 1, 2018. There are an estimated 75,000 to 150,000 cubic yards of debris in the lake because of Hurricane Harvey, according to the City’s debris monitoring operator, Tetra Tech. Removal of debris will reach 2,000 cubic yards per day at the height of operations,” said Turner.

At that rate and depending on the actual amount of debris recovered, the project could last anywhere from approximately five to 10 weeks.

During floods, dead trees like those shown above can wash downstream. The debris can then collect at at bridges and dams, impeding the flow water. as Kingwood resident Dave Seitzinger showed. Such piles of trees can work much like beaver dams.

Separate from Army Corps Dredging Project

Apparently, this project is separate from and in addition to the dredging project that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying.

Mayor Turner continued, “This project, when combined with the dredging of the San Jacinto River, provides that residents’ tax dollars are being used in a most beneficial manner to protect their properties from high water.”

Temporary Lowering of Lake Houston For Debris Removal

Dave Martin, District E Houston City Council Member said, “This week, residents can expect to see the level of Lake Houston reduced due to needed maintenance for the health of the Lake Houston Spillway Dam. In order to conduct this work the Coastal Water Authority will need to reduce the level of the Lake from 42.36 ft to 42.0 ft. This reduction in lake level will only be temporary while maintenance is occurring, and residents should not be alarmed. The purpose of the maintenance is to allow crews to remove debris that is currently sitting on top of the dam.”


Posted on May 28, 2018 by Bob Rehak

272 Days Since Hurricane Harvey