The controversial new Royal Pines subdivision that flooded a neighbor four times in two months has finally built a stormwater detention basin.
The good news: The basin should capture water flowing from one direction toward the neighbor.
The bad news: The height of the berm around the pond could back up water from the opposite direction onto the neighbor’s property. The concentrated flow could also erode the earth over a natural gas pipeline.
Drainage Now Concentrated Over Pipeline
The pipeline is buried only 36″ deep along the silt fence in the photo below. So any floodwater coming from the west (right) will now be concentrated directly over the pipeline.
Water used to converge from both east and west toward a natural depression in the middle of the new development. But contractors changed the natural grade, confusing the situation.
The drainage impact analysis for Royal Pines below shows that 11.6 acres outlined in purple (labeled as OFF1, for offsite area #1) drains through the larger 49.5 acre area that contains detention Pond 1 shown in the upper left. The plans show a channel running about a quarter of the way down the left border where the silt fence now is, then mysteriously stopping.
When I first saw the plans, I assumed the water in that channel would empty into the pond. But no inlets are installed at that location. At least not yet even though others are installed elsewhere.) See below and above.
Instead, water coming from the west will meet a wall approximately 8 feet high.
The berm forms a dam against any water coming from the west (behind the camera position). That includes floodwaters from White Oak Creek.
So where will the stormwater go? Instead of spreading out, it will be squeezed between the berm and homeowners. That has the potential to cause more flooding.
That giant wall also has the potential to obstruct the floodplain and back water up during a storm, just as the berms around sand mines can.
The analysis claims the development will have no adverse impact either up- or downstream. However, during a five-year rain in January, the level of White Oak Creek came up much higher than a five-year flood.
Another Danger Lurks 36″ Down
But there’s potentially an even bigger danger. A natural gas pipeline is buried next to that silt fence that borders homes along the western edge of the detention pond. Erosion from all that concentrated water rushing over the pipeline could expose it, just as it exposed another pipeline 1.5 miles away.
Erosion exposed a Kinder-Morgan pipeline at the Triple PG Sand Mine. See below.
The Texas Attorney General is still suing the owner of the mine over dangerous business practices.
Same Cast of Characters
The man behind the mine, Prabhakar Guniganti, also owns or owned Royal Pines. His name shows up on the general plan, although the Montgomery County tax rolls show a company called TC LB Royal Pines LP now owns the property. It’s not clear if there’s a connection between Guniganti and the Royal Pines Limited Partnership.
The detail below taken from General Plans dated March 18, 2022 shows the Guniganti Family is part owner of the property. But Royal Pines allegedly bought the land from the 1992 Guniganti Credit Shelter Trusts on 12/9/21 – more than three months earlier.
So, will the real owner please stand up?
Master of the Corporate Shell Game
Guniganti has a history of corporate shell games. After the Attorney General sued him, ownership of his mine changed hands so many times that the AG had to add five shell companies to the lawsuit. The AG also added Guniganti as an individual and as a director of the companies/partnerships to the lawsuit. Because of all the delays, the case still has not gone to trial.
This does not inspire confidence. Especially among homeowners who may be flooded, but don’t have the State’s deep pockets.
When I and homeowners talked to Montgomery County Engineering last week, the developer did not yet have a construction permit for the pond. The county said only that if any changes become necessary, they will be at the developer’s expense.
Just a reminder. Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code states, “No person may divert … the natural flow of surface waters in this state, or permit a diversion to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another…”
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/25/2023
2006 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.