Tag Archive for: TxDOT

TxDOT, LHRA Engage Kingwood at Northpark Phase II Meeting

On 3/7/24, TxDOT, the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ10 and the City of Houston hosted an open house at the Kingwood Community Center to share detailed project plans at a Northpark Phase II Meeting. The informal “come-and-go-when-you want” style of the meeting gave authorities a chance to mingle with residents and solicit their feedback on plans.

Two hundred and forty-six people attended the Phase II meeting in person or virtually.

Objectives of Project

In addition to reducing traffic congestion, one of the main goals is to elevate Northpark Drive above the 100-year floodplain to create an all-weather evacuation route for area residents. Other goals include preparing for anticipated growth and improving pedestrian/bicycle safety.

Different Lanes for Different Pains

As with Phase I, roads will be elevated. Lanes will be both added and widened. Eleven-foot-wide lanes will expand to 12 feet. And 10-foot-wide sidewalks will be added, enabling bicyclists and pedestrians to pass each other easily.

Proposed improvements to Northpark Drive extend from 750 feet east of Russell Palmer Road to 800 feet east of Woodland Hills Drive, in Harris and Montgomery Counties. The project would include the reconstruction and widening of approximately one mile of Northpark Drive from a four-lane to a six-lane roadway.

TXDoT broke Phase II into three sections based on current lane configurations and traffic conditions.

  • Section A starts about halfway between Russell-Palmer and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and goes up to the Ditch. “A” also includes the Woodland Hills/Northpark Drive Intersection.
  • Section B goes from the Ditch to the start of the Northpark Place Commercial Association.
  • Section C includes businesses inside Kingwood almost to Woodland Hills, where Section A restarts.

The three lanes would include two 12-foot-wide main lanes in each direction; left and right turning lanes; and 1-foot-wide outside/inside shoulders.

The area where the grassy median is today would be repurposed to use as turning lanes or additional travel lanes.

TxDOT

The wooden pylon sign that says “Kingwood” will go. However, according to Dee Price, KSA President, the serpentine wall that heralds “The Livable Forest” would remain after construction.

Reconstruction will also include new signals at the Woodland Hills Drive and Hidden Pines Drive intersections.

To reduce flooding, the project also includes new drainage features, such as open ditches, curb-and-gutter, and one stormwater-detention basin in a location yet to be determined.

See additional details about what will happen in each section in this presentation or these meeting handouts.

Still Time to Provide Public Comment

If you missed the meeting last night, you can still provide public input. Review the materials above and send your comments via:

  • Email to: hou-piowebmail@txdot.gov
  • Mail to:
    • TxDOT Houston District
    • Advanced Project Development Director
    • P.O.Box 1386
    • Houston, Texas 77251-1386

If you own a business along Northpark, don’t miss this preliminary schematic construction diagram that shows rights of way and more plan details.

Business owners especially need to understand how a change in traffic patterns could affect their businesses.

Construction is still several years away. The most likely start date: 2027. Between now and then, project managers will focus on environmental surveys, detailed design, and right-of-way acquisition.

Upcoming Schedule

LHRA has also provided a three-week look-ahead schedule to show you what will happen when.

Two important items on it include:

  • Starting on March 11, one lane will close on Russell Palmer during installation of the temporary signals.
  • The water line to Parkwood Baptist Church which held up construction has now been repaired. A crew will soon splice in the missing piece of culvert with a concrete sleeve to tie adjacent sections together.

For More Information

For more information about the project including Phase I, visit the project pages of the LHRA/Tirz 10 website. Or see these posts on ReduceFlooding:

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/8/24

2383 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Grand Parkway Extension is Getting There

TxDOT’s Grand Parkway extension (a.k.a. State Highway 99) is rapidly moving east and south toward I-10. As it arcs around the northeast quadrant of the Houston Metro Area, it will open up vast new areas to development. Below is a map showing several already under development.

New Developments Already Under Way

New developments that will take advantage of mobility improvements brought about by the Grand Parkway extension. From City of Houston Plat Tracker. Gray area is City’s Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).

East Fork Crossing: Tale of Two Bridges

Yesterday, as I was photographing different areas near Huffman and New Caney near the San Jacinto East Fork, I captured these shots of the Grand Parkway extension and FM1485. The Grand Parkway is still under construction in this area, but it’s rapidly getting there.

SH99 and FM 1485, looking northeast toward Colony Ridge and Liberty County.
SH 99 and FM 1485 looking north with San Jacinto East Fork running through middle of frame from top to bottom.
SH 99 and FM 1485 Looking east over San Jacinto East Fork

In March, this Grand Parkway in this area was nothing but dirt. By June, they were clearing land down to the Luce Bayou InterBasin Transfer Canal. Now it’s concrete as far as the eye can see. At least from the East Fork.

I’ve taken shots of this area before and am fascinated by the difference in the spans of the bridges. Part of what you’re seeing is the difference between standards for Farm-to-Market Roads and State Highways. But you’re also looking at the consequence of an increase in expected rainfall rates, more upstream development, and learning from experience. FM1485 frequently goes under water nowadays.

Detention Pond under Bridge: Permanent?

One of the curious things I noticed yesterday was a large detention or sediment retention pond under the bridge. TxDOT has rerouted the East Fork around it as you can see in the first and second photos. I wonder if they will keep it as a large detention pond under the freeway when they complete construction. Or whether they will return the river to its normal course and plant trees between the two roads as you see in the distance.

Stay Away During Construction

Traffic detours through this area are a nightmare. Stay away if you can. It took me an hour to get from here to Kingwood yesterday via 1485, 494 and US59 at 2:30 pm. The distance: only 7 miles as the crow flies.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/4/2021

1558 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 776 since Imelda

FM1485: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I took this picture on May 26, 2021. It shows TxDOT construction of the new State Highway 99 (Grand Parkway) next to FM1485 in New Caney. The picture looks northeast toward Colony Ridge in Liberty County. The East Fork of the San Jacinto River flows under both bridges toward Lake Houston on the right.

Looking east toward Colony Ridge across FM1485 and the East Fork. Water flows left to right.

Note the huge backup of water trying to get under the FM1485 bridge. Also note how much taller and wider the new bridge is compared to the old one.

How Much Rainfall Caused This?

Here is rainfall for the month of May as measured by the Harris County Flood Control District Gage at this location.

The Harris County Flood Warning System shows that the largest rainfall for the month was 2.28 inches TWO days before the photo. But the ground was clearly saturated from steady, moderate rains the week before.

The gage upstream at FM2090 shows slightly more rain. It reported 14 inches for the month instead of 11, but it received exactly 2.28 inches on the same day this gage did. While 2+ inches in a day is substantial, few in this part of the world would consider it excessive – especially since it was spread out over 5 hours.

Likewise, according to Atlas-14 standards, the rain that fell in the week before would qualify as a 1- to 2-year rain – notable, but not historic.

Note the 7-day rainfall totals in columns 1 and 2.

Submerged 41 Times in 32 years

And after consulting Harris County Flood Control District records, I learned that FM1485 has gone under water 41 times since 1990 – an average of 1.32 times per year.

The East Fork came out of its banks and flooded this area twice in the week before the picture was taken.

Rainfall data, road flooding frequency and the photo all suggest that a 1- to 2-year rain is enough to flood FM1485.

What Should a Roadway over a Major River Withstand?

Yet the TxDOT standard suggests that such minor arterials and bridges over a major river crossing be built to withstand 25- to 50-year floods. Oops!

Obviously TxDOT built a much higher road and a much wider, taller bridge for its new highway. The new one is approximately five times wider than the old one. Construction standards for major highways could account for that. But so could TxDOT’s experience with FM1485.

So What’s Going on Here?

Why did TxDOT make the new bridge so much wider and taller?

  • Did TxDOT just get the engineering wrong on the old bridge?
  • Did bridge standards change over time?
  • Do state highways have higher standards than farm-to-market roads?
  • Did Atlas-14 increase the risk?
  • Did upstream development, such as Colony Ridge, alter the hydraulics of the watershed when the developer paved over wetlands and deforested thousands of acres while providing little detention-pond capacity?
  • Did the mischaracterization of soil types in Colony Ridge lead to more runoff than anticipated?
  • All of the above?
  • Some of the above?

Jeff Lindner, Harris County’s meteorologist, cautions that, “Water surface elevations depend on many variables…rainfall patterns, intensity, soil conditions, water level in the river when the rain started, ect. It is usually difficult to compare events as no two are exactly alike. You really need a hydrological analysis of the location to determine the amount of run-off from that site into the river per an amount of rainfall.”

Good luck with that! More than six months after the Liberty County Attorney launched an investigation into Colony Ridge drainage reports, we still are waiting for answers.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/15/2021

1415 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.

I-45 Feeder Over Cypress Creek Is Cattywumpus

Ever since Harvey, Cypress Creek residents near I-45 have been caterwauling that the southbound feeder road is cattywumpus. For those who may not speak fluent Texan, that first word means “screaming” and the second means “skewed” or “out of alignment.”

So on my latest helicopter flight, I flew over the bridge to see what was up. Or down. Actually, the road bed appears level. And nothing has yet fallen into the creek.

However, aerial photos indicate that the bridge panels are indeed cattywumpus. Note how the side guardrails seem to be out of alignment. Also note uneven gaps in the bridge panels (tight on one side, wide on the other). Finally note the vegetation growing or stuck in the cracks, and the un-level bridge support – at bottom of center oval in row of three.

This image taken on 5/26/2021 and cropped from image below.
I-45 Southbound Feeder Road at Cypress Creek

For now, the bridge seems to be holding. But I’m not sure I would want to be the first one to drive over this after the next big flood.

During Harvey, residents say, this bridge went completely underwater. It appears that the force of the water lifted and twisted the bridge panels as much as 6 to 10 inches. However, TxDoT, the responsible authority in this case, has not yet fixed the issue.

Repairs Delayed

According to resident Frank Adamek, TxDoT originally said it would fix the bridge in 2020. Now, says Adamek, TxDoT says they hope to bid the job by the end of 2021 and start construction in March of 2022.

The bridge has other issues, too. Adamek says, the supports under the main lanes are 110 feet across. That allows trees swept downstream in floodwaters to pass through. However, the supports under the southbound feeder road are only 26 feet apart. Adamek says that they have caught trees and backed water up toward homes in the area.

Extreme events, such as Harvey, tend to reveal problems we didn’t even realize existed. Once you see them, though, they’re hard to forget. I, for one, intend to stay off that feeder road.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/2/2021

1373 Days since Hurricane Harvey

When Developers Claim No Detention Ponds are Necessary…

Harris County residents are spending billions on flood mitigation, even as developers upstream claim they need no detention ponds. So are those developers’ claims valid? Maybe. Maybe not. A ReduceFlooding.com investigation into one found the developer’s engineer consistently mischaracterized soil types in a way that underestimated runoff from the property by 6X to 9X! Soil type is just one of the factors that that determine whether a development needs detention ponds, but it’s a big one.

Understand also that regulations vary widely from county to county and city to city. Some may not allow the type of study that the engineer above performed. But Liberty County does. And so does Montgomery County for developments under 650 acres.

To see whether a new development near you accurately reflects soil types in its drainage analysis , follow these steps.

High-Level Outline

You will need to:

  1. Obtain the developer’s drainage analysis and construction plans.
  2. Look up soils in the development via the USDA’s Web Soil Survey.
  3. Compare the “Curve Numbers” used by engineers in Step 1 to Soil Groups in the development from Step 2.

Curve Numbers represent the rate of rainwater infiltration numerically. But USDA estimates infiltration by grouping soils alphabetically. So comparing them requires translation. Not to worry. Just look them up in the tables below.

Your Goal: To see if the developer accurately depicted the soils in his development.

Engineers can alter inputs to provide the desired outputs. And this is one of the main ways they can do it if they’re going to cheat on the volume of detention ponds necessary. See more below.

Background

Different soils absorb water at different rates. What doesn’t soak in runs off. And under developed conditions, it can run off quickly. That’s why developers build detention ponds. But detention ponds cost time and money. They also reduce the amount of salable land.

So developers and their engineers have a large incentive to avoid building detention ponds…if they can. By misrepresenting soils, unscrupulous engineers can make it look like more rainwater is soaking in, so they have less runoff to handle. Most people don’t have the expertise to challenge engineers and the engineers know it. So here’s one way to check their work before hiring your own consulting engineer.

Step One: Request and Review Plans

To obtain the developer’s plans, file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) or TPIA (Texas Public Information Act) request:

  • Find the County Engineer’s email address online.
  • Compose a short email.
  • Put FOIA or TPIA REQUEST in the title.
  • Specify the subdivision.
  • Ask for the Drainage Analysis AND Construction Plans for ALL parts of the development.
  • To speed up the process, request electronic delivery.

By law, the city or county has ten days to comply.

When you get the plans, check the construction docs to see if they have any detention ponds included.

Then look at the drainage analysis. It should contain a discussion about soils.

Also look for numbers on both the Drainage Analysis and Construction Plans preceded by “CN.” CN stands for Curve Number. That’s a numeric representation of the rate of infiltration for soil groups that engineers use in their runoff calculations. Note the curve numbers for future reference.

Step Two: Look Up Developer’s Soil Types Via USDA

USDA has surveyed soils of every county in Texas. They make it easy to see what kinds of soils are present in any development. USDA groups them via rate of infiltration, but assigns LETTERS to groups, not CURVE NUMBERS. (You will translate those in the next step.)

To determine the soils and their groupings:

  1. Go to this link: https://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/WebSoilSurvey.aspx.
  2. Click on AREA OF INTEREST (AOI) tab. Then NAVIGATE to the development in question.
  3. Over the map, you’ll see the words AOI in two red buttons, one rectangular, the other a polygon. Pick one and click on it. The cursor will then turn into a plus sign.
  4. DRAG the plus sign over the Area of Interest to DEFINE the AOI. A cross-hatched area should appear.
  5. Click on the SOIL MAP tab. A white box will appear on the left showing all soils in the AOI, their acreage, and the percent of the AOI that they comprise. Contours will appear on the map showing soil-type locations.
  6. Click on the SOIL DATA EXPLORER tab.
  7. In the row under it, click the SOIL PROPERTIES AND QUALITIES tab.
  8. From submenu, click on SOIL QUALITIES AND FEATURES.
  9. From the next submenu, click on HYDROLOGIC SOIL GROUP.
  10. Click VIEW DESCRIPTION to learn about differences between soil groups, then…
  11. Click VIEW RATING. Your map should turn into colored groups. Underneath the map, a list of all the soils in the AOI will appear with their Group (A, B, C or D). Group A soils have the highest rate of infiltration; Group D the lowest. Most important, you can see the PERCENT of the AOI that each soil in various groups comprises.
  12. For future reference, click PRINTABLE VERSION in the upper right. This lets you save your findings as a PDF or printout. The file will include: the MAP, a LEGEND, SOIL GROUPS, each group’s PERCENT OF THE AOI, and a SUMMARY of what the different groups mean.
Screen capture for newly developing part of Colony Ridge shows that only 3.2% of the soils should be classified lower than Rating Group D. See comment below about mixed groups after development. This represents undeveloped land.

After you do this once, the second time should take less than five minutes. Next…

Step 3: Compare USDA’s Soil List with Developer’s Curve Numbers

Now you need a way to compare the developer’s Curve Numbers with USDA’s soil groups. TXDoT does the “translation” for you in the two tables below taken from this page.

Table 4-17 shows infiltration rates by soil group in inches per hour. They range from a high of .45 inches to a low of 0.

From TXDoT

Table 4-18 shows Curve Numbers for Development Type and Soil Group. Note how many houses per acre there are from the construction plans. Then look up the corresponding Curve Numbers under each Soil Group.

Table from TXDoT

Create a weighted average of your findings. For soil groups A/D, B/D and C/D, use the curve numbers that correspond to D. That’s because, after development, soil will be compressed, reducing the rate of infiltration. AND note the last line: “Developing urban areas: Newly Graded.” Group D has a curve number of 94, close to the theoretical upper limit for runoff.

Step 4: Evaluate Your Findings

Did the developer use the right curve numbers for USDA soil types? In a 22,000 acre development in Liberty County with almost no detention, I found virtually all Curve Numbers associated with Group A soils (those having the highest rate of infiltration). But the vast majority of soils actually had the lowest rate of infiltration and the highest rate of runoff.

That meant that the development had 6-9X more runoff than the engineer’s runoff models showed.

Comparing TXDot Table 4-18 to Table 4-17

Curve numbers ALL erred in the direction that favored the developer’s profits.

If you find errors like that, demand explanations. Keep the system honest. Let people know you’re checking. Your home could be the next one to flood. In egregious cases, you may want to hire a consulting engineer to verify whether the rest of the analysis is valid and meets local regulations.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/29/2020

1218 Days after 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.

Kingwood Drive and Loop 494 Intersection Closed This Weekend

City of Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin announced this afternoon that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will close the intersection of Kingwood Drive and Texas Loop 494 this weekend. The closure starts Friday evening, April 17 and, weather permitting, will last through early Monday morning, April 20.

Purpose of Closure

This is a bit off topic for a flood blog, but Kingwood Drive affects half my readers and 494 affects many more. Here’s what’s happening.

TxDOT will raise the intersection of Kingwood Drive and 494 with two feet of asphalt. The purpose: to remove the dip by the UP railroad tracks.

Weather permitting, construction should start at 9:00 p.m. on Friday. Crews will work continuously until 5:00 a.m. Monday.

Please watch for flagmen and orange traffic cones indicating detours. Detours at Crescent Springs, Butterfly Lane, Royal Forest and Northpark Drive are shown below.

For more information, contact TxDOT at (936) 538-3300.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/15/2020

960 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Grand Parkway Will Open Vast New Upstream Areas to Development

TxDOT has recently cleared a vast swath of forest stretching 13 miles east of US59 to lay the groundwork for the next section of the Grand Parkway.

Almost 25X larger than 610 Loop

When complete, the Grand Parkway will form the third ring around Houston.

  • 610 formed the first ring. It has a perimeter of 37 miles and encompasses an area of 94 square miles.
  • Beltway 8 formed the second ring. It has a perimeter of 87 miles and encompasses an area of 535 square miles.
  • The Grand Parkway, when complete, will have a perimeter of 180 miles with an area of 2274 square miles.

That’s almost 25 times larger than the Loop 610 ring.

Map of Completed/Incomplete Segments

The TxDOT map below shows the completed (open) and incomplete (under construction) segments of the Grand Parkway (SH99).

More about Section H

Section H runs north and east of the Lake Houston area through sparsely populated areas that drain back toward Lake Houston. The major streams: White Oak Creek, Peach Creek, Caney Creek, San Jacinto East Fork and Luce Bayou.

Section H of the Grand Parkway (SH99). Construction began summer 2017 and should last through spring 2022. For a giant, poster-sized PDF showing street names, click here.

Recent Aerial Photos Show Status of Construction

Here’s a look at the status of construction between US59 and Plum Grove Road. All aerial photos taken March 6, 2020.

Looking east from Monday Hargrave road.
Looking east toward Plum Grove Road by the cement plant.
Looking east from over Plum Grove Road.
Looking southwest toward where the East Fork San Jacinto crosses under FM1485
Looking SW toward Redbud Drive (bottom right) across FM1485
Looking SW across Caney Creek. That water in the upper left is the northernmost pond of the Triple-PG sand mine.
Looking SW while over the intersection of Sullivan Road and Thelma Lane.
Looking SW toward East Community Drive from over the Martin Marietta New Caney Yard. That’s the 59 overpass in the far upper right.
Looking SW toward Loop 494 cutting under supports for new bridge.
Looking south down 494 from over the Grand Parkway. US59 cuts through the upper right of the frame.
Looking NE from SW corner of SH99 and US59. (This image taken Jan. 20, 2020.)

One Quarter of Loop Stretches Through 4 Counties

Combined, Segments H and I-1 will stretch 37.5-miles. It will be a controlled-access toll road with intermittent frontage roads from US 59 North (the Eastex Freeway) near New Caney to US 90 near Dayton to I-10 East (the East Freeway) near Mont Belvieu. This segment of the new road will stretch through four countries: Montgomery, Harris, Liberty, and Chambers.

Already, TxDOT is expanding the section between FM2100 and Huffman Cleveland Road to handle anticipated traffic. And it hasn’t even been built yet!

One of the avowed goals of this project: to foster economic development. It’s certainly going to do that. All those people who moved to Porter and New Caney for a rustic lifestyle on large lots nestled away in the woods, will soon see changes. Your new neighbor could be Perry Homes and the next Woodridge Village or Artavia.

For more information, see:

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/26/2020

940 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Lake Conroe Association Fighting Seasonal Lowering in Advance of SJRA Vote to Reconsider Policy

Efforts have started already to lobby against the seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe again next year. They seem to be organized and inspired by the Lake Conroe Association again. I understand that the lowering inconveniences some Lake Conroe residents, especially boaters who live in areas like Grand Harbor where the water depth is shallow to start with. However, the inconvenience pales in comparison to the damages suffered in the Lake Houston Area. The lowering helps provide a buffer against downstream flooding during the wettest months of the year. The SJRA will vote on whether to extend the lowering policy at its February board meeting.

A Campaign of Misinformation

The Lake Conroe Association and its proxies are deliberately spreading falsehoods to rile up people against the lowering. The same misinformation contained in the Lake Conroe Association presentation on their news page, is repeated in the website Stop Draining Lake Conroe (https://www.stopdraininglakeconroe.com) and the Grand Harbor YouTube video below.

For the Record…

StopDrainingLakeConroe.com states that:

Lake Houston dredging is complete and completely out of funding. Four fifths of the mouth bar on the West Fork remains in place. Harris County Flood Control has allocated $10 million to help dredge it. See item CI-61. The State of Texas allocated $30 million in SB500. Plans for that project should be announced next week according to State Representative Dan Huberty. The City of Houston has also filed for another FEMA Grant for additional dredging.

Lake Conroe homes are being damaged by the lake lowering. Really? How does that work? Is it the same as 250,000 CFS coming through your living room? That’s what happened to 81 townhomes in Forest Cove. See below.

One of 81 empty townhomes on the West Fork in Forest Cove after the Lake Conroe release. Note the bulk-heading. Harris County Flood Control demolished this building earlier this month. Many others remain, affecting property values around them.

Lake lowering is damaging bulk-heading around Lake Conroe. How does that work? Does evaporation destroy the bulk-heading? See the bulk-heading along the West Fork above.

There is no science to support the original action by the board, or for continuing this action plan. See these engineering reports by Frees & Nichols.

Downstream residents are trying to turn this into a permanent plan. Please tell me who. I’m not aware of any organized effort. The plan has always been to reconsider the lowering every year until flood mitigation measures such as dredging were complete.

SJRA is throwing away $5.33 million of water revenue. It would only be throwing away the revenue if it could sell the water. But there’s no unfilled demand due to water shortages in the lake. And the water replenishes itself as rain falls from the sky.

Water level of Lake Conroe is at 198. That’s an exaggeration to rile up the people in Grand Harbor, who normally only have four feet of water. The lake level is normally at 201′ and currently at 198.82′. That’s 198 and ten inches. So those Grand Harbor people have half their normal water, not one quarter. Current release rate is 0.

Lake Conroe only provided 15% of the water that flooded Kingwood. Lake Conroe only affects the West Fork, but the statistic includes the East Fork. During Harvey, West Fork flooding caused the vast majority of the damage. The Lake Conroe release comprised ONE-THIRD of the water coming down the West Fork through the highly populated Humble/Kingwood corridor where virtually 100% of the businesses are located. Lake Conroe released 80,000 CFS of the 240,00 CFS coming down the West Fork. So the 15% statistic is extremely misleading.

Video Makes Many of Same False Claims And Some More

The video includes many of the same false claims and a few new ones. Let me focus on the new ones.

The video states or implies that:

Describing the lowering as Seasonal rather than Temporary implies we are trying to make it Permanent. I’m not sure how you get from either of those words to “permanent.” This is a logical fallacy. It’s a falsehood designed to inspire fear.

Recent events show that Lake Conroe is being unfairly blamed for downstream flooding. Kingwood still flooded during Imelda “even though we didn’t release anything” during Imelda. Please! The vast majority of all Kingwood flooding during Imelda was street flooding or related to Woodridge Village. Some homes did flood on the East Fork, but I can’t believe any of those residents would blame it on a fictional release from Lake Conroe that wasn’t coming down the West Fork.

There was an “organized effort” in Kingwood to send an unspecified number of “letters” to the SJRA board thanking them for not releasing during Imelda. So what is it? Are we allegedly blaming you for flooding us during Imelda or thanking you for not flooding us? Show me the letters. I’m not aware of any such organized effort. See the comment above.

Kingwood is trying to increase the lowering to 3 feet and Kingwood is winning that fight by a large margin. I’m aware of no effort to increase the lowering and no fight that we’re winning by a large margin.

Wading birds that require shallow areas are being destroyed. Duh! They’re saying birds need shallow water, but they want to make the lake deeper. So if water depth had something to do with destroying birds, who would be destroying them?

Boating Vs. Flooding

Let’s face it. The big reason Lake Conroe residents don’t want to see their lake lowered is that it makes boating more difficult. No argument there.

But the big reason Lake Houston area residents want more dredging is not boating. It’s to reduce flood risk. The mouth bar forms a sediment dam behind the dam that reduces the conveyance of the river through the heavily populated Humble/Kingwood corridor. And until it’s dredged, we need the help of Lake Conroe residents. The lake lowering strategy gives us the only effective way to mitigate flooding for now.

After the Army Corps removed 500,000 cubic yards of sediment from the West Fork mouth bar, Imelda promptly redeposited much of it. Here’s what it looked like after Imelda.

700 yards south of the mouth bar, RD Kissling, a kayaker, photographed himself in 1 foot of water AFTER the Corps finished dredging and after Imelda.

Compare These West Fork Damages

Tens of thousands living north of the West Fork who used I-69 for commuting experienced massive traffic jams every day for 11 months while TxDoT reconstructed the southbound lanes after Harvey. Photo taken 6/19/2018.

We are certainly sensitive to Lake Conroe lifestyle considerations. But during Harvey, Lake Houston Area damages on the West Fork alone included:

Gear Up for a Fight

More on this in future posts. Lake Houston Area residents need to gear up to fight the falsehoods and ensure that Lake Conroe seasonal lowering policy remains in place for another year.

Harvey knocked out the Union Pacific Railroad bridge over the San Jacinto River near I-69 and disrupted rail traffic for months. Photo taken 9/14/2017.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/22/2019

815 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Army Corps Permit Evaluation Process

The post about the proposed high-rise development in the floodplain/floodway of the San Jacinto River received thousands of views and hundreds of comments. I’ve also received lots of advice including two presentations by concerned residents. The presentations linked below discuss the Corps’ permit evaluation process.

Warning: NOT for the feint of heart. Together they contain more than 300 pages! Frankly, permit evaluation is far more complex than I imagined.

Site of proposed marina after Harvey. Fresh sand deposits reached almost five feet in height. River Grove Park is beyond this, to the right of the giant sand bar which the Army Corps just dredged through. The drainage ditch it blocked drains the western third of Kingwood.

Plea for Expert Advice

I’m publishing the presentations here because thousands of engineers, project managers, and lawyers with technical backgrounds live in the Lake Houston area. With your help, I’m hoping we can sort through the material and determine a productive response to the Corps’ Public Notice.

As you review these, keep in mind what the Corps wants: “to solicit your comments and information to better enable us to make a reasonable decision on factors affecting the public interest.” The Public Notice goes into great detail about the scope of the project but focuses largely on the environmental impact of introducing “68,323 cubic yards of fill material into 42.35 acres of wetlands and an estimated 285 cubic yards of fill material into 771 linear feet of streams adjacent to the West Fork San Jacinto River.”

Key Elements of Solicitation

Other key points to consider in the Public Notice include:

  • “A preliminary review of this application indicates that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not required. Since permit assessment is a continuing process, this preliminary determination of EIS requirement will be changed if data or information brought forth in the coordination process is of a significant nature.”
  • They say, “Our evaluation will also follow the guidelines published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to Section 404 (b)(1) of the Clean Water Act (CWA).”
  • “The TCEQ is reviewing this application under Section 401 of the CWA and in accordance with Title 30, Texas Administrative Code Section 279.1-13 to determine if the work would comply with State water quality standards.”
  • “The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impacts, including cumulative impacts, of the proposed activity on the public interest.”
  • They then define the public interest as: “All factors, which may be relevant to the proposal, will be considered: among those are conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shore erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.”

Background Information on Corps’ Permit Evaluation Process

The first presentation sent to me describes the Corps permitting process and requirements to the Society of American Engineers.

The second goes into additional detail about the Corps regulatory program and how they make decisions. They developed it for a TxDOT conference.

I pray that people, their property, and their safety count for as much as birds and fish in this process. However, I’ve talked to several birders lately who are abuzz about eagle spottings near the project site.

All of us are smarter than any one of us. Please help!

Submit Comments

Remember comments are due by January 29, 2019. If no comments are received, the Corps will assume there are no objections to the project. To submit comments: Reference USACE file number, SWG-2016-00384, and send to: 

  • Evaluation Branch, North Unit 
  • Regulatory Division, CESWG-RD-E 
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
  • P.O. Box 1229 
  • Galveston, Texas 77553-1229 
  • 409-766-3869 Phone 
  • 409-766-6301 Fax 
  • swg_public_notice@usace.army.mil 

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/30/2018

488 Days since Hurricane Harvey


IH-69 Repairs Finish Sooner than Expected; Traffic Returning to Normal Soon

The lengthy delays crossing the San Jacinto River on Interstate Highway 69 at rush hour are almost over. TxDOT originally expected repairs could take until September, but is now saying traffic will return to normal by early July.

Only a month ago, finishing repairs to IH-69 before September seemed like a distant dream. Now TxDOT is saying it will restore normal traffic sooner than expected.

That’s the good news. However, between now and then, the concrete spaghetti bowl over the river will become even more tangled as crews work on one lane after another to restore normal traffic flow. So  make note of the following. Here’s the latest:

Motorists should expect traffic delays and are strongly encouraged to seek alternate routes.

All closures are subject to cancellation or modification due to adverse weather. 

Summary of What will Open When

  • The southbound mainlanes will be returned to their original condition by 5:00 AM on Monday, June 25, 2018.
  • The southbound entrance ramp from Kingwood Dr. will be reopened by 5:00 AM on Monday, June 25, 2018.
  • The southbound exit ramp to FM 1960 will be reopened by 5:00 AM on Monday, June 25, 2018:
  • The northbound mainlanes will be returned to their original condition by 5:00 AM on Monday, July 02, 2018.
  • The Eastex HOV/Express Lanes between Kingwood Dr. and the Townsen Park & Ride will be returned to the original condition by 4:00 AM on Monday July 02, 2018.
  • The northbound entrance ramp from FM 1960/Townsen will be reopened by 5:00 AM on Tuesday, July 03, 2018.

Below, read how TxDOT will meet those deadlines.

Ongoing Traffic Closures at this Time

I-69 Eastex northbound entrance ramp from FM 1960/Townsen: Total closure continuously through 5:00 AM on Tuesday, July 03, 2018.  Detour northbound on the frontage road to the entrance ramp from Sorters McClellan Rd. 

I-69 Eastex northbound mainlanes between FM 1960 to Kingwood Dr.: Two left lanes closed continuously through 9:00 PM on Friday, June 29, 2018. Three mainlanes will remain open.  Please refer to closure #9 below for closure details for the weekend of June 29 th thru July 2nd.

I-69 Eastex southbound entrance ramp from Kingwood Dr.:  Total closure continuously through 5:00 AM on Monday, June 25, 2018. Detour southbound on the frontage road to the entrance ramp from Townsen Blvd. 

I-69 Eastex southbound frontage road between Kingwood Dr. and Sorters McClellan Rd.: One Left lane closed continuously through 5:00 AM on Friday, June 29, 2018.   Please refer to closure #12 below for closure details for the week of June 25 th thru June 29 th.

I-69 Eastex southbound mainlanes between Kingwood Dr. and FM 1960: Two Right lanes closed continuously through 9:00 PM on Friday, June 22. Three mainlanes will remain open.  Please refer to closure #6 below for closure details for the weekend of June 22 th thru June 25 th.

I-69 Eastex southbound exit ramp to FM 1960: Total closure continuously through 5:00 AM on Monday, June 25, 2018.   Detour southbound on the mainlanes to the exit ramp to Sorters McClellan Rd./Townsen/FM 1960.  Follow the Southbound Frontage Rd. to Sorters McClellan Rd., Townsen or FM 1960. 

I-69 Eastex HOV/Express Lanes between Kingwood Dr. and the Townsen Park & Ride:  Total closure continuously through 4:00 AM on Monday July 02, 2018.  Southbound Detour via the entrance from the Townsen Park and Ride.  Northbound Detour via the exit at the Townsen Park and Ride. 

Closures to restore Southbound Mainlanes

  1. I-69 Eastex southbound mainlanes between Northpark Dr. and FM 1960:  One right lane closed nightly from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM on Monday June 18, Tuesday June 19, Wednesday June 20 and Thursday June 21.
  2. I-69 Eastex southbound frontage road between Kingwood Dr. and Sorters McClellan Rd.:  One Left lane closed nightly from 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM on Monday June 18, Tuesday June 19, Wednesday June 20 and Thursday June 21.   
  3. I-69 Eastex southbound entrance ramp from Sorters McClellan Rd.:  Total closure nightly between 7:00 PM and 5:00 AM on Monday June 18, Tuesday June 19, Wednesday June 20 and Thursday June 21.  Detour southbound on the frontage road to the entrance ramp from Townsen Blvd.
  4. I-69 Eastex southbound exit ramp to Sorters McClellan Rd./Townsen/FM 1960:  Total closure continuously between 9:00 PM on Friday June 22 and 6:00 PM on Saturday June 23.  Detour southbound on the mainlanes to the exit ramp to Will Clayton.  Follow the Frontage Rd to the U-turn at Will Clayton; Follow the U-Turn at Will Clayton to the northbound frontage road.  Follow the northbound frontage rd. to FM 1960, Townsen or Sorters McClellan Rd.  An alternate detour is to exit at Kingwood Dr. and follow the southbound frontage rd. to Sorters McClellan Rd., Townsen and FM 1960.  
  5. I-69 Eastex southbound entrance ramp from Sorters McClellan Rd.:  Total closure continuously between 9:00 PM on Friday, June 22 and 6:00 PM on Saturday, June 23.  Detour southbound on the frontage road to the entrance ramp from Townsen Blvd.
  6. I-69 Eastex southbound mainlanes between FM 1314 and FM 1960:  Multiple alternate lanes closed continuously from 9:00 PM on Friday, June 22 through 5:00 AM on Monday, June 25.  At least one mainlane will remain open.
  7. I-69 Eastex southbound mainlanes between Townsen and FM 1960:  Left, (Inside), shoulder closed between 5:00 AM on Monday June 25 and 5:00 AM on Tuesday July 03.

Closures to Restore Northbound Mainlanes

  1. I-69 Eastex northbound mainlanes between FM 1960 to Kingwood Dr.: One additional Left lane closed nightly from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM on Monday, June 25, Tuesday June 26, Wednesday June 27 and Thursday June 28.   At least two mainlanes will remain open.
  2. I-69 Eastex northbound mainlanes between FM 1960 to Kingwood Dr.: Four alternate lanes closed continuously from 9:00 PM on Friday, June 29, through 5:00 AM on Monday, July 02.  At least one mainlane will remain open.
  3. I-69 Eastex northbound exit ramp to Loop 494/ Sorters McClellan Rd: Total closure continuously from 9:00 PM on Friday, June 29, through 5:00 AM on Monday, July 02.  Detour via the northbound mainlanes to the exit  ramp to Northpark Dr.; U-Turn at Northpark Dr. and then follow the southbound frontage road to either Kingwood Dr. or Sorters McClellan Rd.
  4. I-69 Eastex northbound exit ramp to Kingwood Drive: Total closure continuously between 9:00 PM on Friday, June 29, through 5:00 AM on Monday, July 02.  Detour via the northbound mainlanes to the exit  ramp to Northpark Dr.; U-Turn at Northpark Dr. and then follow the southbound frontage road to either Kingwood Dr. or Sorters McClellan Rd.

Traffic Closures to Restore Frontage Roads 

  1. I-69 Eastex southbound frontage road between Kingwood Dr. and Sorters McClellan Rd.: Alternate Left lanes closed nightly from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM on Monday, June 25, Tuesday June 26 and Wednesday June 27 and Thursday June 28.   
  2. I-69 Eastex northbound frontage road between FM 1960 and Sorters McClellan Rd.: Two Left lanes closed nightly from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM on Monday, July 02, and Tuesday July 03.

Miscellaneous Traffic Closures for Clean Up and Demobilization

  1. I-69 Eastex Turnaround Road from W Hamblen Rd to Hamblen Rd: Total closure continuously through 7:00 PM on Tuesday, July 03. Detour from Hamblin Rd: Northbound on Loop 494 to Kingwood Dr.; Detour from McClellan Rd: Southbound on the Southbound Frontage Rd. to FM 1960.
  2. I-69 Eastex Turnaround Road from W Hamblen Rd to Hamblen Rd: Total closure daily between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM between Thursday July 05 and Friday July 13. Detour from Hamblin Rd: Northbound on Loop 494 to Kingwood Dr.; Detour from McClellan Rd: Southbound on the Southbound Frontage Rd. to FM 1960.

Posted 6/19/2018 by Bob Rehak with thanks to Mark Mitchell for the information!

294 Days since Hurricane Harvey