Tag Archive for: Union Pacific

Entergy Makes Some Northpark Progress, but Significant Issues Remain

Entergy has made more progress on the Northpark Drive expansion project in the last two weeks than in the previous four years. But despite what you see in the photos below, significant issues remain to clear the way for the first all-weather evacuation route from Kingwood.

Some Progress, But…

Last week, Entergy, a $4 billion company in Texas, erected nine new power poles outside of the City’s right of way. This week, their contractor, Primoris Services, started the process of stringing wire. That’s good news. Really!

But unseen obstacles could still delay the project significantly. For instance:

  • Who will pay for moving Entergy’s ground-mounted transformer and associated power lines near the Exxon Station at US59? Entergy reportedly still wants the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA) to pay for upgrading and moving the transformer and buried cables. LHRA insists that’s an illegal ask because it would constitute a gift of public funds.
  • More power poles remain near Loop 494 that will be difficult to move because of conflicts with new storm drains.
  • Entergy must tunnel under rail tracks.
  • Entergy reportedly still refuses to commit to completion dates for moving its equipment.

Will Entergy Beat Union Pacific?

If Entergy does not resolve issues near the railroad tracks before Union Pacific crews arrive to install new signals and improve the road bed, the project could be delayed years.

Union Pacific reportedly has two crews that rotate through 27 states handling such issues. If we miss them this year, the Northpark project goes to the back of a very long line, according to Ralph De Leon, Northpark project manager for LHRA.

Entergy has already blown a City deadline to move its equipment by March 8. So they have already missed a 30-day deadline by 42 days. But according De Leon, Entergy still refuses to commit to any completion dates.

Ray of Hope

According to Houston Public Works (HPW), Entergy has assigned a new project manager and team to the project. This could be a sign of good things to come.

HPW Senior Division Manager Patrick Nguyen says the City is working with Entergy to resolve easement issues that could result in construction delays and cost escalation. Mayor John Whitmire, who is committed to seeing the project through, has reportedly asked Nguyen to act as an arbitrator.

In an email received today, Nguyen said that “Entergy has assigned a new project manager along with a team to the project.” While diplomatically expressing hope, he did not elaborate further.

Progress Last Week

All nine poles erected last week had pulleys and rope or cables threaded through them when I took these photos today. According to one expert I talked to, crews will use the rope or cables to “pull wire.”

Close up (top left) of cables/ropes and pulleys that will be used to pull new electrical wires from pole to pole.

Compare old and new poles in lower left. Once wire is pulled to a pole, it will be attached to the tip of the insulator.

Moving the poles farther from the street will create room for a six lane bridge plus two turn lanes on each side of the bridge (to meet TXDoT requirements).

LHRA first notified Entergy to move its equipment in 2020. Entergy still won’t commit to a completion date.

The mess at 494

Other Northpark News

Contractors are smoothing out the dirt placed over the culverts between the Kingwood Diversion Ditch and Russell Palmer Road.

Looking west toward Kingwood Diversion Ditch from over Russell Palmer Road

Northpark will expand inwards. Contractors will pour two lanes of concrete in the dirt-covered area above. If I read the schedule correctly, paving in the area above could start within the next two weeks.

West of Russell Palmer (below), contractors buried almost another hundred yards of 6’x8′ culvert last week. Weather permitting, and if they can keep up that same rate of progress, they should be to the railroad tracks in another three months or so.

Looking west along Northpark. Last week, culvert crews were barely past the Shipleys Donut sign the lower right.

However, the culvert will not go all the way to the tracks down the median. As it approaches the point where the bridge starts to rise, it will veer to the right and go under the turn lanes where Entergy is moving back its poles.

For More Information

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

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/19/24

2425 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.

How Floods Can Leave a Lasting Legacy of Loss

Long after floods recede, the residue of toxic chemicals carried by the water can leave a lasting legacy of loss. It can remain in homes and yards, affecting the health of both homeowners and neighborhoods. During Hurricane Harvey, for instance, sewage contaminated the cleanups of both Kingwood College and Kingwood High School. Decontamination, cleanup and repairs took years in each case. But individual residents often don’t have the money to afford expensive decontamination.

Flooding Near Rail Yards and Creosote

One of the most heartbreaking cases in the City of Houston/Harris County has to do with a controversial, decades-long creosote/dioxin cleanup effort associated with the Union Pacific Railroad yard in the Fifth Ward. The Texas Department of Health Services has identified several cancer clusters in the area. And the types of cancers found near the former “Wood Preserving Works” at 4910 Liberty Road in Houston have been associated with the types of chemicals used on the site for decades.

Wood Treatment Facility was located at far end of this yard.
FEMA flood map shows how tracks constrict the flow of floodwaters in Hunting Bayou. Water flows from upper left to lower right. Tan = 500 year floodplain. Aqua = 100 year.

Residents interviewed for this article discussed several pathways for possible contamination: airborne dust, groundwater, floodwater/runoff, and clothing of workers. Site runoff mixed with floodwater appears to be one of the most likely.

The map above and the photos below clearly show that the site is elevated compared to surrounding neighborhoods. And residents tell stories of multi-colored sheens on runoff channeled through their streets.

Dueling Studies

UP inherited the site in 1997 after a merger with Southern Pacific. Southern Pacific treated railroad ties with creosote at the site between 1899 and 1984. The creosote is a preservative that keeps ties from rotting and causing derailments.

Union Pacific says it has has found no relationship between the site and cancer clusters in surrounding neighborhoods after 30 years of study.

However, in 2020, the Texas Department of State Health Services published a study covering the years from 2000 to 2016. The study compared cancer rates in the area near the rail yards with those throughout Houston and Texas as the baseline. Researchers identified several cancer clusters in the Fifth Ward neighborhoods you see above.

But UP questions the validity of that study. The company claims that “The area also includes an industrial complex containing about 200 TCEQ-regulated cleanup sites and two superfund projects. The former Houston Wood Preserving Works site represents 33 acres, or less than .4 percent of the total cancer-cluster territory.”

In February 2023, the EPA demanded yet another study as the two sides locked in a stalemate.

Mayor Says “We Know Enough”

Then yesterday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held a press conference. He escalated the conflict. Turner, who has just five months left in office, says he supported the additional study but, “we have studied the problem enough. The time for action is now. Time is the enemy.”

Turner urged relocating people in the most contaminated areas closest to the site. He emphasized finding safer places in the same general area to reduce the impact of relocation.

“Let me emphasize this,” said Turner. “Time is the enemy of people living in the highly exposed and dangerous zone with limited means to do anything else. How many more people must be diagnosed with cancer? How many more people – and specifically, how many more children – must die? How many more families must be trapped in a known danger zone while we watch, test and litigate? The city cannot and will not continue to wait until we know every single thing.

The Mayor continued, “We know enough. The cancer cluster is clear. The presence of creosote beneath homes at levels above cleanup standards is clear. The presence of elevated levels of cancer-causing dioxin detected at some homes through the city’s limited studies is clear. You simply can’t wait for the test to be completed, and watch and litigate it, and then start the process further down the road.” 

Mayor Recommends Relocating Residents within 2-3 Block Radius of Site

“Today, I’m announcing a strike-force team composed of representatives of the city’s Health and Human Services, Housing and Community Development, Real-Estate Recovery, and legal teams, along with outside sources. They will begin work in earnest on a program to help relocate residents living above the creosote plume and in a 2 to 3 block radius around the site.”

If the results of the EPA’s Union-Pacific investigation reveal broader areas of impact, Turner says the program will be expanded to help those people, too.

Turner concluded with a personal anecdote that related to his own experience with cancer. He said that with cancer, “Time is your enemy.” That’s why he wanted to get people out of harm’s way who can’t fend for themselves.

Lasting Legacy of Loss – Case After Case of Cancer, Boarded Up Homes

When I flew over the UP site last year, I was astounded by its size. Ken Williams, chairman of the Harris County Community Resilience Flood Task Force who lives nearby, introduced me to some people in the neighborhood, including Keith Downey, the local Super-Neighborhood Council President.

They gave me a tour. It was one of my more gut-wrenching experiences since Harvey.

I also met a young lady, Sandra Edwards, who grew up across the street from the UP site. She walked us up and down the block, stopping in front of each house, to tell us the stories of the occupants. Within a half block, we counted about a dozen neighbors who had died or were dying from cancer.

Sandra Edwards, concerned neighbor turned activist
Every other home it seemed was abandoned.
One that wasn’t abandoned had children’s play equipment in the front. But the EPA warns not to let kids play in the dirt because of soil contamination.
Many of the homes had reportedly been victimized by arson. Edwards talked of a developer trying to buy up properties to redevelop the neighborhood whose future is still in doubt.
Edwards in front of former creosote site. Note slope. Water runs into neighborhood according to Edwards.
Looking NNE across creosote site. Note Fleming Middle School five blocks north, left of center near top of frame.

I returned to the neighborhood several times between July and December to photograph the progress of cleanup.

Toxic waste cleanup on creosote site
In November, cleanup was still going strong.
Note the covered dumpsters to keep excavated dirt from blowing out. Also note plastic liners under dumpsters to keep polluted rainwater from soaking back into soil.

Many of the people living here inherited homes that their parents or grandparents owned before there was an EPA and people knew about the dangers of substances such as creosote and dioxins.

This lasting legacy of loss has been developing for decades. It could be decades more before the parties find a mutually agreeable solution.

Check back for more news as it develops. For more information see this list of studies conducted by the Houston Health Department.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/14/23

2145 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.

Northpark Drive Expansion Details

On July 28, 2021, Stan Sarman, chairman of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (LHRA), discussed details of the Northpark Drive expansion project with a group of Kingwood executives. The story below is based on his comments.

Looking ENE across US59 down Northpark Drive. The wooded areas at the entry will be partially replaced with lakes that double as detention ponds.

Improvements Motivated by Traffic Congestion, Railroad Delays and Flooding

The severely congested Northpark Drive will expand from four lanes to six between US59 and Woodland Hills Drive. As part of that project:

  • A bridge will also be built over the Union Pacific Railroad Tracks that parallel 494.
  • New bridges will also likely be built over Bens Branch and the Kingwood Diversion Ditch near Woodridge Parkway to provide emergency access during high water events.
  • The road will be elevated where it usually floods between Glade Valley and the Diversion Ditch.
  • Service roads will be added to handle traffic not using the bridge over the railroad tracks.
  • Ten foot wide sidewalks will be added along the entire length of the project to accommodate both pedestrian and bicycle traffic – on both sides of the street.
  • Detention ponds will be added to the entries at 59.
  • Landscaping will further beautify the entries and medians.
  • All drainage will comply with new Atlas-14 requirements.
LHRA will build a bridge over the railroad tracks to improve safety and eliminate traffic blockages. Note how outbound traffic is backed up as far as the eye can see. This and the related images were all taken at noon on Tuesday, 7/28/21.
Looking west. This is approximately where the first phase of expansion will stop.

“When completed the roadway will serve as the only dedicated, all-weather evacuation route for Kingwood residents.”

Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority

In 2019, the area between the Diversion Ditch and Ben’s Branch flooded badly – twice – damaging dozens of homes in North Woodland Hills.

Phasing and Funding

However, construction won’t all happen at once and it won’t start immediately. The project must be built in phases to avoid disrupting traffic as much as possible. The Redevelopment Authority has promised that two lanes of traffic will remain available in each direction for the duration of the project – with the possible exception of limited lane closures during bridge construction. during the bridge construction, which will be the last phase. The Public will be notified when a lane closure is anticipated.

The project will be built in phases starting at US59 and working east. Phase I will go from US59 to a short distance east of Russell-Palmer Road. This is called the Overpass (or Western Phase) of the project. LHRA budgeted $57 million for it.

Construction should start on the Western Phase in late 2021 and will last approximately 30 months. The Eastern Phase should start in summer 2023 and will last approximately 24 months.  

Phase II (the Eastern Phase) will go from Russell-Palmer to Woodland Hills. That will cost another $50 million (or more if a new bridge over Ben’s Branch must be built). At this time, the drainage analysis for that portion of the project has not yet been completed.

The total project could exceed $107 million, plus extras.

Stan Sarman, Chairman LHRA

The timing partially depends on tax revenues and grants. It also depends on the purchase of several parcels of land needed for feeder roads around the railroad bridge – not to mention approval by the railroad itself. The railroad reportedly favors the bridge because it improves safety, but is still studying the feeder roads.

After that , the next step will be to solicit bids and review them.

Drainage Improvements Will Make Extra Lanes Possible

One of the more interesting aspects of the project is the conversion of the drainage ditch in the middle of Northpark to buried culverts. Two extra lanes will be placed where the ditch now is. In other words, the roadway will expand inward rather than outward.

Farther east, culverts will replace the drainage ditch down the middle of Northpark. Two new lanes will be built over them.

The ditch that now splits opposing lanes of traffic on Northpark will be replaced by buried culverts. The culverts will telescope up in size from 4’x4′ near the railroad tracks. As you go east toward the Diversion Ditch, they will get larger until they reach 8’x6′.

A 66″ outfall will then restrict flow into the Kingwood Diversion ditch. Thus, the culverts will provide inline, underground detention to help protect people downstream.

Most people think that the properties on both sides of Northpark drain into the ditch. However, only parts of them do. According to Sarman, most of each property fronting Northpark either drains north into Ben’s Branch or south into the Kings Mill Ditch. So the culverts should suffice, he says.

The Redevelopment Authority has posted plans and videos that help explain the project in more detail. For more information, see:

Construction plans

Overview of phase I

US59 entry, landscaping and detention pond areas

Overpass project

Kingwood Drainage Study


Thanks to Partners

Sarman thanked Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock, and the Houston Galveston Area Council for their assistance in keeping this multi-faceted project moving. KSA will also maintain the entries when construction finishes.

Sarman is an engineer by trade. He retired after more than 50 years with Turner Collie & Braden and AECOM. Earlier in his career, he helped design the drainage in Kingwood. His experience and continued involvement provide valuable contributions to this important project.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/28/2021 based on information provided by Stan Sarman and the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority

1429 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Union Pacific Traffic Over San Jacinto West Fork Now Fully Back and Better

On my most recent flight down the San Jacinto West Fork, I was treated to a rare experience. Just as we flew over US59 heading east, what seemed like a mile-long train started to cross the new Union Pacific rail bridge. As we crossed over the train, the engineer saw me leaning out the door of the helicopter to grab the perfect shot. I think he knew we were documenting progress of the bridge. In salute, or maybe out of pride, he let out a massive blast from his giant air horn. Both the helicopter pilot and I broke out into huge smiles.

A Stirring Moment

It was a stirring moment for someone who has always admired trains. Railroads opened up this country, supported the growth of our cities, and still carry the much of the commerce of our nation on the backs of their rails.

Harvey destroyed the ancient Union Pacific bridge over the West Fork.

Shot taken on March 3, 2018, approximately six months after Harvey. Repairs on the old bridge were still in progress at that point.

But now UP is back. Bigger and better than ever. The sleek new bridge sports wider supports, designed to let fallen trees pass through in the next flood. That should eliminate backwater effects caused by logjams. Compare the “after” shot below.

May 11, 2020. The new UP bridge has wider supports to eliminate logjams in floods.

A Three-Year Project

The construction of the new bridge took almost three years.

  • First UP had to restore the old bridge to keep traffic flowing.
  • Then the company had to build a new bridge between the supports of the old bridge.
  • Finally, once the new supports were in, they had to remove the old ones.

All of that took a little less than a thousand days. And it was fascinating to watch. The result is a tribute to the genius of American engineering and know-how.

Second Major Mitigation Project to Be Completed in Area

This marks the completion of second major flood mitigation project in the Lake Houston Area. The first was TxD0T’s reconstruction of the US59/I69 bridge a few hundred yards to the west. That delayed hundreds of thousands of commuters for 11 months.

The train stretched almost a mile toward Kingwood Drive as it barreled southward. Hopefully, the new bridge may also help reduce train delays at major intersections.

Other Mitigation Projects Still in Development or Being Studied

Other major mitigation projects still in progress or development include:

  • West Fork dredging to restore conveyance and channel of the river
  • Additional floodgates for the Lake Houston Dam, to let water out faster
  • The search for suitable upstream detention to help hold back water during floods
  • Multiple ditch repairs throughout the area
  • Drainage studies throughout the San Jacinto River Basin that will undoubtedly lead to additional mitigation projects

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/26/2020 with gratitude to the men and women of Union Pacific

1001 Days after Hurricane Harvey

New UP Railroad Bridge Over West Fork Complete

Union Pacific (UP) has completed the new railroad bridge over the San Jacinto West Fork near US59. During Harvey, the narrow supports of the old bridge caught many trees swept downstream by the flood. The new bridge, two years in the making, has wider supports designed to let trees pass through in the next flood.

History of Project

Shortly after Harvey, UP repaired the old bridge to facilitate northbound rail traffic out of Houston. Then the company started building a new bridge – between and over the supports of the old one. The effort was a marvel of American ingenuity. The new bridge also contains U-shaped spans designed to support the weight of heavy trains over the wider supports.

This afternoon, crews were dismantling the last of the massive cranes used to erect the new bridge.

One Less Contributor to Flooding to Worry About

This is yet another piece of the puzzle designed to reduce flooding in the Humble-Kingwood area. No one can say for sure, how much the logjam created by the old bridge contributed to flooding during Harvey. One thing is certain, however. That’s one less thing to worry about in the future.

Trees caught in the supports of the old pedestrian bridge over 59 and the railroad bridge during Harvey.
Harvey knocked out part of the bridge. Photo taken in March 2018. Note how close the supports are on the far side of the bridge.

One Month Ago

Compare the width of these supports. Photo taken 2 years later in March 2020.

Photos of Completed Bridge

Here’s how the sleek new bridge looked from downstream today. Photo looking west toward 59 behind the railroad bridge.
Another shot from the opposite direction taken today. Looking east from under the US59 bridge. Hopefully no trees will get caught between these supports.

Dismantling Construction Crane

All around the job site on the south shore of the West Fork at 59, crews today could be seen demobilizing. It took one large crane to dismantle another.

Dismantling the large crane used in construction (see three photos above). Shot taken today, 4/13/2020.

This will help reduce flooding. It should also make boating far more pleasurable through this area.

Congratulations and thanks to the hard-working people of the Union Pacific railroad.

Next Up: Edgewater Park

Bridge construction had delayed development of Harris County Precinct 4’s new Edgewater Park immediately to the west. Let’s hope that can now get underway soon.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/13/2020

958 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Union Pacific Almost Done Removing Last Remnants of Old Railroad Bridge

Replacement of the old Union Pacific Bridge across the San Jacinto West Fork is nearing completion.

Less than a month ago, crews constructing the new railroad bridge still had to remove the supports for the old bridge. See below the old four-post steel-frame structures between the new cement supports.

Photo taken on January 20, 2020 shows old supports still in place between new concrete supports.

By 2/13/2020, however, only one of the old supports remained. See photo below.

Photo taken on 2/13/2020 shows only one of the old supports remains.

Reason for New Bridge

Union Pacific started reconstructing the bridge after Harvey. Trees swept downstream by the flood caught on the old supports and backed water up.

Trees caught in Union Pacific Railroad Bridge supports during Hurricane Harvey.

The result: the tracks were destroyed. UP had to reroute northbound rail traffic out of Houston for months as they literally built a new bridge around the old one.

Harvey knocked out the Union Pacific Railroad bridge over the San Jacinto River near I-69.

The concrete supports for the new bridge are spaced much farther apart. Thus, they should allow trees to pass through in a flood and eliminate backwater effects.

Photo taken 2/13/2020, the same time as the first shot above. This is from the other side of the bridge.

Other Sign Job is Nearing Completion

Notice in the picture above that crews have already started removing the temporary bridge for cranes on the north side of the river.

All of this is good news from flood remediation and mitigation perspectives. It is yet one more sign that life is finally starting to return to normal after Harvey. The bridge should also help the community deal better with the next major storm.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/17/2020

902 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Critical Pieces of Union Pacific Bridge over West Fork Now in Place

The Union Pacific Railroad has removed two of the five large cranes used for the reconstruction of its bridge over the West Fork of the San Jacinto. During Harvey, floodwaters damaged the bridge. The narrow supports caught floating trees that dammed the river and backed water up, making the flood worse. The new bridge will have much wider supports that allow trees to pass through. But the wider supports also require U-shaped steel trusses that help bear the weight of crossing trains.

Where Union Pacific Project Stood in November

Here’s how the project looked in early November. Note the giant cranes poised to lift the steel supports into place.

Union Pacific Railroad Bridge
Union Pacific Railroad Bridge over the San Jacinto West Fork. Photo taken on November 4.

December Status of UP Project

Here’s how it looked on December 3rd. The first thing you notice is that all of the steel trusses are now in place and that two of the largest cranes have been removed.

Looking southeast toward the east side of the UP bridge over the San Jacinto West Fork. Note all of the old bridge supports still in place between the new ones.
Looking south, you can see that a steel truss system now completely spans the river. The steel truss system supports the extra stress created by the wider concrete supports.
Eight new concrete supports now replace the dozens of steel posts that it once took to bridge the width of the San Jacinto.
The wider supports will allow trees to flow through the bridge in future storms. During Harvey, uprooted trees formed a dam at the base of the bridge that backed water up.

Still Remaining: Removal of Old Supports

It now appears that workers are starting to remove some of the old supports between the new ones. From US59 today, I noticed that the supports are no longer even touching the bottom of the bridge. It may not be long before UP wraps this project up.

That will eliminate one more barrier that has slowed the progress of Harris County’s new Edgewater Park near this same location. In lake 2018, the county hoped to begin construction by the fall of 2019. Construction, changing plans, and coordination with the Houston Parks Board have all contributed to delays on the project.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/10/2019

833 Days after 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

New Union Pacific Railroad Bridge over San Jacinto Will Have Wider Spans

Many readers have asked what the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) is doing to its bridge over the San Jacinto near US59. According to the Houston Chronicle, UP is widening the spans to reduce the potential for catastrophic damage in the event of another storm like Harvey.

If you have children or grandchildren that love trains, cranes and building things, you’ll want to share this post with them. It’s a real life example of a massive (re)construction project in the middle of difficult circumstances and a testament to the kind of brainpower and brawn that built this country.

A New Bridge Rises from the Old

These photos taken on Monday of this week (11.4.2019) illustrate how a new Union Pacific bridge is rising in the same place as the old one. With wider spans, the bridge will now also require different construction.

Wider concrete supports and a steel bed will replace the old tubular supports. UP constructed a temporary bridge next to the new bridge to hold the construction cranes.
This wide shot taken on 11/4/2019 shows how much wider the new spans are compared to the old.

Problems with Old Union Pacific Bridge

Back in 2017, the supports of the old bridge caught many trees swept downstream by Harvey. As you can see in these photos, the old bridge had two or three times the number of supports. David Seitzinger, a Kingwood resident, identified the supports and the trees they caught as a contributor to flooding in this analysis of water levels, flows and timing during Hurricane Harvey.

Photo from September 14, 2017. Harvey knocked out the old bridge. It took weeks to repair and shut down northbound rail traffic.
During Harvey, those old supports caught debris floating downstream that partially dammed the river and destroyed the railroad. Photo from UP report on flood.

A Marvel of Engineering Ingenuity

Current photo shows how the narrow spacing of supports for the temporary bridge are still catching debris floating downstream.
When complete, the bridge will border Harris County Precinct 4’s new Edgewater Park (lower right).
The wider spans should help protect the commercial areas south of the river from flooding.

This presentation explains the importance of railroads to the region’s economy and damage that Harvey did to UP.

The progress of this construction is another encouraging sign of recovery from Harvey.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/6/2019 with thanks to the Union Pacific Railroad

799 Days after Hurricane Harvey