Tag Archive for: Valley Ranch

Are We Winning or Losing the Battle to Reduce Flooding?

Valley Ranch, the new downtown of East Montgomery County, seems to be exploding with growth. The northwest quadrant of I-69 and the Grand Parkway developed first. Now the focus is shifting to the southwest quadrant where more than 500 acres are being cleared near the banks of White Oak Creek. People downstream from I-69 to Caney Creek have experienced flooding recently. This raises the questions, “Will the flood mitigation measures being put in place at Valley Ranch be enough?” and “In general, are we winning or losing the battle to reduce flooding?”

The Relentless Forces of Development vs. Battle to Reduce Flooding

Last week, I posted about the new Amazon distribution center, shown above at A. Today, I’d like to focus on four areas west of Amazon, shown as 1-4. All sizes below are approximate. I used the measuring tool in Google Earth.

  • 1 = 170 acres
  • 2 = 120 acres
  • 3 = 100 acres
  • 4 = 135 acres

I took all the aerial photos below on 11/6/21.

This interactive map of Valley Ranch shows what’s planned where.

Area 1: Marketplace

Most of Area 1 just south of the Grand Parkway will be future retail space dubbed “Marketplace.”

Area 1 looking SW from over the Grand Parkway will contain retail. However, apartments are now going up in the far top left corner. What’s that soupy area in the middle? See below.
US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Wetlands Mapper shows a wetland area that corresponds to the soupy area in photo above this one.
Here it is again. Looking north toward the future Marketplace and the Grand Parkway.
Closer shot of apartment construction.

Area 2: Commercial District

Looking East from over Grand Parkway toward I-69. Commercial area is the clearing in the distance. White Oak Creek is the wooded area that runs diagonally through the frame.
Closer shot of commercial area. From over White Oak Creek looking N toward Grand Parkway. I-69 on right.

Areas 3 and 4: Medical District

Medical District looking SW from over I-69.

You can tell by the amount of standing water on this property that drainage could be an issue. Note below how the standing water coincides with the former wetlands mapped by USFWS below.

Areas 3 and 4 shown in US Fish & Wildlife Service Wetlands Mapper.

Sediment control during clearing becomes a real issue for sites like this. Note the series of trenches channeling standing water toward the storm drain on the I-69 feeder road below.

Looking W from over I-69 across southern portion of Medical District. Note attempts to drain the site through the storm sewer in the foreground.

That basket of rocks is supposed to filter out sediment before it reaches the drain. But when I enlarged the image, look what I found.

Someone trenched around it!

Reverse angle of same area
looking E toward I-69 shows two large detention ponds under construction on left.

We Need Regional Flood-Mitigation Scorecard

The pace of development seems to be faster than the pace of flood mitigation.

Four and a quarter years after Harvey, we’re halfway done with dredging the sediment flushed downstream to the headwaters of Lake Houston. We have yet to build one regional detention basin upstream. And according to the Houston Chronicle, the proposed new gates for Lake Houston’s dam are being scaled back to fit the available budget.

And all of that is on the asset side of the ledger.

On the debit side, thousands of acres are being cleared with little to no detention capacity, faster than I can photograph and catalog them.

Somebody smarter than I needs to develop a formula that shows whether society is winning or losing the battle to reduce flooding. Are new developments springing up faster than we can mitigate the runoff from them?

Certainly, responsible developers exist who retain their rain. This may be one. That remains yet to be seen. But other developers exist who do not retain their rain. The question is, “Are there more irresponsible developers than the responsible kind?

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/9/2021

1533 days since Hurricane Harvey

Amazon Transportation Center at Valley Ranch Nears Completion

In the four months since I last posted about the new Amazon Transportation Center at Valley Ranch on I-69 and White Oak Creek, just south of the Grand Parkway, the facility has come a long way. I can’t see inside, of course, but exterior construction looks complete.

In March, Community Impact reported the facility would open this year, but did not specify a date. Amazon said it was one of four such facilities opening in the Houston area this year. “The station will bring in about 300 full-time jobs paying $15 as a starting hourly wage,” said Community Impact.

Amazon Transportation Facility at Valley Ranch as of 11/6/2021. Looking NNW from the SE corner. I-69 intersects Grand Parkway in upper right.

According to Amazon’s plans, those brownish grassy areas between the parking lots are wetlands they are trying to preserve.

Looking SW from over White Oak Creek from NE corner of property.

The site has two large detention ponds on the left and in the foreground to help slow down all that runoff from the acres of concrete.

Looking S from over I-69 (right).

Proximity to Bush Intercontinental Airport, US59 and the Grand Parkway make this location an ideal transportation hub.

Looking NE. I-69 in lower left.

Development in this area is exploding. While photographing this site today, I noticed three other sites on the west side of I-69 clearing ground. Developers are excavating detention ponds and building has just begun. More on those soon.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/7/2021

1531 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Valley Ranch Med Plaza and Shipping Complexes Planned

The Valley Ranch area in Porter near US 59 and SH 99 is developing rapidly these days. Signorelli Company calls Montgomery County the 18th fastest growing county in the US.

Medical Plaza Site Cleared

The developer has just cleared a 200+ acre site for a medical plaza in this area. Signorelli’s website says, “Envisioned as the ‘place of wellness’ for the region, the Medical District is a visionary mixed-use concept blending healthcare with restaurants, specialty services, hotels, and high-density residential, providing a broad range of health care services, from primary physicians to acute care and every specialist in between.”

Looking SW across US 59 in foreground. Photo taken on 5/3/21 after three inches of rain on April 30 and May 1. This area drains into the White Oak Creek Watershed.
Detention ponds, both in this picture and the developer’s website seem to be planned for the area back from the freeway. Photo taken 5/3/2021.

The Montgomery County Engineer’s office says it does not yet have construction, drainage plans, or an H&H analysis specifically for the medical plaza property. In response to my FOIA Request, the engineer’s office said, “This is all we have on file at this time.” Their drainage mitigation study they sent me was produced in 2014, long before Atlas 14. That means its runoff calculations are likely 40% short of the current standard. The study also does not isolate this portion of the overall development.

The study concludes, the entire development will have “no impact to adjacent properties” because of the timing of the runoff. Last year, the Montgomery County Engineer tried to get the MoCo Commissions Court to ban hydrograph-timing studies because of their limitations.

It’s unclear at this time whether Signorelli is planning to update its drainage mitigation study and incorporate Atlas-14 standards into its medical plaza drainage.

Amazon Distribution Complex Across Freeway

Right across the freeway from the Valley Ranch medical plaza, Amazon is building a distribution complex.

Looking NNW toward 59 and 99. Right across the freeway from the Signorelli development, a transportation hub is reportedly being built for Amazon. According to Community Impact, the company hopes to open the delivery center this year. Photo taken 5/3/2021.

That green area that snakes its way across 99 and then 59 from the top left to upper right is White Oak Creek. White Oak runs southeast through Porter then joins Taylor Gully and Mills Branch south of the Triple PG Sand Mine near Woodstream Forest. Ultimately, it joins Caney Creek near Dunnam Place and then the East Fork of the San Jacinto. See below.

The Amazon facility did not require a H&H analysis because of its size.

Page 8 of Amazon Construction Plans shows site is covered with wetlands. Site borders floodway and part is in White Oak’s floodplain.

The Amazon site has a floodway/floodplain permit. For a high-res, printable version of the site plan above, click here.

Look out below!

Posted by Bob Rehak on May 10, 2021

1350 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.